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Letters to the Editor:

Donner the Common Denominator

Ambrose Bierce defined the word “economy” as “purchasing the barrel of whisky that you do not need for the price of the cow you cannot afford.” Bierce’s definition would pretty much sum up Tom Donner’s lamentable reign of error at Santa Monica College.

Donner is living proof that just because you’ve been doing something for 30 years is no guarantee that you know what you’re doing. In the interview conducted by Ms. Heineman for the Mirror Donner projects that he has graciously yielded to the request of the three retiring Trustees to run for the Board himself. These Trustees, having fallen somewhat short of completely destroying the College through their protracted and consistent ineptitude, want Donner to administer the coup de grace for them. They’re exhausted. They feel as though SMC needs Donner to jog the College’s “institutional memory.” Apparently the half-finished buildings, enrollment shortfall, financial deficits and bloated administration will not suffice. Most of the employees at the College would love to forget what Currey, Roney and Ehrhart-Morrison want us to remember. Would that forgetting was an option.

Donner claims that he wants “to protect student services when budget problems make cuts.” If so, then he is suffering from institutional amnesia. The last time there were budget “problems” Donner’s response was to cut classified staff, adjunct faculty and vocational education programs while not taking a dime from the horde of six digit sycophants (many of whom he hired) that passes for management at SMC. How this response, which lost the College 20 percent of its enrollment, “protected student services” is understood by Donner and no one else. His strategy didn’t do much to protect the College either. SMC wound up on the State’s fiscal watch list along with Compton Community College (currently in receivership).

Another of Donner’s “long-term goals” is to “strengthen classified service in order to have appropriate staffing for running the College.” In Donnerspeak by “strengthen” he means that he will subcontract out every possible function he can even at a loss while blaming the union representing the classified staff for all the ills of the world. It is telling that neither the classified union nor the faculty union honored Donner’s request for an endorsement. We who work at the College would prefer to see it succeed if only for naked self-interest. Donner’s self-interest was served by the exorbitant salary he secured before departing the College, having nearly driven the place into the ground.

Donner told Ms. Heineman that his “short-term goals” include “strengthening the relationship with the City […].” Before running for office, Donner’s endeared himself to the City by threatening to sue over earthquake abatement funds. The lawsuit was aborted due to the counter threats of the City Attorney and the City Council.

Donner also has a rather Pollyanna approach to the pesky problems generated by the College’s relentless expansion into residential communities with the attendant problems of traffic congestion, 100-decibel subwoofers, petty crime and carbon monoxide. The gloomy residents of these communities, according to Donner, need to stop looking at the worst case scenario and instead look at the most likely scenario and work from there. Of course if Donner is involved the worst-case scenario is most likely the most likely scenario. That’s why there have been problems to begin with.

Finally, Donner claims that he lost the SMRR endorsement because he is a “fiscal conservative.” In Donnerspeak “fiscal conservative” means the mass transfer of public money into the coffers of lawyers (thirteen firms currently retained by the College), consultants, subcontractors, architects, construction companies and public relations firms. He never saw a bond issue he didn’t like or an administrator that wasn’t worth $100K or more no matter how many times he or she had been recycled.

The College under his leadership has built more and more buildings for fewer and fewer students. The College has doubled its managerial overhead while increasing its reliance on consultants and subcontractors to perform the work of the superfluous managers. This has not prevented Donner from lavishing laptops, District-paid cell phones, travel expenses and junkets on his bureaucratic cronies. He has paid legal reptiles hefty fees to hound both faculty and classified staff. He has sunk vast sums of bond money into ill-considered construction projects and real estate acquisition. He’s about as fiscally conservative as your average oil sheik.

Problems with budgets. Problems with enrollment. Problems with the City. Problems with the community. Problems with endorsements. Problems with unions. Donner seems to be the common denominator. Donner says he wants to solve all the problems and he probably can – but only if he loses the election.

Phil Hendricks

Carl Gettleman

Santa Monica

My dad always asked the question, “Who has skin in the game?”  Clearly someone does not want Kevin McKeown re-elected to the Santa Monica City Council.  Someone with big money is running television advertisements defaming Kevin.  This someone obviously has “skin in the game,” and it would appear that the skin is mink coated.

Why would someone spend the sort of money it takes to air TV commercials without expecting to recoup that investment, probably on some big real estate development deal?

 The voting populace of Santa Monica is too smart to fall for a well-financed hotel developer’s dream of turning our beautiful coastline into the Las Vegas strip with a beach.

