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OPINION -- Is Ana Jara Really an Independent Voice on the City Council?

By Charlyce Bozzello

Elected by a majority of sitting council members, Ana Jara’s appointment to the Santa Monica City Council hardly exemplifies the democratic process.

But of the 76 applicants to the City Council, it’s not hard to see why she was chosen -- although it may not be for the right reasons ("Council Appoints Latina Resident from Pico Neighborhood to Fill Vacant Seat," January 22, 2019). .

Others have questioned if Jara's loyalty to the city's status quo is really what residents need.

A recent opinion piece in The Lookout cited her decision to defend City Hall in the recent voting rights lawsuit, even though it meant breaking with her own neighborhood ("OPINION -- Pico Neighborhood Residents Deserve An Uncompromised Voice on the City Council," January 23, 2019).

However, there's likely another concerning explanation behind Jara's seat on the Council: her established relationship with Unite Here Local 11.

Jara and Local 11 go way back. She volunteered on the campaign to pass the union-backed “living wage” ordinance in 2002. A couple years later in 2004, she earned the union’s endorsement for a position on the school board. It seems that more than a decade ago, the two established a quid pro quo.

More recently in 2014, Jara was named in a lineup of speakers at a Local 11 and Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice (CLUE) sponsored event.

Though she’s clearly rubbed shoulders with CLUE’s former executive Rabbi Jonathan Klein, it seems Jara, much like Local 11, has remained silent on the sexual misconduct and worker abuse allegations that were recently brought against him.

She's also been involved with the city’s Cradle to Career initiative which works closely with the Los Angeles Hospitality Training Academy—another Local 11 front group much like CLUE.

The LAHTA receives funding directly from the City, over $500,000 since 2013, and then funnels new workers into Local 11’s membership ranks --translating tax dollars into union dues payments.

Jara’s close ties with Local 11 are unsurprising -- it’s almost a prerequisite for public officials in Santa Monica. Had Jara actually run for the position, we can only assume she would have made it onto Local 11’s list of endorsements, as many current council members did.

The latest City survey found that "keeping neighborhoods safe" is the top priority for Santa Monicans. It's no wonder, considering crime rose by almost 9 percent last year. But residents expecting their concerns to be prioritized during Jara's tenure shouldn't hold their breathe.

What's more likely is a continued emphasis on union-backed proposals while crime and homelessness remain unsolved.

Charlyce Bozzello is a communications manager at the Center for Union Facts.

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