Candidates Start Jockeying For Santa Monica Council, Schools, Rent Control Board

Friday, 20 Jul 2012, 1:26:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

It is 2012. We have already celebrated Leap Day. The London Games are just around the corner. Next up on deck: the 2012 Presidential Election. While the nation will debate whether or not President Barack Obama should be unseated by Republican nominee Mitt Romney, voters in Santa Monica will also be mulling over candidates for city council, school board, rent control board, and the Santa Monica College (SMC) Board of Trustees.

Prospective candidates were officially allowed to pull papers on Monday, meaning candidates may now start jockeying for signatures to have their respective names put on the November 6 ballot.

In all, there are 12 local offices up for grabs this year.

One thing is for certain: the city council will certainly look different in 2013. Four of the seven council seats will be up for grabs in November, and at least one new member will fill one of those seats.

Some familiar faces are vying for those open seats, including Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, local peace activist Jerry Rubin, and advocate Shari Davis.

Frank Gruber, an entertainment lawyer who has lived in Santa Monica for the past 29 years, was the first person to announce his candidacy for council.

A newcomer to the council race is John Cyrus Smith, a local journalist and teacher who earned several Emmy Awards for "Best Newscast" during 18 years as a TV News Producer at NBC4. Smith left his broadcast post last month to run for office.

A close race in 2010 saw Winterer 148 votes shy of winning a council seat; with four open seats this election cycle and only one council member officially declared for reelection, it will be interesting to see if Winterer can garner enough support to get over the top in 2012.

Five council members were voted into office two years ago: Kevin McKeown, Pam O’Connor, and Bob Holbrook claimed the three four-year seats up for grabs, while Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day were elected to finish the incomplete terms of Ken Genser and Herb Katz.

McKeown was the top vote getter with more than 13,000 votes, while Holbrook had the fewest of the five winners, barely edging out Winterer.

This year, Davis, who is currently finishing Katz’s term, is the only council member to announce her intentions to run again. It will be the first time she seeks a four-year term.

Mayor Richard Bloom’s time on the dais will come to an end after 13 years of service, as he is one of two candidates seeking to represent Santa Monica in the State Assembly.

Bloom is running against Besty Butler for the 50th Assembly District seat.

With Bloom moving on from the council, his pending vacancy means Santa Monica will have both a new mayor through 2014 and a fresh council member serving through 2016.

Interestingly enough, neither Council members Bobby Shriver or Terry O’Day has announced whether they intend to seek reelection.

Shriver has served on the dais since 2004 and most recently had a stint as mayor in 2010. O’Day came aboard the council to complete the remainder of Genser’s term after he passed away in 2010.

As candidates have until Aug. 10 to gather the 100 signatures necessary to have their respective names appear on the November ballot, there may still be more people who will seek a seat on the dais. Holbrook, McKeown, and O’Connor all still have two years remaining in their respective terms.

An interesting note: McKeown is the longest serving council member in Santa Monica history who has not served as mayor.

Whether he will for 2013-14 will be contingent upon the content of the new council.

With the council guaranteed to look different in 2013 and 2014, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) School Board has three seats -- those of Board President Ben Allen, member Jose Escarce, and member Maria Leon Vasquez -- up for grabs.

A big issue within the SMMUSD is proper representation of Malibu area schools on the two-city Board of Education.

Currently, all members of the SMMUSD Board are Santa Monica residents. Malibu residents have regularly been on record at public meetings that they feel slighted to not have a voting voice on the SMMUSD Board.

Even more, the limited representation directly impacts, often negatively, the amount of funding Malibu schools receive.

Though Malibu residents have an equal right to run for a School Board seat, Malibu-area candidates have a smaller voting pool to draw from, meaning they are not likely to garner enough electoral support to gain a seat on the Board.

An idea has floated around for some time to have Malibu cede from the SMMUSD and create its own school district.

Whether or not a Malibu School District happens remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen who from Malibu, if anyone, will file his or her candidacy for a Board seat.

Two seats from the Rent Control Board are also up for election, with current members Robert Kronovet and Ilse Rosenstein up for re-election.

No other candidates have been announced.

The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees has three seats up for re-election -- those of Rob Rader, Margaret Quinones-Perez and Susan Aminoff.

Several state ballot measures are expected to be on the November ballot, including votes on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases and determining whether the state should be on a two-year budget cycle instead of one.

Other ballot measures may repeal the Three Strikes Law, potentially put an end to death penalty punishment in California, increasing penalties for human trafficking and sex slavery, and call for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

There are also proposals to increase state income and business taxes, affect the way car insurance is determined, and call for a referendum on the State Senate Redistricting Plan. In addition to the presidential election, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is up for reelection and is seeking to retain her seat in Washington, D.C., through 2018.

The general election will be held nationwide on Nov. 6.

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