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City Workers Back Three Incumbents, Challenger

By Jorge Casuso

September 24 – Handing out its first endorsements, a coalition of City workers announced Thursday that its new Political Action Committee would back three incumbents and one challenger in the race for four open seats on the City Council.

The Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees’ PAC -- which represents some 1,400 non-public safety workers -- will throw its support behind Mayor Richard Bloom, Council members Michael Feinstein and Ken Genser and challenger Patricia Hoffman.

The PAC has a “baby” warchest but hopes to deploy an army of volunteers -- many of whom live in the city -- to walk precincts on behalf of its slate, coalition officials said.

“We really hope to get our members motivated to help,” said Lauralee Asch, president of the coalition. “I think our strength is in our people power.”

The coalition backed the three incumbents “for their long-term records in support of important issues regarding safety, labor, community services and the local economy,” according to a statement released by the group.

Patricia Hoffman, the statement said, “made a strong impression with her past experience as president of the School Board and vigorous activity in school and community affairs.”

The coalition “knows these candidates understand public issues and will be proactive in addressing our concerns,” according to the statement. “The Coalition also believes these candidates understand the importance to the community of, and are committed to, the highest standards of quality full city services.”

The endorsement is particularly important for Feinstein, who -- unlike Bloom, Genser and Hoffman, who have the backing of the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights -- is running as an independent and had failed to win the backing of the key political groups.

“It feels good,” Feinstein said. “This is a really heart-warming endorsement. These are the rank-and-file people in City Hall and out in the community that perform the basic services that our people need, and their support means very much to me.”

Genser and Bloom, who also received the backing of the City’s two other employee unions -- representing police and firefighters -- said they welcomed the support of the workers who help keep the city running.

“I think these are people who care about the city,” said Genser, who is running for a fifth council term. “A lot of them live in the city, and they’ll bring a lot of energy to this campaign.”

“I am very pleased that I received the endorsement of all three City entities,” Bloom said. “That really makes me feel good.”

In addition to Bloom and Genser, the firefighters backed incumbent Councilman Herb Katz and challenger Bobby Shriver, a North of Montana homeowner who helped lead a fight against the City’s sudden enforcement of its 1946 hedge laws, while police backed Shriver and Hoffman.

Hoffman, who was also backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), believes her strong support of labor, both as a school board member and a community activist, helped nail down the backing of City workers.

“I am so excited,” Hoffman said. “I think the municipal employees liked my answers and because of my history believed they could trust me.”

It came as no surprise that Shriver – a vocal critic of the City’s bureaucracy – failed to win the backing of the municipal workers. It also came as no surprise that Feinstein, who stood up for City workers during a movement to guarantee at least $6 million a year in City funds for local schools, won the group’s backing.

“He’s proven his commitment to us,” Asch said.

Unlike the Police Officers Association’s PAC (which had more than $60,000 in its campaign coffers as of June 30) or the Firefighters Union (whose endorsement has carried weight for years), the municipal employees union has not been tested in the local political arena.

The Coalition’s PAC was formed “to address issues of employee benefits common to all members, such as health insurance and retirement,” according to the release

Its members include nine bargaining units that represent “all permanent non-safety city employees.”

The “bargaining units are “Supervisory Team Associates, Administrative Team Associates, Municipal Employees Association, Public Attorneys Union, Public Attorneys Legal Support Staff Union, Management Team Associates, United Transportation Union, Rent Control Employees, and Executive Pay Plan,” according to the release.

In addition to the council candidates, the coalition announced it “strongly endorses” a yes vote for Proposition N, which would boost the City’s hotel bed tax by 2 percent.

“It is not a tax on residents and it is a tax that has not changed in over 15 years,” the group wrote in its statement. “The modest 2 percent is a small increase considering all that Santa Monica has to offer and the costs associated with the high volume of visitors.

“This change will simply bring our rates in line with those of other nearby communities,” the statement concluded.
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