2010: Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About SMRR, But Were Afraid to Ask
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) representatives have held all or a majority of the seats on the City Council, the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District board of education, Santa Monica College board of trustees and Rent Control Board for more than two decades. SMRR claims it has “thousands” of members. Less than 300 attended the SMRR convention in August to endorse (see “Who’s Running the City?”)
Its first mailer arrived in our mailboxes last week. It’s a quiz.
SMRR: Why do you love Santa Monica? Is it the human scale residential neighborhoods? Well, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights gives residents the powerful political voice to take on the big developers – and win.
DISPATCH: We love the gloriously idiosyncratic beach town that was here before SMRR. We don’t love SMRR’s “regional commercial hub” and its inhuman scale traffic congestion. SMRR does NOT give residents a “powerful political voice,” the Constitution does. In 2008, residents took on the “big developers” with a ballot measure that would limit commercial growth, but SMRR collaborated with the developers to defeat the measure, and us.
SMRR: How about our award-winning schools? SMRR took the lead in providing millions in annual funding to protect our schools from devastating state budget cuts.
DISPATCH: In fact, the SMRR Council majority opposed allocating the funds to the schools until Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) threatened to put it on the ballot and let the voters decide. Only then did the
SMRRs agree to make the allocation, but not before SMRR Councilwoman Pam O’Connor called the CEPS delegation “schoolyard bullies.”
SMRR: Outstanding social services, great parks and path-breaking environmental policies? That’s SMRR again.
DISPATCH: Talented, dedicated staff members deserve the credit for the outstanding social services. The parks are good, not great, but there aren’t enough of them, and we don’t need two new parks in the Civic Center. “Path-breaking environmental policies” may make good copy, but they haven’t ended the traffic crisis or beach and ocean pollution.
SMRR: Our fierce commitment to affordable housing and renters’ rights? SMRR, of course.
DISPATCH: If, early on, the SMRR Council majority had allocated sufficient funds to buy existing apartment buildings, irreplaceable housing stock, renters’ rights and homes and the town’s unique character would have been preserved. But it didn’t, and countless apartments have been demolished, and replaced by
Oversized pretentious “luxury condos,” and the City has spent millions on soulless “affordable housing.”
SMRR: SMRR is one of the main reasons Santa Monica is so special…a grassroots organization of thousands of concerned residents joining together to protect our community and our neighborhoods .Because of SMRR, the people of Santa Monica control our city government.
DISPATCH:.No! Five generations of residents – remarkable and ordinary, its location on the ocean, that holy bounce of light that illuminates everything, the oceanic air, the goofy palm trees are a few of the things that make Santa Monica “special.” SMRR persists in getting it backwards. SMRR has not given us control of city government. We the people have elected a handful of SMRRs to represent us, but, in recent years, they have not represented us. They call themselves “policy-makers” now, and the principal policy seems to be MORE.
SMRR: SMRR means that dedicated activists can run for local office – and defeat well-funded candidates backed by the real estate lobby.
DISPATCH: As Hemingway said, in a wholly different context, “Wouldn’t it be nice to think so?” In 2008. four Council members ran for re-election. Two were SMRRs, Richard Bloom and Ken Genser, both of whom opposed Prop T and were backed by developers. Two independent “dedicated activists,” Susan Hartley and Ted Winterer, were also on the ballot. They both supported Prop T. Neither sought nor got developer backing. Bloom and Genser won. Prop T was defeated. Winterer and Hartley ran fifth and sixth, after the four incumbents. They are both on the 2010 ballot.