Armen Melkonians: Melkonians is a Civil/Environmental Engineer. Courtesy photo

All candidates were given an opportunity to provide written answers to a set of questions provided by SMDP and two sets of answers will be printed each day. Answers are also available online alongside additional information from each candidate. To hear interviews with the candidates, visit www.smdp.com/pod.

What is your justification for using government authority to require private property owners to subsidize inflation, fees, utilities and other costs for rent controlled tenants?

Rent Control is the law in Santa Monica. Santa Monica Rent Control was adopted by the voters in April 1979 in response to a shortage of housing units, low vacancy rates, and rapidly rising rents. Because Rent Control was adopted in Santa Monica by a vote of the people, only a vote of the people can change our rent control law. Unfortunately, our Renters Rights Advocates scare renters during election years by falsely claiming that rent control is under attack. The reality is that only voters can change rent control, no one else.

Do government subsidies of homeless services do more to get people off the streets or attract more individuals to the city? Depending on your answer, why should that money continue to flow to service providers or be reassigned to other needs?

Last year the city spent $15.1 million in homeless services on 807 people experiencing homelessness. That’s $18,700 per person living on our streets. These figures do not include operating costs attributable to homelessness in the community from other city departments such as Police, Fire, City Attorney’s Office, Library, or Public Works which are estimated at another $30 million annually, or another $37,200 per person.

These numbers do not include state, county, or private monies raised by the service providers. And how many people were helped in a significant way or received permanent housing? Virtually none. We need an audit, tracking, and accountability before investing more money. 

Why has Santa Monica become a hub of transit innovation including scooters, self driving cars, delivery drones and zero-emission vehicles and is this industry one that should be encouraged to grow here? 

We should continue to encourage technological innovation for all businesses in Santa Monica. Encouraging a business-friendly attitude allows for a healthy economy which is needed to fund city services.

What specific technological, policy or regulatory ideas do you have to address resident concerns about a declining quality of life in Santa Monica? 

The decline in public safety in our streets and parks is the biggest contributor to the declining quality of life issues experienced by residents. If residents don’t feel safe going outside, then nothing else matters. Virtually every resident has either been or knows someone who has been a victim of crime over the last four years now. This is unacceptable and signals a failure of our entire government. Public Safety is job number one, yet somehow leaders in the past have allowed this to slip and even suggested that a little grime is ok in our city. It is not. The fight to keep Santa Monica livable has never been more urgent.

I am proud to join Council Member Lana Negrete as the only other Candidate for City Council to have received the endorsement from both the Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association. I recognize the trust they have put in me to place public safety at the top of my job responsibility and once elected I will go to work hour one of day one to not let them or the residents of Santa Monica down.

What role does tourism play in Santa Monica’s culture, economy and government?

Tourism has always played a significant role in Santa. Tourism is starting to rebound; however, we are also seeing some loss of tourism based on the levels of crime and uncleanliness in our streets. Our Downtown Santa Monica needs to be revitalized before we lose our goose that lays our golden eggs. 

Does Santa Monica’s approach to law enforcement need to change and if so, what would you do to alter the department to meet the needs of the city? 

The city’s public safety demands have skyrocketed since the authorized sworn force levels were set around 20 years ago. Today’s authorized sworn force size does not reflect the huge increases in organized criminal, transient and unstable demographics that are the key characteristics of the more dangerous threats facing the city and its residents, business owners, employees and visitors.

It is long past time that the sworn force levels be significantly, and permanently, expanded to appropriately address these greatly increased, and inherently more dangerous, public safety threats.

We need a highly visible police presence in our business and residential districts as a deterrent to crime.

I am proud to join Council Member Lana Negrete as the only other Candidate for City Council to have received the endorsement from both the Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association.  I recognize the trust they have put in me to place public safety at the top of my job responsibility and once elected I will go to work hour one of day one to not let them or the residents of Santa Monica down.

 How do street vendors impact the experience of using Santa Monica’s public spaces?

I personally love the fruit vendors.  I eat much more fruit as a result of seeing them spread across the city.  No Jicama, extra Tajin and extra lime, and I’m in heaven.

Do you think residents fundamentally trust local government and what can be done to address the feelings many residents have regarding local politics?

I believe that residents have lost trust in our local government.  Our city council is elected to run our small 8 square mile city, but for far too long now, elected officials have concentrated on lofty pie in the sky policies which go beyond our city’s boundaries.   There needs to be a balance brought back to Santa Monica wherein our elected officials place current resident interests at the forefront of decisions that are made at City Hall.  Once the current Santa Monica resident becomes the primary stakeholder in the decisions being made at City Hall, the trust in our local government will be restored.