Kevin has stood toe to toe with the developers.  Kevin helped stop the monster development at Santa Monica Place.  Based on the money that the developers are spending to defeat Kevin, it would appear that he may have stepped on some developer’s toes!

 Keep stomping Kevin!

Mike Bone

Santa Monica

 

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I have lived in Santa Monica for 30 years, an artist, making a life and making a living being a fine artist-painter.  I have my studio only because I fought for it.  As far as I know, I am the ONLY artist left on all of the boardwalk in Santa Monica and Venice  beautiful live-work space.

I am very fortunate – and very thankful to still be here.  Luckily, my building (I think) is a historical monument.  When I first came here from Chicago in the late 50’s, all I wanted to do was live by the ocean, in Santa Monica.  I ran away from the valley in the 60’s, and came direct to Santa Monica.  When my husband and I moved here from Chicago, we came down route #66 – direct to the Santa Monica Pier.  And that is where I have my studio now.

When I finally got my studio in 1977 this city was old and falling apart.  The City Council has done a remarkable job in restoring this city to a position of cleanliness and liveliness.  Now it is time to make this city not only sustainable, but a world-class city.  What promotes a city to this position is CULTURE.  And culture is recorded in the arts – its paintings, architecture primarily.  When we look at ancient cultures, we see them through the arts.

Of all the people running for City Council, Kevin McKeown has been consistently the most reachable and reliable of all the candidates.  His positions are clear – keep the development in line with the character of the city, and bring the Arts back to Santa Monica.  I realize that there are some factions who would like to see this city become a tourist spot similar to Miami Beach, but – WE CITIZENS DO NOT WANT IT.

But how about making this city a little like Ft. Lauderdale.  My mother lived there and I used to go twice a year.  They had a wonderful cultural center, beautifully designed, which included a world-class art museum.  This is how I see Santa Monica.

We are unique as far as I can see.  I used to go to Market when I had my business (hand-painted fabrics).  I had showrooms in all the major cities in the United States.  There is NO PLACE LIKE SANTA MONICA.  WE HAVE IT ALL.

So please, PLEASE, LET’S KEEP KEVIN MCKEOWN ON THE CITY COUNCIL, AND BRING THE ARTS BACK TO SANTA MONICA.

Susan Weinberg

Santa Monica

 

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I was on vacation last week and came home to an envelope that had no return address on it, front or back. I figured it must be a mass mailing of some kind, and I usually simply throw these away. I should’ve. Because what I found inside really stunned me.

A form letter, sent to my name and address – how did they get this? – from the Edward Thomas Company’s president, smearing the record of Kevin McKeown. When big business puts this sort of effort behind an attempt to defeat a local city councilman, one must wonder why.

So, I thought, let’s look at the money interests involved here. And not surprisingly, what I found was a large hotel firm that didn’t like the councilman’s policies, putting big bucks behind an incredibly negative campaign and offering inaccurate charges against McKeown. Then I saw these horrific ads on TV to match their letter. I simply can’t believe that this kind of dirty campaign is being waged in a community like ours.

The electorate at large is already as turned off as it can be by discouraging news all around us and horrible negative ads on the state and national level. Do we need such baseless smear tactics in our hometown?

Do we want Santa Monica to become a replica of South Beach in Miami? Of course not. But developers such as these would do just that. Santa Monica is a small town – albeit a very sophisticated and highly cultured one – and I might add, I think it’s run pretty darn well, and it’s prosperous, too. I’m proud of being a 24-year Santa Monica resident. Councilman McKeown has helped maintain the standards of the community to keep it that way. The developers are hiding behind a mask of concern for Santa Monica’s residents, but they’re looking to line their own profit-filled pockets at our community’s expense.

When local councilmembers call big developers to task, they’re David against Goliath. But they are fighting the right fight. I don’t want 25-story condominiums in the heart of an already overburdened traffic zone in the heart of downtown. I don’t want taller hotels blocking the views of locals who’ve earned the right to see what they’ve been seeing for decades. I don’t want big developers masking their intentions behind a so-called concern for local citizenry and community.

The councilman has fought against large developer interests in MY interest and I appreciate that fact.

I write this letter in the hope that others will read it and realize they’re being fed a lot of disinformation that has sunk campaigning in Santa Monica to the lowest low in its electoral history.

Sarah Spitz

Santa Monica

 

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When I get a letter telling me NOT to vote for someone I immediately know that that someone must be doing a great job. He, in this case Kevin McKeown, must be giving the rich developers, luxury hotel operators and other moneyed interests fits.  Good!

We need more savvy men like Kevin and less negative advertising telling voters whom not to vote for.

