The race is on. In 90+ days Santa Monica will vote for three City Council seats, a ritual that occurs every two years and crystallizes politics here. There is a lot of “insider” chatter and odds-making in regards to who will support whom and how it will all play out. Read carefully – there will be a test at the end.
There are several major endorsements that are critical to a candidate’s success: the Police Union, the Chamber, CEPS, SMCLC and SMRR, which is the best and most powerful. It is said SMRR can deliver 10,000 votes and they will only endorse a candidate that can bring the other 4,000+ needed to win. No other organization can match that clout. Current Councilmembers Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown are the front-runners for this year’s SMRR endorsements. Others are trying.
If Council candidate Gleam Davis gets a SMRR endorsement Pam O’Connor will be in a difficult position as Davis, who will get the “education” vote, becomes a front-runner. O’Connor was heard to say last year that CEPS was strong-arming the council when they pressed for extra school funding (I strongly supported their efforts), though she did end up voting for it. CEPS may want payback and is possibly running Davis to replace O’Connor. Davis, by the way, is considered weak on land use issues, a major priority of the council.
If Council Candidate Terry O’Day gets a SMRR endorsement then incumbent Kevin McKeown will be in a tough spot as the hotels, the chamber of commerce and others will join O’Day in a powerful coalition to defeat him. As the executive director of Environment Now, O’Day already has the support of the environmental community, will probably get a chamber endorsement (they want McKeown out) and is partnering up with Mayor Robert Holbrook for fundraising activities. It is possible O’Day and Holbrook might win as a slate and by going against McKeown’s seat.
Wait, there is more! McKeown has difficulty getting the educational community endorsement because he works for the school district (SMMUSD) and is not able to vote on education matters. That means they can’t count on his vote. He is supported by SMRR Co-Chair Denny Zane because of his loyalty and agreement on basic issues, because he quit the Green Party (Zane tends to support Democrats) and because he supported Zane in his efforts to get former Mayor Michael Feinstein removed from office. Feinstein, if you recall, also opposed CEPS request for more funding, but more importantly, ran a Green candidate, Josefina Aranda, against SMRR’s wishes. SMRR party bigwigs felt that cost them the seat for Abby Arnold which Mayor Bob Holbrook, also running for re-election this year, won by a very slim margin.
As for me, I hope council candidate Jerry Rubin makes a good showing. He is respectful of the council, shows up diligently at meetings, has some of his own ideas, is a man of the people and has a pretty good grasp of the big issues around town. Certainly no political organization owns him. Though I do not have the verbal stamina he does, I never fail to learn something when we chat. He even had me believing Target downtown was a good idea, because it served the working class instead of the ritzy condos and shops that will be coming. His sentiments are in the right place.
I wouldn’t mind some fresh ideas, but when all is said and done, when the hullabaloo is over, look for the incumbents to win and life to return to normal. Of course anything can happen if people get out and vote, so please do. With these candidates, and another dozen or so running, there will be plenty of action, and with a governor’s race happening concurrently we should hopefully have a decent voter turnout.
Why do some of our elected politicians want SM City Councilman Bobby Shriver to calm down? Probably because he is agitating them to get stuff done on the homeless front. For too long lethargy on this issue has been present in the City Council offices, the County Supervisors and even with our esteemed and highly regarded Senior Senator Diane Feinstein. She has, by the way, the ability to get something done on the West L.A. VA property. As the ranking member of the Military Construction and Veteran Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee shouldn’t it be a slam-dunk to ensure the property remains dedicated to veterans? Though she has been behind the curve, recent developments from her office are encouraging. (For more information on this subject, see Terence Lyon’s article on page 8.)
It has been suggested in this column that Shriver use some of his own contacts and influence to get things done on the homeless front. Truth be told, he has done a considerable amount of networking, pushing, cajoling, phoning, personal visits and has put intense focus in this area. With the homeless situation still basically out of control as a result of past political inaction on the problem, it is no wonder he can appear agitated, but calming HIM down is not the answer, revving the rest of them up is. You go Bobby!
Shriver’s brother-in-law, Governor Schwarzenegger, has plugged in a $2.85 billion bond for affordable housing that will go in front of voters this November with Proposition 1C, the “Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006.” The bond includes language that mandates funding to assist the homeless and fund shelters; the exact amount for Los Angeles is yet-to-be determined, but it is a good start.
Beds and shelters need to be built in Culver City, Westchester, West L.A. and other parts of the Westside, not just in Santa Monica. I still support a homeless first solution where people have a toilet and a roof over their head, with mental health services available to them concurrently. Giving someone medication or counseling while they are living on the street is rather ineffective.
One more thing about the Governor. I have always liked the idea of medical clinics being built at schools. LOVED it in fact. What is more natural then having kids served food, education and medical care all under one roof? Especially for those who can’t get it at home. Without a comprehensive societal medical plan we must service these children somewhere. Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a massive plan to build health clinics at our public schools, with all types of funding to support it, including the Feds and health insurers. The Democrats call it an election year stunt. So what? If it passes, it is great for kids. Everyone should get behind this effort.