I wonder if any other readers of the
Mirror noticed the irony in two articles contained in the January 17 issue: “Sen. Feinstein: World Sustainability” and “No to Tree Designation, Third Street Project.” The first article covered Senator Feinstein’s speech at the Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City luncheon, wherein she praised the City of Santa Monica for the efforts it had made in the area of sustainability. The latter article covered a Landmarks Commission meeting held just one day before the State of the City luncheon, wherein the Commission denied historical designation for the ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets. As noted in the article, the ficus trees are slated to be removed by the City in an $8 million downtown beautification program.
So this is how our City works: one day putting one more nail in the coffin of live, viable green trees, and the next day bringing in a U.S. Senator to praise the City’s sustainability efforts. I think this is a case of City officials and business representatives speaking out of both sides of their collective mouths.
To be fair, I doubt much of a case can be made for designating the original planting of the ficus trees an historical event. On the other hand, I can see why Treesavers would seek to present their cause to any available City group in a desperate attempt to get someone in the City to acknowledge the error, both economically and aesthetically, that was made when a plan was designed to rid downtown of the ficus trees.
This issue should really be taken up by the City’s own Environmental Programs Division, which oversees and implements the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan. This plan, which was originally adopted in 1994 and most recently updated in 2002, mandates that the City strive to protect the environment. Quoting from that plan: “Santa Monica is committed to protecting, preserving, and restoring the natural environment. City decision-making will be guided by a mandate to maximize environmental benefits and reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts…The City will ensure that each of its policy decisions and programs are interconnected through the common bond of sustainability as expressed in these guiding principles. The policy and decision-making processes of the City will reflect our environmental objectives.” One does not get the impression that there was much interdepartmental communication in the design of the beautification project, because it does not seem to reflect these sustainability goals. What happened to the “common bond” alluded to in this sustainability plan?
On the City’s website are updated “Guiding Principals” for the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan, which include the following: “City decision-making will be guided by a mandate to maximize environmental benefits and reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts. The City will lead by example and encourage other community stakeholders to make a similar commitment to the environment…The policy and decision-making processes of the City will reflect our sustainability objectives. The City will lead by example and encourage other community stakeholders to use sustainability principles to guide their decisions and actions.” What kind of example is the City presenting to outside businesses and community stakeholders if they design beautification projects that are not in keeping with its own sustainability principles?
Interestingly, in the 2006 Sustainable City Progress Report, one of the three listed goals is: “Residents recognize that they share the local ecosystem with other living things that warrant respect and responsible stewardship.” How much “respect” are City officials showing in their planned removal of viable ficus trees?
Sadly, the comments by our esteemed Assistant City Manager, Gordon Anderson, at the Landmarks Commission meeting summarize and reflect the City’s position on the matter. He “reiterated the position that the City needed to move forward on the removal of the trees because of a timeline on federal funding for downtown redevelopment.” Mr. Anderson is clearly not the least bit interested in assessing whether or not removing these trees is environmentally appropriate. Rather, he is solely focused on getting those federal dollars. As usual, it all boils down to money. Okay, then should we not investigate what would happen if the money was not spent to remove the ficus trees? I suspect the federal dollars would be forthcoming even if the trees were not part of the beautification plan. Then again, maybe the feds have agreed to pay for the tree removal (budgeted at $600,000), and Mr. Anderson wants that money. Well Mr. Anderson, if you do not remove the trees, then you will not need those dollars. That becomes money saved for all of us. At the very least we will know our tax dollars have not been spent on this wasteful and environmentally harmful plan.
Senator Feinstein has called the City of Santa Monica “one of the most environmentally conscious places in the state.” We should show her that this is true by leaving the ficus trees in place. If Mr. Anderson and other City officials have a burning need to spend money they anticipate coming their way through federal dollars, then they should consider options, such as planting new trees where none currently exist, or adding green open space to the City.