May the Edward Thomas Company who spent millions sending out a flood of these letters directing voters not to tick off McKeown’s name on their ballots, move to the hideous Wilshire Corridor or, better yet, Miami Beach and settle among the sterile, insular, high-rises well away from the seaside city of Santa Monica which McKeown is striving to preserve.

Kit Snedaker

30-year Santa Monica resident

 

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In a letter signed by Tim Dubois, which I received last week, he specifically attacked Kevin McKeown. Since I don’t know Mr. Dubois “I followed the money” and found out that the Edward Thomas Management Co., which manages Casa del Mar and Shutters, naturally support their own interests and therefore need to attack Kevin McKeown who still remembers the interests of people who don’t make big money on tourism and don’t want an over-developed Santa Monica.

Ursula Fox

Santa Monica

 

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I just wanted to weigh in on a current hot-button issue: Councilman Kevin McKeown and the negative ad campaigns against him. For months now I’ve been receiving these mailers from a developer claiming to be informing me about the heels McKeown digs in at every attempt to better and beautify Santa Monica. This guy does not stand in the way when it comes to this town. These ads make him sound like he’s the only thing standing in the way of a good thing for S.M. However, when you look at McKeown’s voting record, and I always keep tabs on it, you see that he uses common sense and a genuine desire to see progress for S.M. He really opposes those things which are truly not good for the city. He opposes things that are an unnecessary expense for the city, too.

Negative ad campaigns are nothing new, but the ads I’ve been receiving attacking only this one guy is fishy. So much money being spent on these clever mailers. If you follow the trail, these big-time developers are the culprits. They do not care about this town keeping its down-home charm. The hotels claim to provide jobs. Those jobs are not given to local residents; people from South L.A. spend four hours a day on a bus to come to work. The hotels are not helping the homeless issue; they want to see the problem annihilated. What about all the traffic and the damage it causes to the infrastructure of our community? What about the parking problem all over the city? Why do S.M. residents drive to other neighborhood cities to do their shopping because of the traffic and the parking issue right here? Are the hotels talking about that?

What would happen if we didn’t have Kevin McKeown on the council? What would really happen then? These ads make it sound as if getting rid of him would solve the problems of this city. When you look closer at their objectives, you clearly see that the only thing this would solve is the big-time hotel developers’ problems, not the residents of the city.

Nylsa Dickey

Santa Monica

 

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Such a clever group of propositions this election…

Once again though, it is irksome to see so much ink and paper wasted on redundant for-vote vyings that sadly recount more about problems we all know than about specific actions candidates will truly pursue to solve them.

Too, more than in any election I can remember, it is a bit more disheartening this time realizing that the most useful vote-deciding information seems to be located in the citations of just who is funding some of these propositions; sadly, this time, such seems more telling information than what can in some cases be gleaned from the less-than-adequate texts purporting to describe and explain the measures.

Affecting all of California, Prop 90 seems one good example in these regards. Several readings of the proposed text of that initiative led me to conclude that it seems much more a proposal aimed at lining the pockets of realtors (taking of course for such from taypayer-filled community coffers), than it might ever be considered a measure honestly intending some redress of government abusing of eminent domain powers (clear cases for which, by the way, seem so few and far between that one must wonder why all the fuss).

Why indeed?… Beneath “the sky is falling” call-to-arms about alleged government abuses of power, the true agenda of those wealthy out-of-state backers of this proposition (and analogous others in other states) seems a simple aim to garner more power so that they might bring new legal contentions that will prove profitable for them. Worse yet, passage of this silly proposition would serve as well to hamstring already-struggling local governments and further compromise the quality of living for residents in a variety of ways. A senseless, awful proposition…             

Closer to home – for those of us in Santa Monica, in this case – the same kind of out-of-town, hidden-agenda attack looks to be in process too.  This time the target is Santa Monica’s City Council, and Councilmember Kevin McKeown, in particular.

Looking carefully at the record of actions by this city government and by Mr. McKeown, and at the significant number of agencies and individuals again strongly supporting him, the heavily-funded, record-distorting attacks upon him seem so noticeably excessive. Why?

Again, as with Prop 90 (and some others of this year’s wild measures), the critical truth seems most to lie in seeing who exactly is backing these attacks.

