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Time for Council to Favor District Elections

November 16, 2020

Dear Editor,

Several significant issues are suggested by the possibilities discussed in the creative and balanced article in the Lookout ("New Council Could Have Votes to End Voting Rights Lawsuit," November 12, 2020).

Council members McKeown, Himmelrich and Davis have fought district elections principally because they believed the current system increases their chances for reelection. The extensive financial, volunteer workers and other help from SMRR, developers, and unions, they thought, are most effective in citywide elections.

The victory of three slate members puts their theory to rest, so the incumbents, and McCowan, may now favor district elections.

As to the slate victors, there are issues. Oscar and Christine both live in the Pico Neighborhood. In district elections, only one can be elected. Kristin also lives there. She moved a year ago from outside Santa Monica to live at the home of her parents, so perhaps another move would not be much of a problem. Just speculation.

Maria Loya, who is de la Torre's wife, is one of two plaintiffs in the pending litigation, but would benefit only as a member of the citywide public in a settlement. Until recently, de la Torre was co chair of the other plaintiff, the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA). Perhaps he should obtain a conflicts opinion from an independent expert as well as the City Attorney.

There are also issues relating to legal fees. In a settlement favoring district elections, the Kevin Shenkman team should be awarded an amount substantially lower than if the case had finally been decided for the plaintiffs. No one knows how the Supreme Court will rule absent a settlement. If for the City, the team would get nothing for its magnificent efforts.

As to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the current fees have been estimated to total about $20 million. The new Council should make an exhaustive review of those billings to see if Interim City Managr Lane Dilg and Interim City Attorney George Cardona have protected the City in monitoring those billings.

On one complicated motion alone, the Judge ruled against the City simply because Gibson had screwed up in fixing the hearing date. At up to $1,500 per hour, and using five lawyers on that brief, Gibson deserves not one penny.

Stanley H. Epstein
Santa Monica

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