Abandoning the Rules for Politics

By Lana Negrete

September 15, 2023 -- Tuesday’s City Council meeting was unfortunately a showing of how politics took precedence over facilitating a fair and unbiased meeting ("Much Noise, No Action on Union Protests," September 14, 2023).

Running an effective and timely meeting is not an easy task but sticking to the rules has played a huge part in keeping us on track.

Tuesday, we strayed far away from the Council rules for one group, putting them above every other resident, speaker or organization that has come before us and been told they could not just speak freely but rather had to stick to the rules.

That's what happened at the January 24, 2023 Council meeting where agenda management occurs and restaurant workers who waited nearly 5 hours are told the item they came to speak on would be moved to the next meeting (Watch the video starting at 4 hours 32 minutes into the meeting).

For the many residents who depend on the headlines and recaps by our local press and letters to the editor, you could be severely misled to believe something else entirely occurred.

Former Mayor Kevin McKeown wrote an opinion piece that presents a false narrative on what occurred at Tuesday's meeting ("OPINION -- Council Abandons Residents," September 13, 2023).

I find it ironic that the author of this letter to the editor is the same former Councilmember who abruptly abandoned, without explanation, his elected position and his constituents in the middle of a meeting which resulted in my being appointed in June 2021 ("McKeown Abruptly Retires," May 26, 2021).

In one of the most challenging times the city faced on May 31, 2020 Mayor Kevin McKeown was totally absent. I find it disheartening that someone who has done this tireless work and knows the sacrifice it takes, makes time to gaslight and criticize behind the screen of his computer.

Being on the City Council is a tough job. It requires long hours and the ability to be truly democratic, which consists of listening to all sides and making decisions with the best interest of the whole community in mind and not just those that supported us during our election or powerful special interests.

I support the working class. I am the working class. I also support freedom of speech and peaceful protests. What I do not support is the complete disregard for neighbors and the bullying tactics I have seen intended to silence anyone with a different opinion -- including the residents who have become collateral damage during these past few months.

Here are the facts:

  • Abandoning a meeting is a false narrative. Abandonment is what Kevin McKeown did during his term; we merely voted to exercise our ability to not go past 11 p.m. and in fact we ended the meeting at 11:53 p.m. as allowed by our council rules.

    • The items postponed are important and deserve the attention of an alert and focused Council. Postponing our deliberations was the responsible choice to give the items the attention they deserve.

    • We will be back September 26, and like many meetings before, will have carry over items on this date.

    • As the City Manager confirmed before we adjourned, there were no urgent matters that had to be voted on by September 12.

    • The noise ordinance was created to protect residents from egregious noise during sleeping hours. Kevin McKeown was part of the Council that voted to reduce the hours our residents are protected from such noise pollution ("Free Speech and Noise Regulation Collide in Santa Monica," April 13, 2016).

I simply wanted to put the hours back to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to give our residents back the peace and tranquility they deserve.

Lastly, when are we going to get to a point where we can come together as a community to solve the issues most important in our beloved city?

Why can’t we accept our differences of opinions and focus on solutions instead of trying to create “gotcha moments” and use distraction politics which ultimately destroy our local democracy?

I hope these are the questions we come to answer soon so we can get back to work making Santa Monica the safe, bustling, clean and welcoming city I remember it to be.

Editor's note: Councilmember Lana Negrete was appointed by the City Council on June 29, 2021 to fill the seat vacated by Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

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