All Politics, All the Time

It’s here. It arrived quietly, with no fanfare – just a slight rise in the temperature in the room, a faster tempo and an edge in the speakers’

Yes. Alas, the 2008 election campaign got underway in Santa Monica at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, during the City’s analysis of the Residents’ initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT).

Before the meeting, we reported, “As City officials – elected and appointed – have already expressed their opposition to RIFT, (the analysis) should be an interesting demonstration of municipal objectivity. But irony is wasted on City Hall. Tuesday night, objectivity had clearly left the building, as City Council members Ken Genser, Bob Holbrook and, Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom and their hired guns seemed bent on demonstrating their bias at every turn. (Mayor Herb Katz and Councilman Bobby Shriver were absent, and Council McKeown favors RIFT).

By law, Council meeting agendas must be made public 72 hours in advance of the meetings, and each “action item” on the agenda must be accompanied by a staff report.

The analysis of RIFT was on the agenda, but in lieu of a staff report there was a note saying that as the consultants, who were paid $100,000, had only 30 days in which to do their analysis, they were still working on a power point presentation. After it was shown Tuesday night, it would be posted on the City website.

Thus, 30 days and $100,000 not withstanding , the public’s right to know and respond in kind was abridged.

The “analysis” was further muddied by the fact that all of the consultants — HR&A Advisors, Whitney and Whitney, Kaku Associates and Jeff Tumlin — are l working on the City’s revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan (LUCE), and therefore anything but objective.

The City chooses to see RIFT and LUCE as competitors – RIFT or LUCE, and so the analysis compared them endlessly. But, in fact, they are very different. RIFT simply limits commercial development to 75,000 square feet annually, while LUCE calls for some radical changes in the townscape, and does not limit commercial growth, but directs it.

The Power Point presentation has now been posted on the June 24 agenda. But when reading it, people should keep in mind that the consultants larded their narrations with surmises and disclaimers and cited numerous ambiguities in RIFT, but skated by the ambiguities and bias in their own analysis.

Suffice it to say, to no one’s surprise, the consultants found RIFT flawed.

About fifteen people spoke for RIFT, and though they were handicapped by having been denied an advance look at the so-called analysis, they were quite eloquent, and made a strong case for RIFT.

The 2008 election campaign got underway during the Council discussion. As the members nattered on, they gradually became sterner, more emphatic. They became… leaders – once and future.

Four months and some days to go, but City Hall is off and running.

The City wrap-up skipped the drama, went right to the pre-ordained conclusion: “Initiative measure proposing to amend the Land Use Element of the General Plan to establish an annual limit on commercial development through 2023 – Council adopted a resolution placing the measure on the November 4, 2008 general municipal election ballot. Council members O’Conner and Holbrook were appointed to prepare an argument against the measure and Council member McKeown was appointed to prepare an argument for the measure. Arguments are due by July 8.”

(to be continued)

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