January 11, 2019
TO: Mayor Davis and City Council
RE: Criteria for Councilmember Appointment
As our City Council, you are about to appoint a Council member. With the power of incumbency, that person will have a considerable advantage in being re-elected, even with district elections. The appointee must possess honesty, integrity, intelligence, a high degree of competence, a belief in transparency and a love of our city.
While an election would be preferable, this is an opportunity to appoint someone who also meets the critical criteria SMCLC sets out below.
1. Diverse replacement:
With Tony Vazquez leaving, the Council very much needs a diverse replacement. If the Council were to appoint a non-ethnically- diverse candidate, it would be without any ethnic diversity. If it were to appoint a male, it would be over 70% male (5 of 7).
This in a city that’s over 25% ethnically diverse and more than 50% female. While we are celebrating our Congress and other bodies becoming more inclusive, our City Council is in danger of heading in the opposite direction.
2. Proven history of resident advocacy:
There is an increasing disconnect between City government and residents, with 71% believing they don’t have influence over City decisions. An equally overwhelming 74% just voted for Council Term Limits over the fierce opposition of most Councilmembers.
Given this, it is extremely important to appoint someone who has a proven history of advocating for residents and acting on their concerns. The Council needs to take note of these alarming statistics and discontinue business as usual with this key appointment. According to the City’s own Wellness survey:
“Fewer than three in every ten residents (29 per cent) report feeling they have influence on decisions in Santa Monica.”
3. Proven history of concern for overdevelopment and the importance of our City being livable and affordable:
Residents are confronted with a constant drumbeat of new luxury hotels and ultra-expensive apartments, with long-time small businesses being driven out, with City-owned land being proposed for private development instead of a needed public park and with terrible traffic set to increase substantially with each new development.
The new appointee will vote on major hotel projects on Ocean Avenue and a proposed massive private luxury development with a hotel on City-owned land at 4th and Arizona. She or he needs to be someone with a demonstrable history of concern for, and activity around, these kinds of development, an understanding of the Council’s duties as the steward of public land and a passion for a more livable city.
4. A candidate who has pledged not to accept developer money and to rebuke support from developer funded PACS:
With developer-backed PAC money dominating our elections, it is vital that the appointee be someone who has not only pledged not to accept developer donations directly, but will also refuse to seek developer PAC money and, if their support is given anyway, publicly rebuke it. Developer PAC money, now cleverly masquerading as progressive, which it is not, distorts our elections and democratic processes.
5. Willingness to hold the City Hall to account and control the increasing budget:
City employees work hard and do good work. There is much to be proud of. But even when serious mistakes are made there is often little accountability and our growing budget has spiraled out of control.
One of the reasons that City Hall pushes overdevelopment and is becoming too tourist-centric is that it needs ever more money to balance the sharply increasing budget and to pay mounting pensions. The new Council appointee needs to show an understanding of these difficult problems and a willingness to take them on, not push them downstream.