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Publisher’s Notebook:

Michael Rosenthal


I have been grappling with this issue of who is and is not a stakeholder in planning the future of Santa Monica. Does a person who owns a business in Santa Monica, yet resides in Mar Vista, have a right to affect the future here? Or how about a Santa Monica commercial or apartment building owner who lives in the Palisades? Does he have a right to say what the future direction of the city should be?

Certainly by voting in county, state and federal elections, these people have electoral power, but, owing to their “non-resident” status, they do not have the right to vote here in Santa Monica. That does not make them less involved, or less of a stakeholder, because, let’s face it, they have a lot at stake, but it does make them less powerful. They cannot vote for City Council members and they have little or no influence on appointments to the planning commission or ARB or Landmarks. Most of those posts are reserved for residents and they are appointed by the Council.

So the struggle between residents and other “stakeholders” continues with residents having the upper hand, as perhaps they should, as they live here, after all, and are most affected by what occurs here.

Businesses, property owners and others with major interests in this community have always been able to participate. After all, they do pay taxes and they should have a voice.

They can and do provide input at council meetings, at public forums and by political contributions. Check out the Chamber’s PAC, which attempts to exert major influence, via lobbying and candidate endorsements (though it is not certain that resident voters respect those endorsements). Outside money was instrumental in defeating the living wage ordinance several years back, so, yes, indeed there are other centers of power in this community besides the residents.

In the end, the right to vote trumps them all, and that power lies with residents, if they so choose to use it. With voter turnout often in the 25-50% range, a low rate compared to other municipalities, residents have abdicated much of their power. And in that vacuum other stakeholders emerge — the Chamber of Commerce, apartment owners, and developers all have influenced the Council and city staff Perhaps that is as it should be, because if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would admit that money holds equal sway to voting — here and throughout the country.

Santa Monica College

The place feels different without Piedad Robertson, the former President of Santa Monica College. A huge personality has left the community and no comparable figure has risen to fill the vacuum.

Bobby Shriver is one of our rising stars; however, he is just one of seven City Council persons and has nowhere near the power Piedad had. The college is a major part of our civic life here, and it just feels a tad empty without the presence of this remarkable woman. There is a search on for a replacement and Tom Donner will make sure the finances are in good shape until the next president is selected, but now is the time for the community to make known what kind of leader it would like to see at SMC and what direction we want the college to go in. Do we want a President who will offer vocational training for our largest industry — the auto dealers, and perhaps our hotel and restaurant trade? Do we want the nursing and fine arts programs expanded? With two large hospitals and a major arts scene, both are solid directions for the future. How about a person who will make KCRW more responsive to the college students rather then Ruth Seymour? That is a tough one to tackle.

Labor struggles persist at the school; will our next administrator act more favorably toward teachers and staff? The candidate search is done behind closed doors by a search firm and chosen by the Board of Trustees.

Now would be a good time to weigh in with those people as to the kind of person we want in charge.

School Strife

There was always tension between students and administration when I was going to school. Of course, when I went to LAUSD schools in the late Sixties, we overturned dress codes, had narcs on campus posing as students to entrap drug users and we had moratoriums on campus to protest the Vietnam War. Let us not forget the four students who were killed at Kent State when National Guard troops were brought on campus.

And, yes, we had tensions between races. I remember at Louis Pasteur Jr. High School, we had to be careful what gate we went out of or we would get beaten on. My dad tells of the same story in Chicago, though there it was the cops who did the beating.

The fighting at Samohi is regrettable, but not unusual. Kids fight, races conflict, youngsters are immature and administrators are sometimes callous and deaf. Superintendent John Deasy and Principal Ilene Straus are remarkable people, both outstanding in their professions, but this is human nature and bound to occur.

We all remember the tragic killing of a young girl several years ago at a party. It was the worst thing imaginable and her classmates were profoundly moved by it.

What is happening now offers an incredible opportunity for students and administration to get together and tear down some of the hierarchy and walls that separate them. Administrators are terrified someone will get hurt on their watch and students are afraid it will be one of them. No kidding, I have been there, it is not nice. Are more cops and tighter controls the answer? Perhaps initially to get things under control, but I usually don’t buy the line that “clamping down” will do much in terms of communication and respect. Often it is just the opposite as people bristle under more rules and tight regulation, and it is certainly not conducive to learning.

Other approaches- – direct links, education, talking, and, most important and most difficult, listening, especially by the administration – have helped at other schools.Let’s give them all our love and support and make sure the kids are always considered #1.

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