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The Silence was Golden
By Frank Gruber
"Although no one submitted official opposition to Prop. U -- the shame would probably be too great even for the city officials who like to mutter darkly about SMC -- there is opposition on the web." -- Frank Gruber, last week.
One of my dreams as a would-be film producer was to produce a movie based on one of the many pulp novels written by Frank Gruber -- not me, but the writer of many TV shows of bygone days and such literary classics as Swing Low, Swing Dead, Johnny Vengeance, The Mighty Blockhead, and Market for Murder.
My hope was that centuries from now a graduate student researching popular culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries would conflate the two of us and determine that I lived 140 years and had lots of credits.
Alas, my dreams of undeserved immortality are reduced to quoting from myself, in my own column, and in a chagrinned state. Last week, with respect to the shame level of Santa Monica officials, I wrote too soon. Turns out that although no one filed an opposing argument for the sample ballot against Prop. U, Santa Monica College's bond issue, now not one, but two Santa Monica council members, Richard Bloom and Ken Genser, have declared themselves against it.
Not only that, but Tuesday night, when the Commission on Older Americans requested that City Council endorse Prop. U, Council Member and Prop. U supporter Pam O'Connor counted noses and determined that there would not be four votes in favor. She used a parliamentary maneuver to avoid an embarrassing vote.
Besides O'Connor, Herb Katz and Robert Holbrook have endorsed Prop. U, but Mayor Michael Feinstein and Kevin McKeown have said they will not take public positions on the measure.
Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of no-growth politics better than the failure by self denominated progressives to support an institution that is the gateway to a better future for so many people. The leadership of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights -- who elected these guys -- should be in shock.
Regrettably they are reaping what they sowed when they turned from traditional progressive candidates to no-growthers.
Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise -- opposition to Prop. U is based on opposition to development in any form -- even schools.
Read through Richard Bloom's "Top 10" reasons to oppose Prop. U and these words jump out at you: "unbridled growth," "runaway college growth," "SMC GROWTH," "traffic snarls and parking problems," "ENOUGH DEVELOPMENT ALREADY!," "traffic and parking mess created by their overdevelopment," "traffic snarls and parking problems [again]," and "more growth."
Then there is the localism issue. Notwithstanding that a large portion of Santa Monica and Malibu students who go to college start their academic careers at SMC, the opposition focuses on the statistic that only fifteen percent of SMC students are local, and ten percent are international. Santa Monicans, they say, are being asked to subsidize these students.
This argument ignores the fact that surrounding college districts are taxing themselves to improve their campuses as well. The Los Angeles district has already passed a $1.245 billion bond for its nine campuses. Eight districts besides Santa Monica/Malibu have bonds on next week's ballot.
Even beyond what our neighbors are doing, Santa Monica already gets a great educational deal from the college. While fifteen percent of SMC students are local, only five percent of SMC's operating revenues come from local taxes. As for international students, the reason the college recruited them is precisely because by paying higher tuition they are money-makers.
SMC also makes a huge contribution to the local economy, which generates a lot of taxes for -- you guessed it, the City of Santa Monica.
The other word you hear all the time from SMC's critics is "arrogance." Supposedly the college is arrogant and not a good "community partner."
These critics confuse "arrogance" with "competence."
Santa Monica has three governmental entities with landscaping, and based on my observations, SMC is the only one that keeps its well-maintained.
Arrogant? Coming from officials of the City of Santa Monica, who never saw a regulation they didn't like, who approve "emergency" ordinances at the slightest provocation, who approved in closed session spending $53 million to buy the RAND property, who issue millions in revenue bonds when their construction projects go over budget, who created an earthquake redevelopment district and refuse to share the money with the schools -- this charge would be funny if the educations of so many deserving people weren't at stake.
SMC not a good "community partner?" By that they mean that an elected and duly constituted college board of trustees, with its authority derived from the state (just like the City's authority), doesn't do everything City Council -- or, better yet, the local neighborhood protection associations -- command it to do, or doesn't conduct its business just how Santa Monica conducts its.
But perhaps government can be responsive to the community and not take ten years to design a park.
As for true community partners -- note that the school district has endorsed Prop. U even though, according to Bloom and others, it should be opposed because the trivial increase in taxes the SMC bond entails will affect the district's ability to pass its own future bonds.
At the end of the day, the opposition to SMC's bond measure is simply ungenerous. What does Santa Monica offer the region except the College? We have the beach, but we can hardly take credit for that. The Promenade? Okay, but that's a huge money-maker. Do we have any concert halls or significant museums? Any sports venues? Any cultural institutions bigger than an art gallery?
We Santa Monicans send our kids to UCLA, USC, Northridge, and other schools, public and private. We go to the Hollywood Bowl and the Music Center. Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl. The Greek and the Geffen. The Getty and LACMA, the Museum of Natural History and the zoo, the Huntington and the Central Library. Etc., etc.Supporting Santa Monica College's modernization and growth -- which, by the way, offers the best opportunity to ameliorate many of the local problems it, like any institution, inevitably creates -- seems like the least we can do -- and maybe the best we can do -- not only to help ourselves, but also to make a contribution to our larger community.
views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Lookout.
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