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Feinstein Picked as Mayor; Bloom, McKeown Share Pro Tem Post; Elected Officials Sworn In

By Teresa Rochester

The City Council Tuesday night unanimously chose Councilman Micheal Feinstein, a Green Party leader, to serve as mayor for the next two years, while Councilmen Richard Bloom and Kevin McKeown were tapped to share the post of mayor pro tem.

Bloom will serve as mayor pro tem the first year, McKeown, who like Feinstein is a Green Party member, the second. All three are members of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, the powerful grassroots tenants group which holds a 5 - 2 super majority on the council.

Like the office of mayor, the title of mayor pro tem is largely ceremonial, the main charge being to preside over council meetings in the mayor's absence.

The largely uncontested appointments came shortly after the newly elected and reelected members of the City Council, Board of Education, College Board of Trustees and Rent Control Board were sworn in before a packed house in the council chambers at City Hall.

It was a mild case of déjà vu for incumbent council members Feinstein, Bloom and out-going mayor Ken Genser, who took their oaths of office along with two-term councilman Herb Katz, who rejoined the council after an eight-year hiatus.

"It's a little strange, a little familiar and strange," said Katz, who ran as an independent and placed fourth in the November election. "Thank you. It will be a pleasure working with you all."

"What a wonderful experience it has been," said Bloom, who served 18 months after winning a special election in April of 1999, then placing second in his bid for reelection. "It makes me feel a little bit frightened and invigorated about some of the issues we're going to be discussing."

SMRR's reign as the dominant political force in the City the group has controlled for the better part of two decades was cemented as three new SMRR-backed Board of Education members -- Jose Escarce, Mike Jordan and Maria Leon Vazques -- were sworn in.

SMRR also saw its slate for the College Board of Trustees score all three of the board's open seats with the reelection of two incumbents -- Pat Nichelson and Annette Shamey -- and the election of two-term school board member Margaret Quinones to the seven-member board. (Shamey and Nichelson did not attend the swearing in.)

SMRR-backed Rent Control Board member M. Douglas Willis was sworn in for a second term, as was Jeffrey Sklar, who will serve his first term on the board, which sets rent control policy and determines rental rate increases.

Feinstein's appointment as mayor was unanimous despite a move by Councilman Robert Holbrook, who nominated Mayor Pro Tem Pam O'Connor for the post. She declined the nomination, a procedure Holbrook questioned before the effort died.

Before the meeting, Holbrook told the Lookout that he was concerned that under Feinstein's leadership the council would be focused more on global issues championed by the Green Party than on issues of local concern.

Given Santa Monica's penchant for tackling controversial issues, Feinstein's new post likely will make him the nation's most visible Green Party leader. As mayor, the pony-tailed vegan (who until four years ago was considered a radical anti-government activist), will run council meetings and represent the City at numerous public engagements.

Feinstein said he was humbled by the decision and vowed a "fair and friendly" council. He also thanked his mother, Beth, who recently moved to the city from Minnesota and who sat in the front row during the meeting.

"I didn't turn out to be the doctor or lawyer, but she has her son the mayor," said Feinstein, a one time sales rep for in-line skates, who has traveled the globe as an activist for the Green Party.

In an unusual move O'Connor, whose term as mayor pro tem ended Tuesday, nominated Bloom and McKeown to fill the role she has held for the past year. Katz, who has locked horns with Bloom in the past, nominated McKeown for the post.

Katz's proposal was defeated 5 to 2. McKeown switched his vote to support O'Connor's proposal.

Before stepping down from their posts as mayor and mayor pro tem, Genser and O'Connor were feted by their colleagues on the Council, who described them as hardworking, dedicated and compassionate.

"You're my colleague, my mentor and my friend and you have served this community tirelessly since before you were on council," Bloom told Genser. "You are my leader in this community. You are our leader."

"Your long-standing service is nothing to sneeze at," McKeown, who was suffering from a cold, told Genser.

Feinstein told O'Connor that nominating her for mayor two years ago was one of the better motions he had made as a councilman.

"I think you just did it right by residents of this community," he said. "I was very proud to have you represent us."

Holbrook pointed out that O'Connor and Genser weren't going anywhere. He added, "It's been a pleasure serving with you."

"I got it easy this year," joked O'Connor as she turned her attention to Genser. "I wonder about him. He's served for 12 years."

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