City Council Plots Power Play

City Hall is well and truly through the looking glass.

Last year, commenting on the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City’s proposed ballot measure that would limit annual commercial development. City Manager Lamont Ewell and Planning Director Eileen Fogerty both declared that the City’s community workshops were a better means of measuring residents’ position on commercial growth than a traditional American election.

In one stroke, the City’s top officials not only called the democratic process that has prevailed in this country since its founding into question, but overlooked the fact that, at most, a thousand people attended the workshops, while there are over 56,000 registered voters in Santa Monica,

At a City Council study session on January 17, City staff outlined the steps that the Council must take to replace Herb Katz who died several weeks ago.

After it declares that the vacancy exists at its Tuesday meeting, the Council has 30 days in which to name a replacement. If it fails to do so, a special election must be held, as happened in 1998.

According to a story in the Santa Monica Daily Press, several residents suggested that the Council appoint Ted Winterer.

A Council candidate in the November 4 election, Winterer ran fifth, right behind the four incumbents, and immediately behind Katz.

It was a sensible, logical and fair solution. He had run for the office only two months ago,, along with the incumbents, gone through the whole drill, and had got a lot of votes.

According to the Daily Press, Winterer said, “I think there is a cogent argument to be made that one person who should be considered is the runner up in the last election,..I don’t think I am the only person to be considered, but I hope the council will take a hard look at me and my qualifications.”

But, as anyone knows who has watched the Council at work, “sensible, logical and fair” are not high on its list of priorities, nor is the democratic process.

Indeed, in this instance, power is the only priority. The Council majority’s power.

According to the Daily Press, “council members said they believe the appointment should be opened to residents and not be dependent on the results of the previous election.”

Actually, all of the current Council members are “dependent on the results of previous elections.”

According to the Daily Press, Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor said. “’Let’s have a process to see who is interested. Maybe the fifth vote getter in the election will be interested.’

“Mayor Ken Genser said that opening the process will enable the council to review applications and meet the candidates, adding that residents would also have a chance to weigh in. ‘I think the council’s job is to appoint the best person for the job,…I think it is a bit of a simplification to think that we should be limited to choosing from a list of people who chose to run in the last election.’”

In every election, voters are “limited to choosing from a list of people who chose to run” or were chosen to run by, say, SantaMonicans for Renters’ Rights. Genser himself has chosen and been chosen by SMRR to run six times. But, as far as we know, this is the first time he’s objected ro it.

Genser also said that “consideration should be given to gender,” as O’Connor is the sole woman on the Council now. In fact, she has been the only woman on the Council for some time.

There were four open Council seats in the fall election. It would have been an ideal time to address the “gender issue” by running two women, but SMRR endorsed only two candidates – incumbents Genser and Richard Bloom, as the girls, or any other SMRR candidates, might have taken votes away from the incumbents.

In fact, talk on the street has had SMRR angling to appoint Gleam Davis to replace Katz, which would explain Genser and O’Connor’s bizarre nattering, as well as their inane objections to Winterer. Davis’s appointment would give SMRR a nearly unbeatable 5-2 majority.

The two – Bob Holbrook and Bobby Shriver — objected.

Holbrook would like to see someone who reflects Katz’s views in his chair, while Shriver favors a special election.

Leaving the choice of Katz’s successor to the voters, Shriver said, would not only be fully democratic, but would give whoever is elected “tremendous legitimacy” as he or she would be beholden only to the
people, rather than one political group or a few Council members.

The SMRR/CityHall/developers’ axis outplayed the people in the fall election, It opposes a special election now on the grounds that it would be a lot of work and would cost $100,000 to $150,000. But democracy is a lot of work, and the SMRR/City Hall/developers’ axis has already cost us more than we can afford. It’s time to end the games.

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