If you are a resident of Santa Monica, do not stand placidly and silently by while sustainability issues are ignored and eroded by City Hall. Let City representatives, including Gordon Anderson, hear your voice.
Rebecca Nunnelee Santa Monica
This Tuesday, February 5, Californians face an historic election in which our voices will be heard loudly in our nation’s presidential primary. However, in addition to the important national and statewide decisions we will make on Election Day, we also have the opportunity to vote on Measure R, The Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Quality Education Funding Renewal Measure.
This month also brings some very troubling news about California’s State budget crisis and its impact on our schools. It is important to remember that in California, most funding for public schools comes from the State, and State officials have cautioned all school districts to brace for significant budget cuts.
SMMUSD is extremely fortunate to be part of two extraordinary cities whose residents value the direct link between great public schools and safe, desirable communities – and have affirmed that support through voter-approved local funding measures. Our schools and our students have been able to weather unpredictable and inadequate funding from the State in the past because of that local funding.
So, while February 5 is important for California because of the unprecedented opportunity it gives voters to be heard in the national presidential primary, it is also more important than ever for us at a local level. It provides the opportunity for us to protect local funding for our local schools.
The Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, PTA Council, and PTAs from each of our schools urge you to join us in supporting Measure R.
Measure R – Protects Our Schools:
Retains excellent teachers
Supports reading and literacy instruction
Protects smaller class sizes (20 students instead of 30 in Grades K-3)
Continues programs to improve student skills in math
Preserves science and technology instruction
Supports elementary school libraries
Keeps music and art programs
Measure R – Protects Taxpayers with Strict Accountability Provisions:
Measure R does not increase tax rates. It simply renews local funding already in place and previously approved by voters.
Annual audits and independent citizen oversight will ensure funds are properly spent.
No Measure R funds can be taken by the state or used for administrator salaries.
Measure R provides an exemption for senior citizen homeowners.
Measure R requires 67 percent YES vote to pass. Every vote will make a critical difference to our schools. Teachers and parents throughout our communities agree – Protect our Schools. Vote YES on R.
Harry M. Keiley
President, Santa Monica-Malibu
Classroom Teachers Association
President, Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs
The Santa Monica School District spends God knows how much of your school tax money on toll-free information hot lines and websites manned by Pro Proposition R staffers, whose idea of information is that they “don’t know where the money is going to go.” If you ask them a bona fide Proposition R question, such as how much money classrooms will get from the new parcel school tax, they’re useless. I guess for parcel tax guidance, you want to look to big business. Santa Monica businesses never pay a nickel in parcel taxes according to Ralph Nader, who represents a big consumer organization that also never pays a nickel in parcel taxes.
Soon we will have an opportunity to express our rage over never-ending hikes in Santa Monica school spending when we go the ballot boxes. Your votes count, as a parcel tax requires a 2/3 vote. If property owners unite, we can defeat this tax grab. A re-worked Proposition R may get a second shot at the following election if current Proposition R fails this election. The failure of R will trigger contingency plans, which themselves will pump up school district spending far faster than inflation. Nonetheless, a “no” vote on Proposition R is useful, if only to be on record, for property owners to send the school bureaucrats a message.
The Santa Monica school board hopes to boost spending about eight percent, or more than double the inflation rate. Stopgap funding has not in the past made its way down to the classroom nor has the need for additional funding actually slowed Santa Monica school spending growth. All it has done is to inflate the Santa Monica school budget. Only spending limits can hold down additional parcel taxes, but the politicians on the school board in Santa Monica won’t impose them lest they anger the education cartel, which supports them generously.
So the taxpayers are once again left holding the bag. Not much can be done about that, but voters don’t need to sanctify such misconduct by passing Proposition R.
And that is all I have to say.
A Sasha Stone story about Heath Ledger – Santa Monica Mirror, January 24-30, page 30 – incorrectly states that the 2000 film The Patriot was directed by Mel Gibson.
Roland Emmerich directed The Patriot.
Scott Edward Colins