After taking their oath of office on December 5, the three recently reelected Councilmembers – Bob Holbrook, Pam O’Connor, Kevin McKeown – joined their colleagues on the dais to choose Santa Monica’s mayor and mayor pro tem for the next two years.
Before making their choice, the Council got a chance to hear some suggestions from the community. Activist Jerry Rubin told them, “If you serve long enough on the Council you deserve to be mayor. There are only two people that have the seniority to be the mayor. That’s Kevin McKeown and Herb Katz. Bobby Shiver [the current mayor pro tem], he’ll be mayor some day but this is his first term. He should decline respectfully that job. Anyone else who’s been mayor before should also decline if they’re nominated, and maybe then we’ll heal Santa Monica from the terrible negative campaign” the City has just been through.
Joe Natoli stated, “Tonight should be a new start. Don’t stay the same course. We’ve seen what happened in Iraq when a president didn’t listen to his people. Let’s not in the future let this happen in Santa Monica. So the bottom line is: as residents we’d like to see Kevin McKeown as a mayor to go in a new direction.”
Councilmember Ken Genser agreed. He nominated Councilmember Kevin McKeown to be mayor and Herb Katz to be mayor pro tem for two-year terms. Councilwoman Pam O’Connor nominated a different slate: Councilmember Richard Bloom as mayor and McKeown as mayor pro tem, also for two-year terms. But in the end, it was mayor Robert Holbrook’s nomination that won the majority of the Council vote; Bloom as mayor and Katz as mayor pro tem for the first year, with them switching positions for the second year.
At first, the Bloom/Katz slate only received three votes, but then O’Connor changed her vote. After the vote Shriver said, “I feel shut out.” Bloom, like Councilmembers O’Connor, Genser and McKeown, is a member of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), while Katz has close ties with Santa Monica’s business community. Bloom served as mayor from 2002-2004. Despite being on the Council for 14 years, Katz has never been mayor.
With Bloom presiding as mayor, the Council then turned to their agenda and approved a $131 million settlement with Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil oil companies. The money will be used to build a water treatment plant for water that comes from the City’s Charnock Well Field, and allow the City to purchase water until the plant becomes operational. Some money will go towards related needs. The plant will be used to remove the gasoline additive MtBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) that leaked into the City’s groundwater and forced the closing of several of the City’s water wells in the mid-90s.
The Council also discussed possibilities for developing increased community garden opportunities for the 80-person waiting list. For this fiscal year, there are an additional 52 plots – 42 at Park Drive Park and 10 at Euclid Park. They also voted to ban genetically engineered plants from community gardens.
Finally, the Council appointed Ursula Maria Fox and Elizabeth Wilson to the Commission for the Senior Community.