Among the challengers for the Santa Monica City Council race, Ted Winterer has pulled ahead in endorsements, having received endorsements from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Sierra Club, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), Santa Monica Coalition For A Livable City, and City Council member Kevin McKeown. Winterer, a 16-year Santa Monica resident, is president of the Ocean Park Association, is a Recreation and Parks Commissioner, and co-wrote Proposition T, the initiative to limit growth in the City.
Winterer talked at length with the Mirror about his ideas for Santa Monica and why he entered a race in which the four incumbents would seem to have an advantage for the four open seats. Here are some of his observations.
How did you decide to run for City Council?
I’d been thinking about it for some time. Around 2001 I got involved in civic affairs, right before my first child was born. When you start having children you start thinking about their future. You think about the direction the City is moving in. I think this is an extraordinary place to live, I just wanted to do what I could to keep it that way and make it an even better place to live.
The real turning point for me was in July with the drafting of the strategy framework for the Land Use and Circulation Element update (LUCE). At that point it was very contentious. The City Council [had] four members in favor of greater heights and densities prescribed by that plan, three of them, Bobby Shriver, Kevin McKeown, and Ken Genser being opposed to it. They certainly had room for some moderates – sustainable growth in the city is desirable, but I think that most people I talked to, and I’ve talked to a lot of people in the last few months, want to preserve the essence of Santa Monica and part of that essence is the beach town scale and character.
You got the endorsement of the L.A. County Democrats. Did that come as a surprise to you?
It came as a pleasant surprise, yeah. My experience prior to that had been being a bridesmaid and not a bride. I got a fair amount of support at SMRR and I got support from the Santa Monica Democratic Club but didn’t get their endorsement[s]. So I was surprised but I think the message that I have, my platform, really resonated with the people who interviewed me. When they voted, they had already endorsed Proposition T, so they saw that Santa Monica needed to put the brakes on growth and that I would carry that beacon forward, that I had some new and concrete ideas about how to better our schools and make us to be more sustainable and have more open space, and they were pleased by me.
As the co-author of Prop T, how do you feel it looks right now for support for the measure?
We are a grassroots effort, scrimping and saving for every dollar we can come up with, getting our message out to the voters. So we don’t have the money for polls. We don’t have any scientific evidence how the voters are swinging on this, but I would say that anecdotal evidence from the voters I’ve spoken to, and voters that the people at the coalition have spoken to, and the phone banking efforts, that we have support for the initiative out there.
What are some other issues that you have a stance on?
I have a proposal for how we can increase funding for our schools. I would like to see a change so that half of it is fixed and half is discretionary. I don’t see how the School Board can make long-range plans for how to spend funds if every five years there’s a question of whether or not the contribution from the City will be renewed. At the same time, it’s to the advantage of the Council, and the City Manager has some discretion as to whether those funds are spent.
I think we can redouble our efforts towards sustainability. We’ve talked about bike lanes in this city since 1984, and we are pathetically missing a real network of bicycle paths. Instead of buying renewable energy we ought to be generating our own energy. We can use power share agreements to put solar panels on the rooftop of every municipal building with no capital cost to the taxpayers. We need to much more aggressively spend our Prop V parcels to clean up the water around the Pier as we approach the hundredth anniversary of the Pier.
We need to protect our existing affordable housing, which I feel very strongly about. Every time we create affordable housing in this City we lose one to an Ellis Act eviction. We need to create conservation districts that make it much harder to get demolition permits for older buildings.
We have four seats open and four incumbents. Incumbents have the advantage. But you have the County Democrats endorsement and the endorsement of the Sierra Club. So might that give you an edge?
I think I’ve got a chance. The incumbents have an extraordinary advantage in their ability to raise funds. But I’ve done as well as can be expected. I’ve raised a good amount of money and I’m spending it efficiently and smartly. My sense is that people are dissatisfied with the way the City has been run in recent years and hopefully a vote for change on the top of the ballot will trickle down to the bottom.
For more information go to http://www.tedforcouncil.com.