Apparently, this time the substantially-funded smearings of Mr. McKeown’s council record have been orchestrated by one or more developer/hotel operator(s) based in Beverly Hills. With Santa Monica government’s enduring history of working to keep city development actions on a reasonable track in support of the tenor of community life its residents have voiced desiring, Mr. McKeown’s stance on city growth clearly poses an obstacle for some. It seems pretty obvious – as too often now evident in American politics – that said developers again feel, by playing loose with the facts, and by throwing sufficient money to swamp the campaign, that they may prevail to push-through councilmember change(s) to afford them free-enough hands for the kind of building developments they instead desire.

Perhaps never before have we seen an election that cries so strongly for the socially-conscious many to hold the selfish few to reasonable bounds.

As others have noticed, much more erosion of our respect for the laws that serve us, and our fine nation will slip painfully further to escalation of the tribal warrings so more noticeable and troubling in recent years.

Whether or not we can still trust the integrity of our vote-tallying system, at least a facet of a “better” or “worse” future seems next to rest upon what we do on November 7th…

Cordially,

David Latham

Santa Monica

 

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This is a complaint about the voting disclosures found in the Official Sample Ballot and Voter Instructions for the General Election to be held on November 7, 2006.  A review of the sample ballot reveals that, unlike the candidates for State Office, the Santa Monica candidates for the General Municipal Election for City Council and Rent Control Board have no disclosure about their political party affiliation.

When you, the City Clerk’s Office, were contacted about this failure, it was advised that the candidates do not have to disclose their party affiliation because this is a “non-partisan election.”  When pressed what was meant by a “non-partisan election,” the individual responded that the candidates are not running on the basis of their party affiliation.  I interpret this to mean that the candidates don’t want the voters to know about their political affiliation and leanings.

Last time this disclosure was absent, it turned out that one candidate was a member of the Green Party.  Over the course of his tenure, he pushed his Green Party agenda, which is still in evidence today.  Frankly many things that were done were great but I had no idea that he was so affiliated.  Notably, nowhere was it found in the official voter instructions and disclosure that this person was a member of the Green Party.

I believe that you would agree that if a candidate is going to be permitted to assert their party’s beliefs upon our citizens while they are in office, then they should disclose those affiliations before they are elected. Most voters don’t have the time or the inclination to contact each candidate or read every scrap of paper about them to uncover their political affiliation, if any.  We depend on you, the City Clerk, to give us basis information.  I think the notion of non-partisan elections is flim-flam.

Gerard Healy

Santa Monica

 

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I’ve known Kevin McKeown for several years and worked closely with him on a huge controversial project here in Santa Monica.  At the time we were trying to get things accomplished, one of the huge high-rise issues came up before the city council.  Kevin has always represented the people of this community and their interests in keeping Santa Monica a beach town without the “Miami” attached!  He was available to listen to concerns and ready to hear both sides of the issues.

But this campaign against him has reached a new low in our politics.

We’ve all seen the effects of development and the traffic increase it has brought.  These developers are spending a lot of money to smear Kevin with untruths in order to reap huge profits in the future.  At least we have Kevin McKeown looking after our interests.

Meyera Robbins

Santa Monica

 

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Campaign signs on public property (e.g., freeway on-ramps, street medians) are an eyesore. They are also illegal in Santa Monica (see Municipal Code 4.08.480). If you see these signs, you can contact the Santa Monica Clerk’s Office (310.458.8211 or clerk@smgov.net) and city workers will pick up the signs. Candidates and their managers are aware of the law, but they need to hear complaints from the electorate about this election litter. Voters would be wise to make note of the candidates whose names appear on these signs. These candidates are making unauthorized use of public resources and they do not deserve our votes.

 Jennifer L. Polhemus

Santa Monica

 

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Many thanks for your informative article on the possible demise of the Horizons West and its adjacent studio (“Fate of Dogtown in Commission’s Hands”).

It saddens me to think that my Ocean Park neighborhood may lose two touchstones of its funky beach town history, the surf and skate shop which was the birthplace of modern skateboarding and an artist’s studio still used by John Baldessari, one of our region’s more accomplished artists.

Moreover, the changes afoot at 2001-2011 Main Street are a microcosm of the challenges we face in modifying our land use policies for the next 20 years so as to accommodate moderate growth while preserving the essence of Santa Monica.

For instance, during the public input to the update to our land use policies, residents were quite vocal about their desire for preserving our history. Yet here on Main Street history may be demolished in the name of progress.

