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2018 Santa Monica City Council Election Guide

Where SM City Council candidates stand on all the issues. 

By Sam Catanzaro

The race for Santa Monica City Council is heating up, with seven candidates vying for three seats up for grabs in the November 6 election. Challengers Ashley Powell, Greg Morena, Scott Bellomo and Geoff Neri, hoping to bring a fresh perspective to the Council, are taking on incumbents Kevin McKeown, Sue Himmilrich and Pam O’Connor, who are looking to get elected based off their experience and knowledge in governing.

To find out where these candidates stand on all the issues, the Santa Monica Mirror sat down with each of them for a one-on-one live video interview. Questions were sourced from Santa Monica residents, local stakeholders and Mirror staff, covering a range of topics, from tackling the crisis of homelessness and violent crime to term limits and how to approach development in the city.

Here are some highlights from these each of these candidate interviews to keep in mind when deciding who to vote for on November 6.

 

Ashley Powell

Ashely Powell led off the series by making the case that she was qualified to tackle the issue of homelessness facing Santa Monica. Powell, a challenger, was born and raised in Santa Monica and is the youngest candidate in the race.

On Homelessness

“I see the homelessness crisis throughout the City and County and I do believe we need to have more mental health outreach and include more people who are formally homeless,” Powell says. “There’s a multi-pronged approach to homelessness in treating the different issues of why people are homeless.”

On term limits

“When I was in elementary school, two of our incumbents I am running against were in City Council…It’s time for those 20-year incumbents to get out of office.”

On Development

“I think we have to be resident focused with whatever we do, but we do have to address tourism…I think we need to support our local businesses and residents first and treat tourism as a source of income.”

Watch the full interview here:

 

Greg Morena

Greg Morena, another challenger, was the second candidate to be interviewed. Morena, who grew up in Santa Monica, has extensive experience in the private sector. In his interview, Morena touted the wide range of interest groups and stakeholders who have endorsed him.

On Endorsements

“I’m endorsed by Santa Monica for Renters Rights…I am also endorsed by Santa Monica Forward,” Morena says. “I span the breadth of different organizations. In part because I have been in town for quite some time. I am a business owner in town. I also have the core values that were created in Santa Monica in the early ’70s.”

On Term Limits

“As it’s written, I do not support measure TL. I believe that the City and the people, ultimately, benefit from the institutional knowledge,” Morena says. “I do believe there is a challenge with only a 12-year term. You can get some things done but you can’t get all the wonderful things that we have done.”

On Homelessness

“We as businesses, have to advocate for what we believe is right. And we, as people of Santa Monica, with these incredible values, to help people, to move people along and not just kick them out. To guide them into services,” Morena says. “It’s incredibly important that the business community uses its voice…to communicate with City Council to create humane policy.”

Watch the full interview here:

 

Kevin McKeown

Next up was Councilmember Kevin McKeown, the first of three incumbents to sit down for an interview. McKeown, who has served on Santa Monica City Council since 1998 and was Mayor from 2014-2015, was critical in his interview of Measure TL (term limits for councilmembers).

On Term limits

“At the end of 12 years, if someone is serving me as my Councilmember, no matter how happy I was with the job they are doing, I would be prohibited from voting for them,” McKeown says. “If you feel a councilmember has not served you well, go the ballot box and vote for somebody else. We have term limits. They are called elections.”

On Homelessness

“It’s hard for many people in our community to accept that so many people are destitute on our streets in this amazingly wealthy part of the world,” McKeown says. “We put into place a program called Housing First that says we’ll find the most vulnerable, most threatened people living on the streets and we will get them housing. By getting them housing we kind of change the atmosphere on the streets.”

On Crime

“We are already moving on this issue. We are not ignoring the fact that there has been an increase in crime…The increase is worrisome,” McKeown says. “We have brought in a new police chief who has a new philosophy of how to do things in the City…we have also decided, and already Council has taken this action, to hire more police officers. “

Watch the full interview here:

 

Scott Bellomo

Challenger Scott Bellomo, a long time Santa Monica resident, touted his commitment to crack down on crime if elected to City Council. Bellomo’s catalyst for getting into the race, was when he and his son were assaulted by a “deranged” person outside Vons on Broadway and 7th in Santa Monica.

