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Field of Council Hopefuls Swells With Final Rush

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By Jorge Casuso

June 22, 2021 -- A total of 35 applicants will be vying for a vacant seat on the Santa Monica City Council this month, with most submitting applications shortly before Tuesday's noon deadline.

The list of hopefuls includes two Rent Control Board commissioners, a former City Clerk and two high-profile candidates who have made serious bids in Council races.

Despite a late surge in applications, the pool of hopefuls is far smaller than the 76 applicants for an open seat in 2019 and the record 115 applicants last year.

Among those submitting applications this week were Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians, who placed fifth in the 2016 race for four Council seats.

Also submitting applications were Rent Control Board Commissioners Nicole S. Phillis and Caroline Torosis, the only applicants currently holding elected office.

Jones of the Bay

In addition, six current members of appointed Commissions have filed applications for the seat vacated by Kevin McKeown, who abruptly retired from the Council this month.

They include Planning Commissioners Mario Fonda-Bonardi, who ran for Council as part of the Change slate last November, and Ellis Raskin, as well as Recreation and Parks commissioners Albin Gielicz and John Cyrus Smith, who ran for Council in 2012.

Other current Commissioners include Lana Negrete, a member of the newly formed Public Safety and Reform Advisory Commission, and Alex Elliott, who chairs the Disabilities Commission.

Other applicants with Board and Commission experience are Robert Kronovet, who served on the Rent Board from 2008 to 2012, and Richard Hilton, who served on the Disabilities and Housing commissions from 2002 to 2021.

Maria Stewart, who was Santa Monica City Clerk from 1995 to 2012, also applied for the seat she said she would hold only until the next election.

It is not unusual for candidates with experience serving of Boards and Commissions to file last-minute applications.

That was the case in January 2019 when a former mayor, two Planning Commissioners, two School Board members, a Rent Control Board member and a member of the College Board of Trustees submitted their applications on the last day.

The Council is scheduled to attempt to fill the vacancy next Tuesday. Under the City Charter, if the Council fails to make an appointment, it “shall forthwith cause an election to be held to fill the vacancy.”

A special election would cost the City $528,000, said City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday to correct Ellis Raskin's current position.

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