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I thought I would miss the old library auditorium, but I don’t. The new one is clean and bright and attaches itself wonderfully to the outdoors and to the newly built Main Library. I was there last week to attend the Santa Monica City Council debate, sponsored by Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC). Despite a few microphone mishaps, the evening came off rather well. Kudos to Diana Gordon, Jeff Segal, Victor Fresco and others for establishing a new credible political organization in town.

There were a few uncomfortable moments in the debate, as when candidates Jonathan Mann and Linda Armstrong kept getting shut out of the questions, and when they answered off subject and they were reprimanded. Bad form. Let them speak; everyone knows what they are there for, so let them have their turn to express their concerns. Moderator Judy Bloom, formerly of ABC News, tried to keep them on subject, but let’s face it, this was not a presidential interview – this was a candidates’ forum in a small town where some of the candidates are there to talk about just one thing. In Armstrong’s case, it was to advocate for the police to respond to 911 calls from homeless women. I certainly had no objection to that.

The audience got what they came for, a chance to see how the candidates stack up against one another.

Looking at the dais left to right:

Mayor Bob Holbrook came off as the most casual, comfortable in his own skin and likable candidate. And he was adamant that he did not, and would not, approve any major developments in town. He answered a very long-winded and complicated question with a simple “NO” and a shrug of the shoulders, implying nothing else need be said. He suggested we allow a Target-type store at the old Papermate plant on Olympic, now shut and for sale. I am sure Jerry Rubin (and my wife) likes that idea. Holbrook came to the debate despite having had emergency dental work, and he joked about his Novocain wearing off as he was speaking. He would be the first to claim he is not an “issues” man, but he seems to know what he wants Santa Monica to be like.

Candidate Jenna Linnekens agreed with Holbrook. Just say NO to big developers. It looked like she coveted the seat next to Holbrook so she could be made comfortable in his aura. She presented the usual rah rah let’s make Santa Monica great stuff, and she was articulate and appears involved and interested in the community. Plus, her written materials were professionally done.

Councilman Kevin McKeown was self- assured, understood the details of what the council faces, spoke well and had a suggestion that we might want to consider new housing in our light industrial zone on the east end of town. Not a bad idea actually, but he qualified it into mush instead of truly advocating it. Now that McKeown has disavowed the marijuana initiative on the city’s ballot in November he received the Police Union endorsement, as well as the support of the firefighters and SMRR. The big hotels, the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups oppose him. Residents seem to like him.

Candidate Gleam Davis seemed the most intelligent of the bunch, spoke well and looked the part of a councilperson. She made note that she had a family in this town and was going to stay for a very long time. She has good chops when it comes to education, but is still learning about Land Use issues that constitute a majority of the council’s time. Her grasp of the issues and commanding presence made her stand out, as she must, since name recognition is still an issue.

Candidate Terry O’Day has been racking up the endorsements, and rumor has it he is leading all candidates in fundraising with nearly $100,000 pledged by early October. For a $500 a month gig? What is with these people? O’Day seems modest, and I believe he truly wants to make an impact on the community. It would be a good idea for him to change his nasal monotone speaking voice, as it makes everything he says seem like the same thing. Someone tell him about tonality and expression. People do not hear words, they hear tone. Richard Burton used to make the phone book interesting on Johnny Carson to make just that point. O’Day has made no enemies and is considered a top tier candidate, with everyone I speak to saying good things about him. If he indeed has that kind of money in the bank, he might just have enough to win.

Councilmember Pam O’Connor can be both tough and sweet in a single sentence, which is quite remarkable actually. You get the feeling you do NOT want to go up against her, but then you want her to like you at the same time, because if she doesn’t, watch out. She has had a tough go of it this year with the education people from CEPS all over her case. Credit to her, as she showed up for their interview process knowing full well they were going to give her heck. In this venue she showed very little because she couldn’t stay long due to other commitments. When she did speak she was knowledgeable, and you had to feel the community is in good hands with her, especially since her line of work is in historic preservation. This town needs more of that.

Candidate Jonathan Mann runs every two years, and if he ever decides to raise some money, he may get more than his usual 1,000 votes (more than I’d get). He is about technology connecting our community, but he has other ideas and actually talks about preserving our small town way of life. He is definitely not about big development and chided this reporter for even bringing up hedges, as to him it is a non-issue.

Candidate Linda Armstrong is clearly not in the race to win, but to build awareness around homeless services, in particular about the need to provide safety for our residents without homes. Thinking about women calling for help and none coming brought up a rather queasy feeling inside. Some people wished she was not there, but I saw someone from the streets that seemed to really care.

Tune in to CityTV on October 17 when the League of Women Voters will be sponsoring a candidates’ forum at the Council Chambers. And make sure to VOTE.

For more on the SMCLC forum, see Hannah Heineman’s report on page 9.

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