The good news is that due to EPA regulations, state, county and city ordinances, the proverbial “smoke-filled back rooms” are no longer cigarette and cigar smoke-filled. The bad news is that clean air “back rooms” appear to be alive and well in Santa Monica as our esteemed City Council careens toward its second council seat appointee since the last general election. Word on the street is that the Council will act on February 23 to appoint a replacement for the late Mayor Genser which means that two of seven council members, 29 percent of the council seats, are self-appointed by the Council. Long the banter of jokes referring to the “Peoples Republic of Santa Monica,” our city is beginning to resemble the hand picked “politburos” of the peoples’ republics back in the day of the Iron Curtain.
Could it be that the back room smoke has been replaced by a politically correct Costco vegetable platter with non-dairy cream dip?
Welcome to Tammany Hall west! Funny, when it’s time to try and shear the sheep a little closer our leaders can find funding to put yet another parcel tax on a special ballot for the school district, but not funding to select two-sevenths of our City Council. And what good is it to increase funding to the schools, when our role models in City Hall are teaching by example the civics of special interest, insider manipulation and good ole boy/girl cronyism?
Or maybe the smoke has been replaced by a run to Trader Joe’s for a collection of hummus flavors and baked (not fried) pumpkin chips?
For certain the Council is within the letter of the law by appointing cronies to vacant seats. But what about the spirit of the law? Who among our city’s founders intended for nearly one-third of the Council to be appointed by the Council? Call it what it is — political incest. Forget more school funding, let’s hire a tutor or two to educate our Council on how we got to our democracy, about the spirit of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights and the Human Rights Charter of the United Nations.
Maybe the back room smoke has been replaced by an ample sample of tofu, vegan baked goods, and some bland soup bright green topped with a dollop of non-dairy whip.
Maybe we should change the ground rules. If, in fact, special interests can dominate the filling of vacant Council seats than let’s amend the City Charter. Yes, you can be appointed on an interim basis to the Council, but with the provision that you can never thereafter run for election to the Council. That way the back rooms can confer power for a limited time to keep the City Council at quorum, but cannot confer the advantages of entrenched incumbency when running for re-election.
Whatever displaced the smoke in city hall’s back rooms, one thing is certain, it is slathered in sleaze and We the People deserve better.
Contact Dave Quick
Mirror Contributing Writeropinion@smmirror.com