Santa Monica Lookout
|Neighborhood Forum Pits Santa Monica Council Incumbents, Challengers||
By Niki Cervantes
September 27, 2016 -- Candidates in a ten-way race for four seats on the Santa Monica City Council face off Wednesday on issues such as traffic and development in the first such forum jointly sponsored by neighborhood associations.
All but one of the candidates have confirmed they will attend the two-hour session held by the seven established associations representing neighborhoods throughout the city, said John Cyrus Smith, a forum organizer.
Smith said City Council Member Terry O’Day has a work commitment he is hoping to work around to appear at the event.
Development and how it impacts residents looks to be a focus of the forum at the Main Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The library is at 601 Santa Monica Boulevard.
“I think that for years, residents have been trying to guide the City Council in regards to development toward what fits the residents hopes for their city,” Smith said.
The forum gives neighborhood groups a chance to delve into the issue with candidates, he said.
City plans for significant increases in development dominate local issues on the November 8 ballot. Santa Monica voters are poised to decide a proposed initiative that takes a big swipe at proposed high-rises and other new multi-story building projects by mandating a public vote of most development taller than 32 feet.
Neighborhood associations and slow-growth activists are the core of support for Measure LV, which won a spot on the ballot after a successful petition drive for the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative ("LUVE Initiative Placed on Santa Monica Ballot," July 13, 2016).
Nearly all of Santa Monica's civic, political and business leaders oppose, including all four council incumbents seeking re-election -- Gleam Davis, Terry O’Day, Tony Vazquez and Ted Winterer.
Council incumbents in Santa Monica rarely lose. The last time that happened was in 2004, when Mike Feinstein failed to win re-election to the council.
Still, Measure LV is adding new furor to the races. And two challengers have particularly well-known names: Armen Melkonians, the founder of the slow-growth group Residocracy and author of LV, and School Board member Oscar de la Torre, who heads the Pico Youth and Family Center.
Also running are Terence Later, Jon Mann, Mende Smith and James T. Watson.
Wednesday’s forum will focus on three “big picture” local issues, with additional time set aside for each organization to ask questions that relate their neighborhoods, Smith said.
It will be an especially important event, he said, because some traditional Q-and-A sessions with candidates by news organizations are not being held this election cycle, he said.
Also included Wednesday is a lightening-round of yes or no questions for the candidates, who will hold up paddles with their answers.
“It should be lively,” Smith said.
The sponsors are the Friends of Sunset Park, the North of Montana Association, the Ocean Park Association, the Pico Neighborhood Association, Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors, Santa Monica Northeast Neighbors and the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition.
Meanwhile, the Santa Monica League of Women Voters, in partnership with CityTV, will hold a City Council candidates forum on Wednesday, October 5. The forum is being taped in the CityTV studio and will be replayed multiple times on CityTV, channel 16 It also will be available online.
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