Members of Santa Monicans For Renter’s Rights (SMRR) have chosen their slate of candidates for the November ballot.
There was no competition for the three open seats on the City Council at last Sunday’s meeting, held at Olympic High School, since only three candidates were seeking the SMRR endorsement. Incumbent Pam O’Connor, who is seeking a fourth term, stated that it was important to have a “SMRR majority on the Council to fight for rent control” and if re-elected she would continue to advocate “for affordable housing” and “protecting our neighborhoods” from over development.
O’Connor also defended the position she took when the Macerich Company – owners of Santa Monica Place – proposed redeveloping the mall last year with 21-story buildings containing both commercial and luxury condos. O’Connor stressed she voted a “solid no” on the project. Recently, the Santa Monican Coalition for a Livable City has alleged that O’Connor received campaign contributions from Macerich executives to help pay off her 2002 campaign debt while the Council was considering their vote on the project. O’Connor told the Mirror last week, “I’m not influenced by campaign contributions.”
Kevin McKeown, another incumbent who, if elected, would be serving a third term, told the crowded auditorium, “I will not run for the City Council without the SMRR endorsement.” Being a 30-year renter McKeown acknowledged, “Without rent control I wouldn’t be here.” He then noted that “development and gentrification” are continually challenging the availability of affordable housing in Santa Monica.
The third SMRR-endorsed Council candidate is newcomer and education activist Gleam Davis. Like the incumbents, she promised to “keep fighting the battles to maintain rent control and affordable housing” and “maintain a strong relationship between the City Council, the School District and Santa Monica College.”
There was more competition for the School Board endorsement with five candidates vying for the open four seats. The endorsed candidates included incumbent and Board Vice President Emily Bloomfield, who emphasized she is seeking a second term because of her continued commitment to “excellence for every child” and “equity for all students at every school.”
The other incumbent, Oscar de la Torre, stated that he was running for a second term to continue “to give back to the schools that have given so much to me” and to “make Santa Monica a model for the nation.”
One of the two newcomers that were endorsed was Kelly McMahon Pye. Her platform included, “Focusing on parent involvement, increasing services for students of greatest need and striving for a rich and rigorous curriculum for every student.”
Renter Barry Snell stressed that as an African American he “understands totally what it means to be separate but equal” after mentioning the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown versus the Board of Education that made public school segregation illegal. If elected, he hopes to help ensure “every child in the District has the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education that fosters intellectual ability and personal growth.”
Like the School Board, there are five candidates contending for four open seats for the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. The only incumbent that was endorsed was Nancy Greenstein, who has served one term on the Board. She wants to make sure SMC’s “benefits extend to the local neighborhoods and populations that so generously provide resources, support and tolerate the sporadic inconvenience.”
The three newcomers included former SMC faculty member Andrew Walzer, who wants to get the various groups on campus “to work better together, increase funding for community colleges and restore vocational programs.”
One of the other newcomers is Lifelong Learning activist Louise Jaffe. She supports “implementing community partnerships, ensuring fiscal and environmental health and sustainability, improving parking and traffic circulation and providing leadership at the State level.”
The final newcomer, David Finkel, was once a City Councilmember. If elected, Finkel would strive to maintain better relations between the college and the community, as well as work closely with the City and the school district. He would also like to “recapture the 6,000 students lost in 2003 because of budget cuts, layoffs and course cancellations.”
Finally, the SMRR members endorsed three candidates for the Rent Control Board. Incumbent and Board Chair Jennifer Kennedy, who has served one term, responded to a questionnaire from SMRR that that she is running for re-election to enable “the social diversity that the residents of our City embrace and enjoy.”
Newcomer and 37-year resident Zelia Mollica stated, “It breaks my heart to see that a lot of people…have left Santa Monica for economic reasons. That’s why I’m running to protect rent control.”
The other newcomer, Marilyn Korade Wilson, a renter and 23-year resident, mentioned that she has worked on the SMRR hotline where she’s “gotten a feel for what goes on in Santa Monica.” Like many of the other candidates, she is running to help “maintain the diversity” in the City.
Winning the SMRR endorsement can be key to a candidate’s election because they have a very capable canvassing team, a strong fundraising capability and the ability to deliver slate mailings.