The LookOut columns | What I Say

Frank Gruber

The Matrix,Continued

By Frank Gruber

Prior to the 2004 Santa Monica City Council election I assembled a chart -- the "Matrix" -- setting forth the votes of the council members on 20 issues over the prior four years. ("WHAT I SAY -- The Matrix," September 27, 2004). I updated the Matrix before the 2006 election with 34 votes between 2004 and 2006
("WHAT I SAY -- The Matrix," September 29, 2006)

Now with another City Council election upon us, it's time to do it again. By looking through Lookout news reports and minutes of council meetings, I found 29 votes that were (to me) noteworthy.

You can use this list to compare the votes of the council members, including the four up for reelection, and you might find some ideas for questions to ask the challengers.

But to repeat what I wrote two years ago, that number doesn't include hundreds of other votes. What you realize when you go through two years of news articles and minutes is just how complex a city of 85,000 is.

What the matrix doesn't get into at all, for instance, is the budget, which is the most significant policy document that the City generates and the City Council approves every year. But council members rarely disagree over budget priorities and politics in Santa Monica don't revolve around money as much in other places (where they have less).

Given those caveats, here is the Matrix for 2006-08:
Issue Bloom   Genser   Katz O'Connor   Holbrook   McKeown   Shriver   Result
Extend no-smoking ban to certain outdoor areas10/10/06 Yes Yes Yes Absent Yes Yes Yes Passed 6-0
Approve draft goals for LUCE11/14/06 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 7-0
Exempt affordable housing from development review1/23/07 Yes Yes Absent Yes No Yes No Passed 4-2
Approve money for downtown streetscape plan (& remove some trees)2/6/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Passed 6-1
Authorize general study regarding election finance3/13/07 Yes Yes Yes Absent No Yes Yes Passed 5-1
Emergency ordinance against SROs4/24/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Absent Passed 6-0
Vote to allocate discretionary funds to school district with contractual restrictions5/24/07 Yes Yes No Yes No Recused No Failed 3-3
Issue Bloom Genser Katz O'Connor Holbrook McKeown Shriver Result
Vote to withhold $530,000 in funding from school district until conditions are met6/12/07 No Yes Yes No Yes Recused Yes Passed 4-2(Genserís swing vote enabled the issue to go to the School Board.)
Endorse LUCE placemaking principles6/19/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Absent Passed 6-0
Approve concept of plan for Civic Center "Village" development8/14/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Passed 5-2
Vote to oppose FAA proposal for SaMo Airport8/28/07 Yes Yes Absent Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 6-0
Approve remodel of Santa Monica Place Mall9/11/07 Yes Yes Absent Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 6-0
Enact preferential parking south of SaMoHi9/11/07 Yes Yes Absent No Absent Yes Yes Passed 4-1
Vote to have staff study a "fair fight fund"10/23/07 No Yes Absent No Absent Yes No Failed 3-2
Issue Bloom Genser Katz O'Connor Holbrook McKeown Shriver Result
Endorse LUCE principles for industrial areas11/13/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 7-0
Vote to ban fast jets at airport11/27/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 7-0
Vote to pursue development agreement for Village Trailer Park site11/27/07 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 7-0
Approve Goudas & Vines,high-end cheese and wine store on old Boulangeriesite1/8/08 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Passed 6-1
Vote to establish 50-foot protected zone for demonstrations outside of residences1/22/07 Yes Yes Absent Yes Yes No Absent Passed 4-1
Approve development agreements for Lantana East and South2/12/08 Yes Yes Yes Absent Yes Yes Yes Passed 6-0
Appeal of Landmarks Commissionís not designating downtown ficus trees as landmarks2/19/08 Deny appeal Deny appeal Deny appeal Absent Deny appeal Uphold appeal Deny appeal Appeal denied 6-1
Issue Bloom Genser Katz O'Connor Holbrook McKeown Shriver Result
Endorse framework elements of LUCE2/26/08 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 7-0
Vote to prohibit soliciting donations from seating on Promenade2/26/08 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Absent Passed 6-0
Vote to endorse downtown assessment district3/25/08 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 7-0
Recommend development agreement process for Lionsgate Colorado Ave. project4/8/08 Yes No Recused Yes Yes Yes Yes Passed 5-1
Move to remand Third Street Historic District project to Landmarks Commission4/29/08 Yes No Yes Yes Absent No Yes Passed 4-2
Approval of amendments to zoning for Civic Center Village projects5/13/08 Yes Yes Abstained Absent Yes Yes No Passed 4-1-1
Creation of preferential parking district on "college" streets5/27/08 Absent Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Passed 4-2
Ten-foot "bonus" under LUCE7/22/08 Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No Passed 4-3

