Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Police and Firefighters Endorse Council Incumbents, No Vote on LUVE||
By Jonathan Friedman
September 16, 2016 -- The four incumbents in this year’s City Council race won influential and well-funded endorsements on Wednesday from Santa Monica’s public safety unions.
In a joint statement, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association and Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 also recommended voters reject the slow-growth LUVE Initiative, which will appear on the November ballot as Measure LV.
Incumbents Gleam Davis, Terry O’Day and Ted Winterer also received the unions’ backing in 2012.
For Mayor Tony Vazquez, this is a historic moment that comes 22 years after the police union actively campaigned against his re-election bid.
Vazquez lost his seat in that 1994 election, and many political observer say the union’s campaign was instrumental in his defeat. He returned to the council in 2012.
The incumbents "have all shown the leadership necessary to prioritize the public safety needs of Santa Monica and will continue to make informed decisions regarding the health and safety of Santa Monica residents and visitors,” the unions wrote in their joint statement.
The unions praised the incumbents for voting in favor of increasing the number of police positions by nine and firefighter positions by 12 in the past two years, which they wrote were needed due to the “swelling daytime population of Santa Monica and resulting increase in emergency calls for service.”
They also applauded the incumbents for increasing public safety staffing during the the Pier Twilight Concert Series and for voting in favor of “needed emergency vehicles and equipment.”
The incumbents, who face six challengers, and the Measure LV opposition campaign will benefit from the unions’ large war chest, which combines to more than $110,000, according to the most recent filing covering through June 30.
Also, union volunteers will actively campaign for the endorsed candidates and against Measure LV.
The unions called Measure LV, which would make voter approval a requirement to finalize a significant number of developments and planning documents, “too extreme” for Santa Monica.
Measure LV "sets arbitrarily low height limits citywide which would result in the need for elections for even sorely needed, reasonable developments,” the unions wrote.
They gave the recently approved downtown fire station as an example (“Planning Commission Approves Complicated Arrangement for New Santa Monica Fire Station,” April 11, 2016).
“Measure LV would at best delay construction after a public campaign to educate voters on the needs of the Fire Department, and at worst result in the station being voted down and the lengthy design and building process to restart,” the unions wrote.
They further argued that Measure LV would require many people to seek voter approval to rebuild after a disaster.
City planners had made this argument in a report to the council in July ("LUVE Could Undermine Community's Vision for Santa Monica's Future, Government Staff Report Says," July 8, 2016).
Armen Melkonians, head of the organization Residocracy that wrote the measure, says this argument is not factual.
He wrote in an email to The Lookout that Measure LV does not apply to restoration of damaged structures, even those of the size that would trigger the voter approval requirement under the proposal if they were being built from scratch.
Melkonians pointed to the section of the existing city code titled "Restoration of a Damaged Nonconforming Structure" as what would guide larger post-disaster rebuilds in a Measure LV-enforced Santa Monica.
That section does not require any voter approval, and Measure LV does not propose it be changed, he said.
“Unfortunately, [the unions were] duped by the lies being spread about Measure LV by developers, our City Council who now seems beholden to them and the Chamber of Commerce,” Melkonians sad.
He added that he took offense to the unions’ use of the words “extreme” and “arbitrarily” in their opposition statement.
“[The unions have] obviously forgotten that over 10,000 Santa Monica voters signed the petition in record time to place Measure LV on the ballot,” Melkonians wrote.
He added, “Measure LV is not extreme, it is a sensible response by the residents of Santa Monica to an extreme overdevelopment and traffic problem in our beach town.”
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