September 17, 2019 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Letter to Editor: Former Mayor on Voting Rights Case

By Paul Rosenstein
Former Mayor of Santa Monica

I hope the judge’s order for district elections is stayed during the city’s appeal. This decision is undemocratic and a version of voter suppression.

The election in newly created districts is supposed to be held on July 2, four months from now. This would be two days before a major national holiday in the traditional summer vacation season when voters minds are elsewhere. I remember when we used to have Spring elections that had a 10-15 percent voter turnout. When we voted to switch to November, turnout jumped to 60-80 percent, depending on the candidates and issues.

Despite a state law saying a transition to districts should include community discussions in public, the districts in the judge’s order were drawn up in secret by a small group. They “cleverly” gerrymandered the lines to put three current incumbents in the same district. I live in the Mid-City multifamily neighborhood. It would now be split up, with my portion lumped in with many single-family homeowners. Other neighborhoods are also broken up.

Failed and would-be candidates, and others in the community opposed to the current councilmembers naively assume that they will get better representation by voting for one councilmember every four years, instead of the seven we now select. They claim that their district’s councilmember would solve their neighborhood’s perceived problems.

This desire assumes that they will elect an effective person. But councilmembers will have to persuade three others to vote their way. This will inevitably lead to the trading of votes – “I’ll vote for what you want, if you vote for what I want.” – leading to decisions that are not necessarily what’s best for the city as a whole. And if my district’s councilmember is not effective, I will have to wait four years to elect someone else.

Certainly it would be cheaper and easier to run in one district. But it will also be cheaper and easier for “special interests” to support their candidates.

I don’t agree that the Pico neighborhood has been mistreated by the city, but if it has, what is to prevent the other districts from freezing Pico out by uniting to grab the city’s resources.

Civil rights are important and I’m sure many cities need to change their voting system, but Santa Monica is not one of them. In recent years, 30 percent of the City council has been Latino. Two-thirds of the city’s Latino residents now live outside the Pico neighborhood. It has become a majority white area. If Santa Monicans have discriminated in voting, how have we elected numerous people of color to the school board and college trustees?

I don’t agree with every council decision. For example, I think the council wrongly has allowed developers to propose large, tall, out of scale projects in the downtown. And certainly we have problems (some of which are beyond our control), however overall, I’m proud to live in a city that is a national leader of progressive policies.

Supporters of district elections should beware of what they seek, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence!

Editor’s note: since this letter was submitted, the July 2 election has been stayed but according to the judge’s most recent ruling, the current Council will be serving illegally after August 15, forcing the City to hold a district-based election before then. Find out more here: https://smmirror.com/2019/03/crva-appeal-stay/

Related Posts

The Myth of “Public” Art in Santa Monica

February 8, 2019

February 8, 2019

Over the past few years, the Stanton MacDonald Wright murals at the entrance to Santa Monica City Hall have stirred...

Beausoleil: First Parole Test for Newsom

February 10, 2019

February 10, 2019

Not many Californians under 60 can recall just who is the 71-year-old Bobby Beausoleil and what evils he did back...

AI in the Year 2020… Almost

February 11, 2019

February 11, 2019

By Nektar Baziotis In 1966 Gene Rodenberry’s “Star Trek” made its television debut on NBC. Audiences young and old were captivated...

Is Santa Monica’s Heart for Sale?

February 15, 2019

February 15, 2019

Note from SMa.r.t.: This article, in a longer form, was originally published four years ago but is still as pertinent...

Column: Adapting to Westside Vacancies

February 18, 2019

February 18, 2019

By Avi Sinai We all see the vacant storefronts around the Westside and it begs the question – why are...

SMa.r.t. Column: Gridlocked Best Intentions

February 22, 2019

February 22, 2019

On any given evening (and especially weekends) pay a visit to north-bound 2nd Street between Broadway Avenue and Santa Monica...

No Excuses: Stop the Crime Wave

March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

My mother turned 91 last Saturday. Happy Birthday, Mom! She has walked the streets of Santa Monica her whole life...

Column: Can we Solve Westside Traffic with more Housing Development?

March 5, 2019

March 5, 2019

About the author: Avi Sinai is the principal of HM Capital, a Los Angeles company specializes in hard money real...

Open Space… Is There Any Left?

March 9, 2019

March 9, 2019

Yes there is. Small as it is, there is about 2.5 acres in the heart of downtown waiting to be...

I Eat, Therefore I Risk:

June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

Let’s start with the water bottle. Because that’s just such a strange modern mentality to begin with… the notion that...

Hometown Hero: Ted Winterer:

June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

2010 will be the first time Ted, his wife, the designer Beck Taylor, their children, Eleanor and Steele, and their...

There’s LUCE, and Then There’s “loose”…:

July 2, 2010

July 2, 2010

Class stratification doesn’t have to be part of the dialogue about every single thing in America. Or does it? You...

SMa.r.t. OpEd: A Sense of Place:

September 2, 2016

September 2, 2016

By SMa.r.t In the mid-19th century, America’s West held the promise of cheap land and riches. In some ways, this...

Insurance Arrangement Shows PUC Hasn’t Change:

November 7, 2015

November 7, 2015

State commissions, like people and corporations, rarely change unless they’re given strong motivation; sometimes change has to be forced on...

The Kids Are Alright. But How Are We Doing?:

July 9, 2010

July 9, 2010

Near the holiday weekend one of our cable channels offered-up a kind of festival of “Teens-out-of-control!” movies from the 50s...