At the same time, the public also spoke loudly about its interest in promoting green buildings. The mixed-use project which will replace Horizons West touts itself as the first privately owned LEED-certified apartment complex in Santa Monica (LEED is a yardstick for measuring the environmental benefits of green buildings). The new development will devote 30 percent of its roof space to solar energy, and the conscientious developer apparently would like to devote 100 percent of the roof to renewable energy but is prohibited from doing so by the City of Santa Monica (and what’s up with that in a city which promotes itself as a leader in sustainability?). On the other hand, the developer asserts that another green benefit of the building is that it won’t have air conditioning.  Since the project is two blocks from the cooling breezes of the Pacific and since few people in Ocean Park use AC because of the benign climate, I’m not so sure that feature will by itself do much to diminish global warming. Perhaps the project could be greener?

Anyway, one public goal of preserving history may be shoved aside to serve another community ambition of embracing sustainability, depending upon the action of the Landmarks Commission. Which is more important? Does one have to be chosen over the other?

Perhaps not. You see, Santa Monica residents have also made it clear they’d like to see more adaptive reuse of older buildings in lieu of demolishing structures to build anew. Interestingly enough, reusing vintage buildings is about the greenest approach one can take in environmentally sound construction and in fact the LEED standards award points for adaptive reuse.

So why not preserve all or at least part of Horizons West and the studio and build around and on top of them? That way both history and sustainability can be served and the project will be even greener.

Interestingly enough, just across the street a similar opportunity to adaptively reuse part of a structure while preserving our history was lost a couple of years ago. On the other side of Main between Bay and Bicknell once stood the Boulangerie bakery, now being replaced by a mixed-use project designed by architect Howard Laks (also the architect for 2001-2011 Main). Mr. Laks spent considerable time responding to community feedback and redesigning the Boulangerie project so it would look more like historic Main Street. Then when the old bakery was demolished historic tile signs and storefronts from decades-old retail establishments were discovered beneath a mansard overlay installed by the bakery. What better way could there have been to make the new development look like historic Main Street than to incorporate these old storefronts?

Alas, history lost out to progress at the Boulangerie site and the tile signs were not even preserved for use elsewhere. Perhaps it’s time to learn a lesson from that fiasco and incorporate history into the redevelopment of 2001-2011 Main Street. If you agree, you can email the developer at info@2001mainstreet.com. And you can ask the Landmarks Commission to preserve Horizons West and the art studio by sending a note to roxanne.tanemori@smgov.net.

Sincerely,

Ted Winterer

Santa Monica

 

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I have been a Santa Monica resident for over 20 years.  I love this activist seaside community and appreciate our diversity of ideas and perspectives.  Like all communities we have lively debates over issues that are important to us. 

Unfortunately, we are again experiencing an election cycle in which some individuals and organizations have chosen to go beyond the bounds of civil debate and sink into the depths of name-calling, innuendo and character defamation.  Because these individuals and organizations also have great amounts of money, we find our homes inundated by multitudes of slick campaign fliers, letters from the presidents of companies and expensive television ads on cable television.

I find this systematic, targeted campaign to defame one of our sitting city council members who is currently running for re-election reprehensible. And most people I have spoken with feel like I do.

Of course, I am referring to the campaign against Kevin McKeown that is being funded by the Beverly Hills-based Edward Thomas Management Company and its president Tim Dubois, who himself has sent a personalized letter to voters in Santa Monica.

According to the Major Donor and Independent Expenditure Committee Campaign Statement through September 30, 2006 posted on the Santa Monica City Clerk’s Web site, the Edward Thomas Management Company has made $359,090 in contributions to the Santa Monicans for Sensible Priorities PAC, and $72,000 in contributions to Michael D. Meyers Co. Inc. for the campaign opposing Councilmember McKeown.

A Campaign Disclosure Statement through September 30 filed by Santa Monicans for Sensible Priorities PAC-MF Hosp Providers & E Thomas Mgmt. shows contributions received $359,090, expenditures made $90,000, with the difference available for use in the final weeks of the election.

This kind of well-funded, negative campaign shows us graphically why such respected organizations as the League of Women Voters and Common Cause work so hard to reform campaign finance systems at all levels of government.  It is a poster child for why we need campaign finance reform.

In moments of delirium it makes me wish I had the money to buy an election too.  Why should they have all the fun!  Did I say fun?  The truth is I find it a lot more “fun” to bring accurate information to voters so they can engage in the real effort of making democracy work; so they can cast an informed vote.  I find it a lot more “fun” to organize candidates forums that offer a level playing field for all candidates to get their messages out and to hear and answer questions from the public.  For more information on local and state candidates and ballot measures, go to www.smartvoter.org and www.smvote.org.

It is up to us to inform ourselves before Election Day.  Remember, those who show up win.  Cast an informed vote on November 7.

Barbara Inatsugu

Santa Monica

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