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The 2006 Election: City Council, Part II

By Frank J. Gruber

Today I will continue my analysis of the City Council election by writing about the principal challengers to the incumbents, Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day. I met the former recently and I've known the latter for a few years, since he became a Planning Commissioner.

Intellectually I am against term limits, because voters should have the widest possible choices and, as discussed in yesterday's column, I have high regard for the three incumbents running in this election. So I am not necessarily recommending a vote for Ms. Davis or Mr. O'Day over anyone when I say that knowing the two new candidates, and knowing how hard it is to dislodge an incumbent, I can see the logic behind term limits.

Gleam Davis is a candidate whose public experience mostly involves the schools, and she is the only candidate to have a full endorsement from Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS). In this era, when local school boards have lost the authority to raise taxes for schools, and for that reason have little power, one can understand the rationale for running an education candidate for City Council.

But Ms. Davis has a lot more going for her. She is a trial attorney for AT&T, formerly Pacific Bell, and as such she has relevant experience with an entity that is even bigger than the City of Santa Monica. This kind of experience is important because it speaks of exposure to a world beyond one's own neighborhood or town.

Perhaps it's her trial lawyer background, but Ms. Davis appears to me to have three qualities that are hard to find in one person -- she listens, she's unflappable, and when she has something to say, she's persuasive.

Qualms? Obviously, Ms. Davis has not spent nearly the time involved with "city" issues as she has with education issues, so to a great extent she's a blank slate. Trial lawyers need to be quick studies, so I don't doubt she can master the details, but voters will have to make their own judgments as to how she would vote on future controversies. But then, perhaps that's the price for new blood.

Terry O'Day is another candidate with outside world experience. Mr. O'Day is and has been a committed environmentalist both by profession and inclination, and it's no accident that other real environmentalists, such as Mark Gold and Mary Nichols, have endorsed him.
Mr. O'Day has tried to run an independent campaign, but unfortunately for him, he is finding himself defined as the "big money" alternative to Kevin McKeown by the ads the hotel-front organization, "Santa Monicans for Sensible Priorities" is running on his behalf. In a liberal town like Santa Monica, with friends like SMSP, one doesn't need enemies.

I met Mr. O'Day around the time he was appointed to the Planning Commission. Since then I have admired at his demeanor as well as his judgment. On a dais of commissioners who love to interrupt each other and debate issues to death, Mr. O'Day is always the most organized, polite and efficient in his comments. He has shown a balanced approach to development issues.

I became a fan of Mr. O'Day in Nov. 2004 when so-called progressives on the Planning Commission wanted to scuttle a twelve-condominium project in the Pico Neighborhood, that would replace a boarded-up house, because of a theoretical, and at any rate infinitesimally small, impact on how fast commuters could cut through the neighborhood on Virginia Avenue to get to the freeway. They said they would prefer one single-family house on the property rather than the condos, to reduce traffic.

Mr. O'Day, who lives in the Pico Neighborhood, stood up for the housing. He said he became a planning commissioner believing that our number one problem is the housing crisis, and that it didn't make sense to build fewer units of housing because of a tiny possible slowing of traffic -- about one car per hour.

This was not being "pro-developer." The project, given the size of the (nearly triple) lot, and the needs of the community, was modest. The project was not anti-resident; it was not "over-development;" it would not lead to gridlock. It might even reduce traffic by locating housing close to jobs (although our environmental impact reports don't study that). The project would not evict anyone -- instead it would remove an eyesore from a gang-plagued neighborhood.

The project was pro-people and pro-neighborhood. Mr. O'Day understood that. Since then it's become common wisdom accepted by nearly everyone that Santa Monica needs more housing that is affordable for middle-class families.

Qualms? Although Mr. O'Day has a long public record as a Planning Commissioner, like Ms. Davis he has never had to take positions on many social issues that he would deal with as a member of the City Council. Although it seems farfetched to me, knowing Mr. O'Day, that he will do anyone's bidding because they endorsed him, I am sure some voters will take that into account.

* * *

It's probably unfair of me not devote time and space to the under-funded and under-endorsed candidates bringing up the rear. But I don't believe that it's an accident or unfair that they don't have more support. Some of them are serial gadflies. The others generally have messages that Santa Monicans generally tune out or messages that are similar to those of the viable candidates.

I do want to mention candidate Jenna Linnekens, however, because it was refreshing to hear a candidate ignore the conventional wisdom about Santa Monica, and state the truth, namely that Santa Monica is not "built out" and that it is not overpopulated. Having tried to make that point for six years, I suppose I have to confess that most Santa Monicans tune that message out, too.

However, Ms. Linnekens' other messages, about "vagrants" and crime, are messages that Santa Monica voters have in recent years generally ignored, what with the crime rate down and with most people looking for constructive solutions the problem of homeless people.

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The views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
The Lookout.
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