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OPINION -- One Councilmember We Can Trust Is Better than Seven We Can’t

By Oscar de la Torre

Before casting their votes Thursday night to appeal the voting rights lawsuit against the City, Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Ana Jara have argued that voters will lose the ability to vote for seven Councilmembers under district elections.

The fact of the matter is that although we can vote for seven Council candidates in the unlawful at-large election scheme, the vast majority of Santa Monica residents do not trust that City Hall will put resident concerns and safety above all else.

What good is voting for seven when you can’t count on one? Clearly, the Council is on the wrong side of history but their vote tonight to appeal the historic victory against an unjust, unconstitutional and unlawful at large election scheme is so predictable.

As predicted by Maria Loya in her op ed, Ana Jara is allowing herself to be used by Councilmember Kevin McKeowen to provide cover for his position that runs contrary to a great majority of Santa Monican’s who want to change the culture of corruption that exists in our City Hall.

Kevin is the longest serving councilmember who selfishly opposed term limits. However, in the last election voters approved term limits by a margin of 75 percent.

Kevin used to be a champion for the residents but as he prepares to seek higher office he needs to lay the groundwork for larger campaign donations. Like the majority of our entrenched City Council members, he has become out of touch and disconnected from our reality.

No one in SM City Hall has even acknowledged what Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos confirmed: There was intentional harm and discrimination done under Santa Monica’s at-large election system.

McKeown and Jara have gone as far as to blame the plaintiff’s lawyers for the public funds wasted on challenging the CVRA when it was the City Councilmembers who unanimously voted to move forward with their self-serving attempt to challenge the CVRA lawsuit, knowing that no other City had prevailed.

Why not blame the City’s expensive lawyers for malpractice? History will show that Santa Monica’s fake liberal establishment pursued an ego-driven legal adventure that failed in thwarting a positive change in our election system.

As an elected official, I understand fully that a governing board is the ultimate authority on spending public funds. I’m sure it embarrasses Kevin, as it should everyone sitting on the Santa Monica City Council, for the waste of public funds that could have been used to address crime, mental illness, education etc.

Elected leaders should be held accountable when they fail to answer legitimate complaints regarding State law, fail to negotiate a settlement and instead spend our public funds with little regard. They wouldn’t do that with their own money.

In their attempt to defend an election scheme that has been declared unlawful, unconstitutional, discriminatory and unjust, the Santa Monica City Council is revealing its true colors.

They have totally lost their mind in declaring that justice will be served when the plaintiff’s attorneys fail to be compensated!

Who’s justice are they talking about? Surely not the justice owed to Pico Neighborhood residents that have had to endure decades of marginalization and environmental dumping with no political representation in our defense.

They fail to speak the truth because it doesn’t serve them. Usually liberals like to talk about poverty, environmental injustice and marginalization but not here, not anymore in our City.

The truth is that our City government has been overrun by powerful special interests and our residents, especially lower income renters, are at risk if the illegal at large election scheme continues.

No amount of misinformation and blame can hide what every resident sees daily.

Irresponsible over-development is pushing long term renters and small businesses out of Santa Monica.

The self-serving politicians that are blaming our successful CVRA lawsuit for taking away resident’s right to vote for seven councilmembers are the same politicians who have supported policies that have eliminated rent control units, increased traffic and turned our City into an unsafe and unwelcoming environment for our seniors and children.

We aren’t blind and we see that district elections will break the stranglehold that special interests have on our government by making it less expensive to run for a seat on our City Council.

District elections will decrease the influence of special interests and will increase the resident voice at the neighborhood level where it matters most.

Every neighborhood being represented is a more inclusive government than what we currently have now where the wealthier North Side has a virtual monopoly on political power.

As a lifelong resident, I intend to fight for the positive change our residents deserve and I urge everyone to get involved in this movement for transparency, accountability and an honest and inclusive government.

Oscar de la Torre is a School Board member and life-long resident of the Pico Neighborhood

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