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Nearly 120 Applicants Seek Appointment to Vacant Council Seat

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

July 7, 2020 -- An airline pilot, ship captain, beer importer, police sergeant, stunt coordinator, hairdresser, jeweler and Sexydivineamazingthebest Chancey are among a record 117 applicants vying for an appointment to the Santa Monica City Council next Tuesday.

Those hoping to replace Greg Morena also include nearly a dozen former and current City Board and Commission members, nine attorneys and former City Clerk Maria Stewart, who offered to hold the seat until a new Council member is elected by voters in November.

Morena resigned last month after learning his position bars him from renegotiating his restaurant lease with the City ("Morena to Resign from City Council," June 17, 2020).

The applicants who have served on City boards and commissions include former Rent Control Board member Robert Kronovet, the only applicant elected to local office.

They also include Planning Commission Chair Leslie Lambert and Mario-Fonda-Bonardi, who sit on the powerful board considered a stepping stone to the Council.

Political observers expect the Council to choose a black applicant in the wake of nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day.

Santa Monica Forward, a powerful political group bankrolled by developers, urged the Council to appoint a black Santa Monican or a "person of color" when the seat was officially declared vacant June 23.

During a Council discussion over funding priorities that night, Councilmember Gleam Davis noted that “it doesn’t take a genius to see there’s not a Black person on the City Council."

According to U.S. Census population estimates for 2019, Blacks make up 4.4 percent of Santa Monica's estimated population of 90,401.

Santa Monica has not had a Black Council member since the 1970s, when former Mayor Nathaniel Trives was elected in 1971 and served two terms and Hilliard Lawson was appointed in 1973.

According to sources, the Council would like to appoint the first Black woman when it votes to fill the vacancy on Tuesday.

A top contender is Dr. Karen S. Gunn, a 19-year resident of the city and lead member of the newly formed Santa Monica Black Agenda.

The group is working with the City "to address issues of systemic racism in Santa Monica," according to City officials, who said the city "stands in solidarity with the 'Black Lives Matter' movement."

The other contender, Kristin McCowan, .is the executive director of the Getty House Foundation, the official residence of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

McCowan, who was raised in Santa Monica, recently returned to the city with her husband and children. The application posted on the City Clerk's website is incomplete.

If an appointment is not made on Tuesday, the Council will try again on July 21.

The new member would need to win the November 3 general election in order to finish serving the final two years of Morena's term.

The applicant chosen to replace Morena would become the fourth member of the current Council who was initially appointed, rather than elected, to the City Council.

Councilmembers Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day were appointed in 2009 and 2010 respectively to replace longtime Council members who died in office.

Ana Jara was appointed in January 2019 to fill the seat vacated by Tony Vazquez after he was elected to the State Board of Equalization.

A then-record 76 applicants sought to fill the Council vacancy.

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