SEE YOU IN OCTOBER

I’m taking a little break from CURIOUS CITY to work on a personal project. No way to carve out the needed time from my calendar otherwise, it seems. NOTEWORTHY, the weekly live music recommendations, will continue. Probably.

Before the lefty loonies start accusing the Santa Monica Daily Press of forcing me to the curb, let me declare unequivocally that this is entirely my decision, for personal not political reasons, with full support from the paper. SMDP’s leadership has been incredibly supportive of me and my journalistic efforts for more than a decade and I appreciate that. A lot. 

Well…, for a while there was a publisher who once told me in a bar on the Pier that he disagreed with nearly every thing I ever wrote. But still, he published it, and the owners have taken the inevitable flack with mostly good humor, and I have never been censored by anyone at SMDP. That publisher is long gone, and I’m still here.

I know, the timing is terrible, with a very important election coming up just five weeks after I return. Sorry. Man plans, and the universe decides.

Further complicating things, at this point, we don’t even know who will be running for various elected positions, from City Council to School Board. Nonetheless, there may be some broad observations and recommendations I can make.

CITY COUNCIL

The Revolution. Before the previous election it was almost impossible to be elected to Council without the backing of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR). Bob Holbrook, fiercely independent, did it, but only a couple of others since the founding of SMRR in 1079. SMRR originally was a great idea and organization which resulted in the strongest rent control laws in the nation, that helped protect what economic and racial diversity our small city had left, after freeways and racial discrimination. 

But in my opinion, as it became the political kingmaker, it became more interested in its political power than in actually helping renters. Neighbors recently told me of their landlord’s efforts to force them from their rent-controlled apartment, and they said all they got from SMRR was the phone number of a law firm. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that same story.

It’s pretty simple. SMRR’s power and influence depends on Santa Monica’s high percentage of renters, so it is in their interest to have more and more rental units built here, and they have placed people on the Council who have made that happen. They piously pronounced that it was necessary to allow runaway development because that was the only way to get a handful of “affordable” units. And many bought that utter baloney. Now, a lot of creative ways are being explored to keep longtime low income residents in their homes. 

Look around, especially if you have lived here for a while: our ugly, unhealthy, destructive densification is the result of 40 years of pro-overdevelopment Council members, handed us by SMRR. But in the last election we had the amazing phenomenon of three out of a slate of four, proclaiming themselves “residents first” candidates.

RESEARCH THE CANDIDATES, IT’S EASY

That is my top recommendation. Not so hard. Who is backing them? (Secondarily, their family – you might be surprised how many “power couples” there are, and how that factors in.) If you’re at a loss, ask a friend who does follow such things. 

Fortunately, the last election broke the back of the SMRR stranglehold, and many believe their power is greatly reduced. 

The other endorsements you need to avoid if you long for a more livable, low rise city, are those of Forward, financed by big developer money. Their influence seems to be waning as well, but those are two sets of affiliations you want to note and run away from.

I’ve known Slate Council members Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre for a long time, and I knew if they made it to Council I would not agree with everything they did. And I haven’t. But they, along with the third Slate member Christine Parra, and appointee Lana Negrete, have kept their pledge to work for residents first, and they accomplished more than most know. But it takes a long time to turn an aircraft carrier around.

SCHOOL BOARD

The above recommendations apply here, with this added note: simply, no incumbents, for me. It’s far too complex to go into here, and few follow what the District does, but I have two main criticisms with this Board: they lack any sliver of transparency (and in fact have been caught in several scandalous “omissions”), and they seem much more focused on constructing shiny new buildings, many not needed, at exorbitant cost running over $1B, than they are on students’ and teachers’ real needs.

I’ve got more to say but have run horribly into a modern nightmare: I have spent hours and hours trying to keep hackers from emptying all my family’s bank accounts, and it’s still not over.

See you in October.

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