Four out of the five Councilmembers present at the most recent City Council meeting voted to place a measure on the November ballot that would amend the “Oaks Initiative,” the Santa Monica Taxpayer Protection Amendment of 2000 (Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Shriver and Councilmember Ken Genser were absent).
The only “no” vote cast at the August 8 meeting was by Councilmember Kevin McKeown. In his view, the Oaks Initiative (originally Proposition LL) has “real problems with the existing language and constitutionality issues.” There are also “real problems in this town with intractable, unreportable independent expenditures that far dwarf any issues the Oaks Initiative is trying to cover…[however] without the Council’s willingness to pursue clean money at the same time I feel at this time it would be disingenuous to propose modifying Oaks in isolation.”
The majority of the Council felt differently. Councilmember Richard Bloom told his colleagues, “It is really important to take action now on this measure because it’s affecting us now.” It has created a “complex and arduous process to comply with the measure…[and] drives good people away from the political process. By not acting now it shifts the balance to where nobody in Santa Monica wants to shift that balance.”
In an e-mail to the Mirror from Carmen Barber, a Consumer Advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, – the original sponsor of the Oaks Initiative – the current law “bars politicians from taking campaign contributions, gifts over $50 or a job from any company they award a City contract, special tax break or other public benefit.”
According to Barber the approved initiative “would eliminate the City’s ban on taking campaign cash from companies awarding City business, the revolving door rule that prevents councilmembers from taking a job from a company they award taxpayer dollars and the gift ban that prevents a kickback after a company has received a public contract or other award of tax dollars.” She called the proposed initiative “a bait–and-switch scheme to replace Santa Monica’s strongest-in the-nation ethics law with weak rules every city in the state already follows.”
Resident Sue Griffin, who helped gather signatures to pass Proposition LL, told the Council the City is “not progressing on this issue. The proposed initiative subverts the will of the voters of this City.”
Mayor Robert Holbrook, who is running for re-election in November, expressed his support for placing the measure by stating, “I’m happy to place this before the public to decide. Right now I would need thousands of dollars to pay a professional treasurer to make sure my campaign follows the law of Santa Monica. It makes running for office very complex.”