Jeffrey Weinstein’s opinion piece in last week’s Mirror, “Council Erodes SM Quality of Life” expresses a deep and legitimate concern for Santa Monica’s future. However, Weinstein is arguing from a viewpoint, often heard but seldom dissected, that rent control and “liberal” political policies are to blame for all urban problems and that our City Council is somehow to blame for everything because they are all of Kevin McKeown’s “ilk” ie., liberal. Most offensive to me was Weinstein’s attack on “never-married, middle-aged persons living in rent-controlled units.” Weinstein makes it sound like middle-aged singles are lazy leeches who live off hard-working families who own their homes. He states that “rent control provides a disincentive to earning more income.” Everyone I know who lives in a rent-controlled apartment works and tries to earn extra income. Some renters work at more than one job. Even with two jobs, some renters have trouble making ends meet. The big disincentive to making more money comes from employers who are unable, or unwilling, to pay higher wages. The big lie of capitalism has always been that the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough to earn more money; the reality is that big business keeps the masses from earning their fair share in order to keep them struggling and fearful so that they can be controlled. Also, not all renters are single. There are families who live in rented apartments, with parents who both work (again sometimes at more than one job). Often they live in old buildings, and when these buildings are demolished, they have no place to go because developers don’t build new low-cost housing. As Weinstein said, they build condominiums, which can bring them more income. Now it is true that the City should be providing some of this low-cost housing. But Weinstein is laying the blame squarely on the shoulders of Kevin McKeown as if he somehow typified and had ultimate control of the City Council. This Council has changed in its political makeup since the early 90’s (which Weinstein cited as the time period in which the Council made things worse for us by encouraging the film industry to bring business here). Even in the early ’90s, not all of the Council members were affiliated with SMRR (Santa Monicans for Renters Rights). Today, there are only four Council members who ran in the last election under SMRR’s endorsement – Ken Genser, Pam O’Connor, Richard Bloom and McKeown. And among these four, there has not necessarily been consensus on many issues regarding housing, land use and preservation of vintage buildings. If Weinstein has been following the Council’s actions, he should have taken note that during the last few years, the more conservative members of the Council have been the ones who have bent over backwards to gratify big business and big developers, and have reversed decisions by the Landmarks Commission that would have saved liveable vintage residences (rental units) from demolition. If Weinstein wants to preserve the quality of life in Santa Monica, he should encourage the City Council to build more low-cost housing. He should stop blaming renters and poor people for being poor. He must come to realize that whatever is provided to help the poor survive and become less poor will, of necessity, come from those who have money. For money, unlike manna from heaven, does not fall from the sky. It must be moved around so that all may share.
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