The Power of Partnership in the New Year

By Rebecca Kennerly
President, Santa Monica Malibu Council of PTAs

From a speech delivered to Santa Monica Malibu Council of PTA Officers, Presidents and members, along with SMMUSD leadership and Principals, Board of Education members and City Council members from the cities of Malibu and Santa Monica Santa Monica Malibu PTA Council’s Holiday Breakfast December 9, 2008 — Dukes, Malibu

When I look around this room to take note of dignitaries to acknowledge, I am overcome by the desire to honor and acknowledge everyone. Every person in this room is a leader — someone who has taught me and taught their communities. While it is my honor to welcome the elected officials who have joined us today at PTA Council’s annual Holiday Breakfast, I would like to take this moment to thank and welcome the many, many leaders in this room, nearly all of whom have been duly elected to be in their positions.

Today is a festive occasion, marking the beginning of a festive season, one in which we embrace our families and reconnect with our personal lives, not to mention with our families. The New Year will be upon us before we know it, filled with promise and stark realities.

On a National political stage, 2009 is a time of hope for our country with the impending leadership of Barak Obama, into whom we have entrusted our dreams and our futures. It is also a time of fear. With our economy in collapse, Americans everywhere not only worry about our futures, but our ability to continue our way of life. That worry is no more potent than in our neighborhood public schools.

For those of us who have been active in Santa Monica Malibu education issues, and as I look around, I think that’s every SINGLE person in this room, that dual feeling of hope and fear is familiar. Every one of us knows the elation we feel at passing a measure — shoring up the coffers for our public schools to whatever extent is possible. We also know that elation is always, always knocked back by something.

In February, we passed Measure R, a powerful school funding measure that goes right into the classrooms and touches every one of our children. We should have gotten a good, long run of elation from that excellent measure, but unfortunately that was knocked back almost immediately. Our schools today, at the dawn of 2009, are facing a one-two punch comes from a collapsing economy coupled with draconian public education cuts at the State level. Despite the excellent fiscal management of our Santa Monica Malibu school district and the generous local funding our schools receive, these State cuts will very soon cut right into our classrooms — right into our students across Malibu and Santa Monica.

But we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again. And I think we’ll make it through this challenging time together because of the POWER OF PARTNERSHIP. We do partnership well here in Santa Monica Malibu. We do conflict well, too. But we’re strong, and we know that can be successful, because we have built and maintained partnerships with our friends, our colleagues, and even our most outspoken adversaries.

We can disagree here in Santa Monica Malibu. We can even fight, because we know that at the core of our relationship is a partnership that can’t be broken. Looking back over the year-and-a-half that I’ve had the honor to be President, of Santa Monica Malibu’s PTA Council, I can think of a number of rip-roarin’ disagreements that members of our education community have had with each other. All legitimate disagreements – all based one fundamental truth. We simply don’t have enough money to educate our kids the way want to – the way they deserve – the way they need to be educated to lead their own world into the decades to come.

The pot simply isn’t big enough. The national and State of California priorities to provide cutting-edge free public education are not resolute. But we, here in this room and here in our communities, have a reason to rejoice during this uncertain New Year. Our local communities and our education families have shown, over and over, their resolute commitment to excellent public schools.

Because of that additional local support, we can still claim excellence. And truly, until you get out in my world, the world of PTAs statewide, where class sizes are through the roof, where schools are closing, where music, arts and physical education aren’t even a recent memory, do you really feel how big and important the job of shoring up funding for our schools has been.

Our education community success story is still being written, with many chapters still unfinished. But the story is built on the power of the people in this room. The power of partnership.

I am so grateful to know all of you, and in this holiday season, to break bread with you and celebrate. I am also grateful to know that as we enter this New Year, filled with cuts and uncertainty, we will face our many challenges together – as partners.

— From a speech delivered to Santa Monica Malibu Council of PTA Officers, Presidents and members, and community leaders on December 9,2008.

Whither the Warm

By Ava Tramer

Beaches
Mostly sunny
Highs: 59-65; Lows: 46-48

Inland
Mostly clear and warm
Highs: 61-71; Lows: 38-42

Deserts
Sunny
Highs: 65-74; Lows: 43-46

And Santa Monica…
Although things might seem a bit chilly now, by the weekend temperatures will have moved into the mid-sixties and the sky will be mostly clear and blue. Enjoy these cool temperatures in high 50s. Make yourself hot chocolate, bundle up, sit by the fire, and see what it feels like to live in cooler weather. You might find you even enjoy it! But if you don’t like it, don’t worry, because good ol’ Santa Monica weather will be back by the weekend.

2009: City Hall vs. Santa Monica

In 1980, as Ronald Reagan took America right, the shiny, new Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) took Santa Monica left.

In 2008, as Barack Obama moved America forward, restoring the spirit, energy and hope that had been stomped out by the Bush gang (see following article), the cynical SMRR/City Hall/ developer axis tromped all over the residents’ campaign for change, and maintained the status quo.

It was a thoroughly bizarre election, as residents in what is arguably the bluest town in the bluest state in America voted for Obama and against Prop 8 in record-setting numbers, but couldn’t pass a modest slow growth measure on their home turf.

In one of the paradoxes that are so rife in Santa Monica now, the people’s elected representatives spent upwards of $800,000, most of which was contributed by out-of-town developers, to bury a crucial residents’ measure. The SMRRs also frontloaded the School Board and Council elections, and, in all these ways, bore a striking resemblance to the Bush gang.

And so as President-elect Obama sets the American renaissance in motion in the face of the massive damage “the Decider” Bush inflicted on this country, its people, its Constitution, and the world, the SMRR/CityHall/developer axis seems bent on doing what it’s been doing – reducing this iconic beach town to a ”regional commercial hub” and reducing residents to clowns in the axis circus.

The majority of Santa Monica residents are, by nature and inclination, independent, contrary and spirited, as idiosyncratic as the town itself, They don’t cotton to orders or practice group think.

In the last several years, City staff and Council members have nearly eliminated public review of proposed projects, because the “public’s ” opinions were frequently at odds with City “goals,” which, in turn, were often at odds with the town itself.

Judging by its haughty demeanor at the first post-election City Council meeting, the City believes it has a mandate to do as it wishes with this iconic beach town, and unless residents actively oppose the City’s continued fracturing of the townscape, they will become the clowns at the axis circus.