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City Council, Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Santa Monica

Letter To The Editor: Best & Worst Of Santa Monica Public Meeting Disagreement

Posted Feb. 4, 2014, 9:18 am

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor:

I am increasingly concerned about the inability of Santa Monica residents to disagree civilly on matters of public policy. Prevalent though that problem may be in national politics, vituperative debate seems worse here on the local level, where we bump into each other at the supermarket, the doctor’s office, the deli or the movie theater. Discourse here tends to be intensely personal and needlessly strident. It does little to bridge honest disagreement.

The fact that someone disagrees with me on a matter of public policy does not mean that the person is uninformed, unrealistic, “blind to the facts”, venal or corrupt. We simply view the facts differently, interpret information differently, weigh different factors and come to different conclusions.  

Fortunately, in Santa Monica, the iterative review processes that precede final action on policy matters provide ample opportunity to present our personal viewpoints. Why can’t we do that rationally and respectfully instead of impugning the motives and integrity of others?

Last Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting was a case in point and demonstrated some of the best and worst of public meeting disagreement.  There were speakers who marshaled their facts and spoke persuasively about the Hines project, pro or con. Others chose instead to attack the character of and motives of other speakers or decision makers, including those of Mayor Pam O’Connor.

I have known the Mayor professionally since the early 1990’s. She has both an academic background and career experience that inform her approach to municipal issues. She serves our community while recognizing that Santa Monica is not an island. So, she has worked regionally through the Southern California Association of Governments, the MTA and the Construction Authority for the Exposition line to represent us, advocate the best of Santa Monica’s policy approaches to our neighbors (sustainable practices high among them) and bring home lessons from their successes and failures.  She can be brusque and challenging, but in my experience she listens and gives consideration to opposing viewpoints. We have benefitted as a community from her broad perspective and extensive regional networking.

I believe that Mayor O’Connor and the other members of the City Council will make decisions on the Hines project, as they have on countless other policy matters, based on the facts as they see them and on their own individual judgment of what best serves the long term interests of the community. I don’t expect to agree with every decision they make but I am nevertheless grateful for their service to Santa Monica.


Susan E. McCarthy

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Feb. 4, 2014, 10:29:31 am

Linda Jassim said...

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I agree that vitriol of some of the SM citizens and Neighborhood Groups has gotten out of control. BTW, I live in Santa Monica neighborhood and the neighborhood groups do not represent ALL as they claim too, but only some. Let's have a lively discourse without attacking our very hardworking public officials.

Feb. 4, 2014, 11:05:21 pm

No developer lies said...

Oh boo hoo, our civic leaders are in full damage control mode, complete with their PR trolls out here trying to drum up support as the people wake up to their corruption. Maybe we wouldn't feel the need to attack our neighbors if they weren't directly trying to wreck our quality of life! Thicken your skin, city officials. I hope Santa Monica residents have finally had enough and do like the city of Bell did. Launch an investigation into corruption at city hall. If there is nothing to hide then they have nothing the fear.

Feb. 5, 2014, 8:03:09 am

David Bryan said...

About six months ago, my wife and I moved up north to the San Lorenzo Valley in Santa Cruz County. Prior to that I lived in West LA and worked as an educator in Santa Monica for 25+ years. Spirited and passionate discourse and perhaps disagreement is certainly to be expected in a community. Passion being what it is, one can imagine that, every now and then, someone heads 'over the falls' and says the uncalled for. Were we a civilized folk, the right thing to do would be to take a few steps back, reflect, apologize, and restate our points passionately and respectfully. I find it dazzling that only two comments in, "No Developer Lies" does just the opposite. Wow! Years ago Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin satirized what was once a feature of 60 Minutes - Point/Counterpoint. Jane made her point. Dan followed with, "Jane you ignorant slut ..." It was satire for a reason!!

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