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Ten Council Candidates Make Final Cut; Express Views

By Jorge Casuso

August 21 -- The field of candidates in the race for three City Council seats has been winnowed down to a final ten, including the three incumbents, as well as two challengers who have made unsuccessful bids in the past.

Predictably, the candidates are focusing their campaigns on quality of life issues, with homelessness, development and traffic named by most of the council hopefuls as the key issues facing Santa Monica.

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s powerful tenants group, is backing three candidates – incumbents Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown and education activist Gleam Davis – in an effort to retain two open seats on the seven-member council and oust Mayor Bob Holbrook to expand the group’s one-seat majority.

Like other candidates, O'Connor, who is running for a fourth term, is focusing her campaign on “quality of life” issues -- education, public safety, the environment, protecting rent control, planting more trees.

“Neighborhoods must be better protected from overdevelopment,” O’Connor wrote in her candidate statement.

She also is stressing her track record on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board, where she has lobbied to bring Light Rail to the beachside city.

“I’m actively doing something about traffic congestion,” O’Connor wrote. “As incoming Chair of MTA, I will bring the leadership to finish the job of building Light Rail all the way to Santa Monica.”

Fellow SMRR incumbent McKeown is focusing his bid for a third council term on a populist message. “Whose Santa Monica is this?” he asks in his candidate statement. “I believe it’s yours.”

If reelected, McKeown promises to “continue protecting our neighborhoods and our quality of life from overdevelopment and the loss of housing for working families and our middle class.

“I work hard to balance the advantages of a vibrant local economy against its impacts, because first and foremost, people LIVE here,” McKeown wrote.

Davis, a member of the steering committee for the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), who made an unsuccessful bid for School Board six years ago, vows to be more than an education activist.

In her candidate statement, Davis promises to “ensure safer, more vibrant and sustainable neighborhoods,” “partner with business to graduate highly skilled workers” and “attend to the well-being of seniors.”

She also hopes to “decrease the number of homeless individuals and families,” “keep young people away from gangs and drugs” and “help all citizens realize their full potential.”

Mayor Holbrook -- who traditionally spearheads a slate opposing SMRR -- has predictably garnered the backing of the Chamber of Commerce in what will likely be a solo bid for a fifth council term.

As with his other successful campaigns, Holbrook is playing up his long and strong ties to Santa Monica and pushing for a homeless policy “that moves homeless people into housing and does NOT enable them to live on our streets.”

His campaign also is focusing on quality of life issues -- public safety, education, the environment, tackling youth violence. “All decisions about future development must preserve what we love about this city,” he wrote in his candidate statement.

Planning Commissioner Terry O'Day, who is running as an independent with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce, also is making “quality of life” a cornerstone of his campaign.

“I will use my experience as a Planning Commissioner, environmental leader and independent small business owner to find workable and sustainable solutions to traffic congestion, crime and homelessness,” O’Day wrote in his candidate statement.

O’Day, who considered running for the SMRR slate, has said he hopes to bridge the gap between warring factions – landlords and tenants, businesses and residents.

“I have chosen an independent campaign to preserve my ability to reach out to everyone in our community and move beyond the polarization that has dominated city discourse in recent years,” he wrote.

The two independent challengers with a track record -- Jonathan Mann and Linda Armstrong -- finished at the bottom of a 16-candidate race in 2004, with 1,798 and 1,027 votes respectively.

Mann, a Green Party member who has made four unsuccessful bids for council, hopes to “implement the prototype cybernetic community… an electronic interface that will grow and replace entrenched bureaucrats.

“I will no longer permit city staff, community organizations, business, media, tourism or developers (to) continue to determine policy and dominate city government,” Mann wrote in his candidate statement.

Armstrong, who ran two years ago on a “women and children first” platform, wants to require businesses citywide making more than $5 million to pay a living wage.

If elected, she once again plans to “house all homeless women in Santa Monica” and “guarantee a place in the U.C. System for all high school graduates with a ‘B’ average or above,” according to her candidate statement.

Jenna Linnekens, an event planner making her local political debut, hopes “to ignite a new era of balance in our city” by presenting “unique and compelling solutions to the homeless issue, quality of life and livability concerns.”

First-time candidate Mark McLellan, a real estate broker, plans to address homelessness, affordable housing, traffic congestion, education and the environment.

And Terrance Later is making “tax reform, traffic, safe parks, recreation areas and safety in our schools” priorities in his first council bid.

In the two-and-a-half months leading up to the November 7 race, the ten candidates are expected to detail how they will achieve their goals.

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