SUSAN CLOKE, Mirror Contributing Writer
The language of Politics is one of images and ideals as well as practicalities and compromises. Our culturally shared image of the ideal of the “people’s politician,” as expressed by the Frank Capra movies, was expressed in real life by Ken Genser. In Ken, Santa Monica truly had a public servant, a representative of the people. He paid attention to and cared about the problems of each individual who asked him for help. He loved Santa Monica, he identified with Santa Monica, and he dedicated himself to its present and its future.a
In a time when communication is depersonalized and voice mail and being on hold are ubiquitous, Ken answered the phone himself. He came to the house to talk to you, to see the problem firsthand. He interceded, respectfully, on your behalf, if that was necessary. People believed he was their champion, and, in turn, they championed him.
So it is only right that we honor Ken’s memory. He will be credited, and rightfully so, with contributions to housing and city planning, to saving Sea Castle and to promoting renters’ rights, to supporting education and city/school partnerships. These are issues. How issues are decided and how they are implemented impact our daily lives. But in my mind his most valuable contributions were to the continuation of our identity as a community, as a place where individuals are important and where there is attention to every voice and a place for all to participate in self-governance.
These intangible qualities make an everyday difference in how connected we feel to one another and in how connected we feel as citizens of Santa Monica. The continuation of these values is how I want to honor Ken Genser’s memory.
In the coming decade the Expo line station will be built in downtown Santa Monica. The Expo line will bring people to Colorado and 4th. When they arrive, they will see the stores of the new Santa Monica Place, redesigned after a lengthy and robust public process; it will connect City Hall and the Civic Center to the Third Street Promenade. Across from City Hall will be a new park, the ‘front yard’ to City Hall, connecting City Hall to the Beach, the Pier, and Palisades Park. And, under discussion right now, is the possibility of building a new museum near the Civic Auditorium for the Broad collection.
If we do all this work right, these projects will be designed to be physical connectors between the major public buildings and places in the City. We will have created new buildings and public spaces that express our spirit and our values. For that to happen we must continue our current high level of public participation in our City decision-making process. We must continue our commitment to being a community.
Wonderfully, if we choose to honor Ken Genser by staying strong as a community of people, by making sure that all the work that is to come expresses our values and our spirit, we will also protect our collective future.
Contact Susan Cloke