As I've said in previous years, the main lesson of the voting patterns unearthed in the Matrix is that our City Council is not nearly as divided as the passionate politics of Santa Monica might suggest. This is especially evident in the near consensus on development issues, and how when there are disagreements, the disagreements cross the SMRR/non-SMRR line.

In the meantime, SMRR and its old antagonists in the business community and among (some) homeowners in Sunset Park and North of Montana have found more ground that's common than uncommon in many areas, particularly involving schools, homelessness, gang violence, and fiscal issues. There hasn't been a strong ideological issue, such as rent control or the living wage, that has divided them in recent years.

There's another theory, of course, which is that the decline in ideological differences that separate the SMRR council members from the non-SMRR members shows that as membership on the council has become almost permanent employment for the members (there has been only one change in nearly ten years), their ideologies have intertwined as they have become more loyal to the institution of the council itself.

In any case, whatever the cause of this development, it was reflected this year in the decision by SMRR not to endorse any candidate who would challenge the non-SMRR incumbents who are running, Herb Katz and Bobby Shriver. I mean no disrespect to those who are challenging the four incumbents, but it's obvious they will have a hard time dislodging any of them from the dais.

Without a SMRR endorsee -- an Abby Arnold, Patricia Hoffman or Gleam Davis -- going up against a non-SMRR incumbent, or even a well-funded and popular independent like Terry O'Day looking to unseat anyone -- this election looks like it will be the most predictable council election in decades.

It's not surprising in this context that the most heated politics this year surround the propositions: Measure T, formerly known as the Residents Initiative Against Traffic (RIFT), Measure SM, the City's effort to preserve its utility tax on telephone charges and extend it to new telephone technologies, and Measure AA, Santa Monica College's bond issue.


For the most part, both sides of the old Santa Monica political divide have united on these measures. True, there's a faction in SMRR, led by Kevin McKeown, that favors RIFT, and Bobby Shriver may yet endorse it, but RIFT has not picked up many endorsements from either SMRR leadership or the old anti-SMRR crowd.

For this purpose it is worth comparing the endorsements collected by the pro-RIFT Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City with those collected by the anti-RIFT Save our City.

With a few exceptions (some notable, at least to me) the pro-RIFT list is mostly made up by members of the city's disgruntled class -- the complainers in paradise, those who take "just say no" to a new level. They don't hold the power within SMRR nor are they part of the SMRR opposition in the city that has effectively run candidates against SMRR.

This is the group that often runs people for office who never win -- Don Grey and Bill Bauer come to mind -- but that occasionally triumphs over a parcel tax or bond issue. "Right wing nihilists" I've called them, but some of their allies consider themselves of the left. They all chafe at having no power.

In contrast, the anti-RIFT list
covers every significant political group in the city -- including politicians who come out of the growth skeptic, neighborhood protection world, but who have a connection to reality. I'm thinking of Richard Bloom, Ken Genser and Michael Feinstein.

The political class has also united this year in favor of the college bond, which is a remarkable change. It wasn't that long ago, in 2002, when four members of the City Council, including three who are currently on it (Ken Genser, Richard Bloom, and Kevin McKeown) did not support Measure U, a $160 million college bond issue. This year, the entire council, including Messrs. Genser, Bloom and McKeown, has endorsed the $295 million Measure AA.

Everyone on the national political stage is talking about post-partisanship. Perhaps once again Santa Monica is ahead of the curve.

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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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