On Crime

“Regardless of what the length of incarceration would be, regardless of the amount of paperwork, I want to start enforcing the laws immediately so that it gets out the criminal elements in our community that we are not going to allow this to happen anymore.”   

On Term Limits

“I absolutely support term limits. I think career politicians are detrimental to democracy.  It breeds a lot of backroom dealing and support from groups who don’t necessarily have residents’ positions in mind.”

On Homelessness

“This is a businesses issue, a resident issue, a tourism issue, so it affects all areas of the City. Specifically, the Council needs to empower the police chief…we are going to start enforcing the laws that are on the books so that a business does not have to worry about their customers being attacked.”

Watch the full interview here:

 

Sue Himmilrich

Incumbent Sue Himmelrich, an attorney who has lived in Santa Monica for 26 years and has served on City Council since 2014, was next to sit down for an interview. Himmelrich, the only incumbent on City Council to support term limits, spoke in the discussion about her belief that compassion is needed when tackling the issue of homelessness.

On Term Limits

“The City Council is a volunteer position and while you do work hard, I think it is important you have different perspectives over time…I think it opens up opportunities for people who otherwise simply can’t defeat the power of incumbency.”  

On Homelessness

“I understand people feel heavily impacted by homelessness and are very afraid of people who are homeless. I think the first thing people need to understand is that most of the crime in our city is not committed by homeless people,” Himmelrich says. “The way that we treat the homeless here and frankly throughout the state and throughout the country is in my mind inhumane.”

On Crime

“I am aware of the uptick and I believe that it is real and I believe that people are angry about it and people are afraid,” Himmelrich says.”I think that we need to one, prepare people how to be vigilant and protect themselves, two, I think that we need to have more police presence on the streets as a deterrent.”

Watch the full interview here:

 

Geoff Neri

Challenger Geoff Neri, a local attorney, was next to come in for an interview said that if elected, he would be tough on crime and enforce all laws.

On Crime

“My number one priority as both an attorney and as a candidate for office is law and order. Unless you live in a bubble, you know we have a serious problem with law and order. We have a major problem with crime. There’s been three aggravated murders in the City of Santa Monica in the last month.”

On Term Limits

“Incumbency is a problem. When you feel secure in your job, whether it is a commercial setting  or a government setting, you have less incentive to be responsive to the people you should be responsive to, in this case, the residents of Santa Monica.”

On Homelessness

“We really need to explore a program that is known as Housing First. It was a program that was adopted by the Santa Clarita City Council as well as Salt Lake City Council. What it has done is move the homeless off the streets. They do that by creating prefabricated housing units that simply give homeless people, the option of leaving their head on the street at night or going to a short-term solution.”

Watch the full interview here:

 

Pam O’Connor

Incumbent Pam O’Connor, who has served on Santa Monica City Council since 1994, was the final candidate to come in for an interview. O’Connor, who served as mayor twice, spoke out against the idea of term limits, saying they prevent elected officials from attaining leadership roles on county and state boards.

On term limits

“We already have term limits. That’s the voters…One of the issues about term limits is that it would prevent future Santa Monicians in elected office to achieve any kind of regional leadership, to be able to represent the City at the regional level…it takes a while to get into leadership positions.”

On homelessness

“There are things that are going on right now. Just last November the City Council, in addition to the $2.8 million dollars that it gives out annually in grants to agencies that help provide services to the homeless, the Council authorized $1.2 million to do an immediate, homeless action plan.”

On Affordable Housing

“I think we could do more to support the production of housing…we need to look at the decisions we have made about housing production and whether it is getting built. And if it’s not, we have to figure out how to adjust our policies and practices to encourage and incentivize that production of housing.”

Watch the full interview here:

For more inforamtion about the 2018 Election, visit SMvote.org

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