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McKeown, Bloom to Vie for Mayor

By Jorge Casuso

Dec. 10 -- Unlike recent mayoral bids that have either sparked speculation or been a sure bet, the election of a new mayor by the City Council Tuesday night has seen little lobbying and generated less than usual talk.

The five Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights council members likely don't have the four votes to agree on one of their own, while the two council minority members are split on which SMRR candidate should hold the mostly ceremonial post.

"It's surprising, but nobody has mentioned it to me," said Councilman Bob Holbrook, who served one year as mayor in the mid-1990s when SMRR briefly lost control of the council. "I don't know where this whole thing is going to fall out. I'd be amazed if they (the SMRR majority) can get four votes amongst themselves. There's a lot of hard feelings."

"If there is a meeting of the minds with SMRR, you might get four votes," said Council member Pam O'Connor, a SMRR member. But she added, "I don't know how things will fall."

With Tuesday's vote looming, most council members are holding their cards close to the vest.

"I don't have anything to say," said Councilman Ken Genser, who has been elected to two separate one-year terms as mayor during his 14 years on the council. "It won't help anybody if I start talking about it. I'll just go with the flow (though) I don't know what it is yet."

"I can tell you for certain it's not going to be me," said Mayor Michael Feinstein, who was unanimously elected mayor two years ago after winning most of the city's precincts to finish a strong first in the council race.

"Who wants it and who has a chance" are two different things, said O'Connor, who served twice as mayor.

If the council follows tradition, it will pick a member who has not served in a post that largely entails chairing meetings and representing the City at official functions. In that case, the choice will likely come down to Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McKeown and Councilman Richard Bloom.

"Of course I'd like to serve the council and the City as the next Mayor," said McKeown, who finished a close second behind O'Connor in the race for three council seats last month. "The election showed a broad base of resident support, and I've been Mayor pro tem this past year.

"Pam, Bob, Ken and Mike have already been Mayor at least once," McKeown added. "Richard was elected just six months after me, though, and I think it might be appropriate for us to split the two years."

"My hat's in the ring," said Bloom, who joined the council after winning a special election in May 1999 and was reelected the following year. But he added, "I have a lot of trepidation. I think it will consume a lot of time."

Sources close to Bloom have said he would be interested in serving a full two-year term.

Like Bloom and McKeown, Councilman Herb Katz has never been mayor. But Katz, who has been on the council for 10 years, is not a contender because, like Holbrook, he his not a member of the council majority.

"I haven't got the chance," Katz said. "I haven't got the votes."

If Holbrook and Katz are out of the running, they potentially hold crucial votes. But their votes are split.

Holbrook doesn't expect Katz, his first choice, to make it, so his second choice would be Bloom.

"My first choice would be Herb, because he hasn't had a chance to be mayor, but they (the SMRR council members) don't care," Holbrook said. "My next choice would be Richard, then someone who has been mayor."

That leaves McKeown out. Katz, on the other hand, won't vote for Bloom. "I don't think Bloom would make a good mayor," said Katz.

"If it's not going to be McKeown," Katz added, "I'd rather have Feinstein instead. He runs a good meeting." Katz also would back O'Connor. "I would be happy with Pam."

O'Connor, who is the only woman on the council, said she wouldn't dismiss being mayor a third time.

"I wouldn't say I'm running for it, but I haven't dismissed the thought," said O'Connor, who served as mayor in 1997 and then again in 1999. "I'd do it again, though I'm not bloodthirsty about it."

Holbrook believes the other SMRR members won't go with Feinstein or McKeown because they belong to the Green Party. (SMRR leaders blame Green Party candidate Josefina Aranda for the defeat of their candidate, Abby Arnold.)

"I can't imagine if they want to hold SMRR together they would go with Michael and the Green Party again," said Holbrook.

Genser, however, believes that party affiliation is not a factor. "That's a press issue," he said. "I don't think that we look at each other as Greens or Democrats. We look at each other as council members."

O'Connor agrees. "It's a personnel decision that seven of us make," O'Connor said. "Who is the person who can represent the City in ceremonial fashion and chair the meetings?"
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