An ideal: Count your blessings. Courtesy art

SOME THINGS ARE LOOKING UP IN SANTA MONICA

And California, and the USA and the world. If you don’t acknowledge the good you’ve got every so often, you can get a skewed and depressing perspective. And it’s all perspective, isn’t it? Your thoughts may be dark but if you raise your head up you will see a bright, sunny day, almost always in Santa Monica.

We had Mexican mafia gangs controlling our Pier, for a year, with their cart vendors threatening legitimate, permitted vendors, dropping food, taking their carts with them into the restrooms, unsafe flames. Now they’re gone. And that Pier patrol is being extended to the beach and Palisades Park.

We had a Police Chief who was absent and prepared not at all for the gang invasion 5/31/20 that was well telegraphed. She remained on duty, the investigation of her role was quashed and she left town unscathed with a golden parachute and a position leading a national police organization. As far as I can tell, the commission set up here to look into police reform has been feckless. But, now we have a new Chief who seems promising. The jail is finally open again (the revolving door taken out – that’s a joke). Police force morale should continue to improve if they feel the City government and residents are backing them, rather than questioning their integrity.

And while we’re at it: let’s not listen to any ideas about battling our crime issues by calling in the LA County Sheriffs, until their top guy is not the corrupt and dangerous Villanueva.

We have a new City Manager who has been very good. City Hall (staff) still needs a severe cleaning out, but that’s a tough task, and at least he seems not to think it’s his job to make policy and be a de facto mayor. (I think we need a real mayor, though that idea has its own pitfalls. But it seems to work well in places like Long Beach. Our quaint notion of a rotating, short term mayorship is ridiculous, and always the result of a popularity contest and horse-trading favors among the Council members – OK, I’ll vote for you this time if I can be mayor next time. It gives all elected to Council that chance to be known as The Former Mayor of Santa Monica, for the rest of their lives. And if you don’t think that is a factor as to who runs for City Council, then you haven’t been paying attention.)

We have a new City Attorney, which is a lot more important than many may think. He seems to be a fair, independent thinker who will apply the law and not bend to City Council coalitions or outside cabals. The last couple we had were a sad joke.

THE BUCK STOPS AT CITY COUNCIL

And there has been some real progress on our plethora of issues since The Slate pulled off the miracle election last time. (I will be happy to report on efforts by long-serving Gleam Davis and Sue Himmelrich to do meaningful work for residents, but I haven’t observed it.) The Slate is still in the minority but new appointee Lana Negrete has been voting with them frequently. We do still need to elect at least one more residents-first candidate to City Council this fall to make that solid. Be careful who you vote for, do your research. Someone may have good-looking credentials but if they are beholden to any group, they may not put residents first.

The fall election will also give us a chance for a new School Board. Look for candidates who will put students and teachers above new buildings, and who will swear to a strict policy of transparency, something sorely lacking now and for some years. Check candidates affiliations – groups they belong to, where they work, their relatives (seriously). And not a penny more for bonds for SMMUSD or SMC – together they already have about $2.5B of our money and you should do some research to see if you think it is being spent wisely. On students an education, not buildings that are not needed. Yes, our schools are great, they always have been, but are they slipping and couldn’t they be much better under different management? I think so.

As for City Council, I cringe when I hear anyone ask, what have they done? Nothing, that I can see. (Well you have to pay close attention and spend some time to really know that answer, and most of us don’t have that luxury.) They promised a lot, but where is it?

Crime, the health and economic effects of the pandemic, traffic, inflation, homelessness, climate change, overdevelopment – mostly they are not problems that can be solved locally, and certainly not quick ones that you can see in less than two years. Like I say, look for the little indicators, that progress is being made, that hope is possible.

SAFETY FIRST

I’m sure your perceptions and perspectives change with the knowledge and experience gained from being on City Council. I’ve heard locals complain that certain candidates promised they would work on certain problems, and don’t seem to be.

There are always choices to be made for the allocation of resources, money, personnel and time. For example, while Council member Phil Brock has admitted that many of the issues he promised as a candidate to tackle are not yet getting his full focus, the reality of being one of seven Council members has led him to the practicality that until we have public safety for residents, everything else is secondary. Not unimportant, but in his mind, secondary. You may or may not agree with that, but your perspective and mine as to how to get a saddle on this big wild beast called the City of Santa Monica might be different if we were actually given the reins. 

Other members of The Slate, plus Lana Negrete, all new to Council, expressed a similar dilemma. There is a tremendous learning curve (even for Oscar de la Torre, who had nearly two decades on the School Board, but that is not City government) and they must share the time of one assistant for all seven. (They should all have a full-time assistant, that’s obvious. Better governance, less dependence on City staff for all information and suggestions.)

WE ARE HEARING THE SAME COMPLAINT LATELY

About President Biden, from Democrats. You’re not doing enough, Joe! And not fast enough.

Fair enough. I have those complaints too, and some are reasonable. But you have to look at the alternative, and that would be like the lamb voting for the lion because the kitty cat wouldn’t catch enough mice. Or, like any woman voting for any Republican.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com