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Melkonians to Run for Council Again, But Focus Shifts
By Jorge Casuso
July 23, 2018 -- Armen Melkonians, a leader of the grassroots fight against development in Santa Monica, pulled papers to run for City Council last week -- but this time, his focus has changed.
Increasing crime, Melkonians says, is the key issue in the 2018 elections and the reason he decided to run two years after finishing fifth in the race for four council seats.
"Crime is the big issue," Melkonians told the Lookout. "It's rising. The City Council has forgotten safety is the number one issue."
Melkonians, a new father who said he didn't expect to run again, can trace the moment he had a change of heart.
It happened on July 12, after a member of the Reisdocracy Facebook page Melkonians runs posted a graphic image of a man masturbating in a Santa Monica park.
It was Councilmember Sue Himmelrich's reaction, he says, that spurred him ro run ("Graphic Photo of Man Masturbating in Santa Monica Park Causes Uproar," July 13, 2018).
Himmelrich, who along with Pam O'Connor and Kevin McKeown, is running for reelection wrote in the comments section of the site:
"(I)f I could go there and arrest miscreants myself, I would. I have said the same to our staff which is the extent of my power."
Melkokians said he was shocked by the comment.
"They may not have a direct connection to the Police Department, but they have control of the budget. The City Council has to direct the City Manager to do something."
Over the past two years concern about crime and violence has driven the most traffic to Residocracy's page, pushing aside development, Melkonians said.
Residocracy posters often express the sense that City officials are not heeding their concerns about crime, Melkonians said ("Santa Monica Slow-Growth Group Shifts Focus to Crime," March 2, 2018).
But while the focus of residents has shifted, the Council has not followed suit, Melkonians said.
"The City Council has been focusing so much on development they have forgotten about crime," he said.
Melkonians -- who has called for ousting incumbents -- acknowledges he faces an uphill battle.
In 2016, he fell more than 5,000 votes short of fourth-place finisher Gleam Davis, an incumbents who finished with 17,842 votes to Melkonians' 12,603.
Over the past 25 years, only two incumbents have failed to win reelection -- Tony Vazquez in 1994 and Mike Feinstein in 2004. Vazquez returned to the council in 2012 ("Santa Monica Voters to Decide Term Limits for Council in November," July 5, 2018).
"I sure hope this year is different," Melkonians said. "We can't afford another four years of the same incumbents."
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