RAISED A FEW HACKLES
That electoral“machine” reference from my last CURIOUS CITY column. I thought it might.
“What are you talking about? Our candidates did great on their own merits!” Right. And JFK would have been remembered as a senator who lived a long life if Chicago’s Mayor Daley had cast his one vote and that was it.
No, we don’t have that sort of Tammany Hall political machine here in Santa Monica. But if you think someone declares for an office and then runs their own campaign, independently, knocking on doors and talking to voters, and the candidates with the best ideas win – you’re being silly. Some do it that old fashioned, small town way. But they rarely win.
I’m not talking about gathering endorsements. That’s just politics. (Can be the worst kind of “now you owe me” politics.) A substantial political donation, cash or manpower to call or send mailers to voters, is nothing more than a bribe. What we have here are a number of organizations – Unite Here Local 11 union, SMRR, SPOKE, SM (and other) Democratic Club(s), League of Women Voters, Forward, Sierra Club, CLUE – getting behind certain candidates, in a way that can make the difference.
But first things first.
Really? Are you happy about these folks being elected, Charles? Will they bring the dawn of a new, brighter, better Santa Monica. Well, out of 14 winners – I’m happy about maybe 1.5 of them. But right now is not the time for grousing. Give them credit for what they accomplished. And give them two years and enough rope to hang themselves. Figuratively. Politically.
Because this election was only a warm up for the next one. In 2020 the folks who had a stranglehold on political power saw the unthinkable happen: three candidates running as a slate that said they would represent the interests of residents, not outside or insider interests, won three City Council seats. Phil Brock, Oscar de la Torre, and Christina Parra. Unprecedented. Unbelievable. Some say it was because I wrote many times in this column that the incumbents had to go, replaced by those dedicated to residents first. Some… say it had something to do with our terrible May 31 invasion, completely mishandled by our city leaders.
They won without the backing of those traditional power brokers. Then Lana Negrete was appointed to an open seat and promptly sided, much of the time, with that slate. This can not stand! We’ll show them who runs this town next election, and then sweep them all away the one after that.
But I really do want to congratulate the winners. Running for office can be hard, if not brutal at times. Anyone who does is at least partly motivated by a desire to help make Santa Monica a better place to live. (Define “better” – there’s the rub.)
Caroline Torosis, Jesse Zwick and Lana Negrete for winning seats on our City Council. That’s where the buck stops and it is an important position of influence and power. What Santa Monica becomes is in their hands, through action or inaction.
Congratulations to Laurie Lieberman, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Stacy Rouse and Alicia Mignano for elected seats on our SMMUSD School Board, a very important post.
Congratulations to Sion Roy, Nancy Greenstein, Tom Peters and Barry Snell for taking seats on the SMC College Board. Santa Monica College has much more political power in this town than most people realize.
Congratulations I suppose to the three winners of seats on the Rent Control Board, Ericka Lesley, Daniel Ivanov and Kurt Gonska, but there were only three candidates so they probably never left their couches. – I’m joking, I’m joking! Still, they were volunteering for a tough job and they deserve credit for that.
I AM QUITE TREPIDATIOUS
About the rule of the other 12.5 victors. Sometimes a candidate who seems not up to the job or not anywhere near your political leaning, will rise to the occasion once in power. “Just give him a chance,” people will say. They even said that about an orange man whose character and judgement were clearly on display all his life. That transformation rarely happens.
So if you breathed a sigh of relief when there was change in 2020 – realizing that it does take a long time to turn a large ship in a different direction – you’d better look at these recent results and suck it in and get to work, now, for 2024. We can no longer send boys and girls against women and men. I’m not advocating for dirty politics, just smarter, tougher, more sophisticated campaigning. And if you don’t have a raft of resident organizations to call on (or, any), then you’d better raise some cash. The way Bernie Sanders and Katie Porter do it. 25 bucks, or even $3, from thousands.
If you liked the direction Santa Monica was headed before 2020, then you don’t have to do anything. The old power brokers have laid the foundation for their comeback. “Affordable” housing through a lot more 10-15 story buildings where once there were single stories, elimination of community-serving businesses to make room for 550-unit behemoths of tiny, mostly very expensive market rate apartments, jamming our busiest intersections with even more people and vehicles. Elimination of parking spaces for all those units.
BUT, NO WORRIES
Everyone and their grandma will be riding bikes or walking, or using our famed rapid transit system. Less sunshine and sky, more tall buildings, even at the beach. An airport that will never be a park, no matter what you think you voted on. Density, the answer to all our problems. Except crime, homelessness (no, Virginia, you can’t build your way to affordability, it’s a thornier problem than that), and lack of open space that the human soul craves and that Santa Monica is sorely short of.
How many of those 14 winning candidates campaigned on more open space and parks, playing fields for our kids? We voted yet more hundreds of millions in bond money – that property owners pay for – for SMC, and next election SMMUSD will tell you they need hundreds of millions more too. For a declining school population. For more buildings, not for curriculum, teachers or kids.
Now – now – is the time to start holding our newly-elected leaders to accountability. The next election starts tomorrow, and we all had better be prepared to demand a Santa Monica that really does serve everyone. Everyone who lives here now. Residents. We’re literally dying here, and as terribly flawed as politics is, voting is our only way to have the kind of Santa Monica we cherish. It is possible. I ain’t giving up.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAM CLEMENS!
THE GREATEST AMERICAN WRITER
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 firstname.lastname@example.org