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Retiring City Planner's Parting Thoughts

May 8, 2020

Dear Editor,

I’ve worked for the City of Santa Monica for 19 years. I’m a public servant but watching the Council on Tuesday, I felt more like I worked in the basement of Downton Abbey ("City Council Slashes up to 247 Full Time Jobs," May 6, 2020).

It was as if they wanted a good stew on the table but showed little regard for the person downstairs chopping the onions. Although one of the upstairs masters offered to forgo her salary to help, the rest of the family didn’t go along with that.

They talked about how they wanted to continue to keep their gardens open and clean for enjoyment of all with the remaining servants working harder to make that happen.

Will Cook want to share her creative recipes when she becomes assistant cook and has had to bump her vegetable cutter?

Will the folks upstairs continue to believe that their workforce is “part of the family”? Will the workforce feel like “they are Santa Monica, too?”

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to reorganization of departments for efficiency and accept that cutbacks and layoffs are necessary to balance the budget.

But have the folks upstairs stopped for a moment to consider the impacts of their methodology on employees who avoid the ax?

For the Planning Division, they are doing this in the cruelest possible way, eliminating senior professional positions, causing them to bump the planners below them and take a demotion to avoid unemployment.

In the years ahead, Santa Monica is going to need motivated, creative minds for a strong economic recovery. But the folks upstairs are creating a workforce that is weighted towards the lower level.

Talented people will look to move on, and won’t be giving 150 percent like they do now. City management should be ashamed of treating people this way when they have the alternative of eliminating a lower level position and avoiding the heartbreaking bumping process.

The result would maintain the same people but demonstrate respect for valuable professional public servants. Perhaps Cook will even be motivated to remain at the Abbey and share her recipes for success.

Elizabeth Bar-El, AICP
Retiring Senior Planner
City of Santa Monica

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