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One on One with New Mayor Bob Holbrook

By Lookout Staff

December 14 -- On Tuesday night, City Council member Bob Holbrook became the new mayor of Santa Monica, a mostly ceremonial post he held once before in 1998. On the eve of his swearing in, The Lookout asked Holbrook to address some of the pressing issues facing the city where he was born, grew up and raised a family.

Born at the defunct St. Catherine's Hospital in Santa Monica, Holbrook recalls a city of quaint beach-front courtyards and trolley cars that ran along the dirt road that was Neilson Way. After graduating from Santa Monica High School, he attended Santa Monica College, where a knack for chemistry led to a career in pharmacy.

After receiving a doctorate of pharmacy degree from USC, Holbrook worked for 20 years in the Thrifty and Sav-On drugstore chains before landing a job as the director of pharmacy and assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at USC. He recently retired.

A father of three, Holbrook lives in a house north of Montana Avenue with his wife, Jean Ann.

Q: In a City that has at-large elections and a rotating mayor’s position, how do you see the role of mayor in Santa Monica? What would you like to accomplish as mayor?

A: Because we have a City Manager form of government the role of the mayor is largely ceremonial. I will do my best to run tight City Council meetings, meet with the public and community organizations and focus the council on finding solutions to the three most important issues as identified by our residents. Homelessness, traffic congestion and parking.

Q: As mayor, what do you see as the most important issues facing the city, why, and would you mind ranking them.

A: (1) Homelessness, (2) traffic and (3) parking.

Q: A new city manager has just been hired. How do you foresee the role of the City Manager changing under P. Lamont Ewell? What should the City Council's relationship be to the new City Manager?

A: The role of the City Manager is defined in the City Charter and will remain the same. The City Manager is responsible for every department of the City with the exception of the City Attorney's office and the City Clerk's office. The council's role remains the same: To set policy and see that the City Manager implements the policy.

Q: Should his position have more power or less and why?

A:The duties of the City Manager should remain the same

Q: How do you see the new City Manager's role to the rest of staff? Should he strictly oversee that staff carry out the directions of the City Council or should he be given some room to interpret those directions as he sees fit?

A: The City Manager should always do his best to implement the council's policy. He can determine which way is best to achieve the desired results.

Q: The City just appointed a homeless coordinator for the first time. How do you envision that person's role? How do foresee a former Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman's relationship with City staff and the City Council?

A: Ed Edelman is the new Homeless Coordinator. He has the expertise to bring many of the social service agencies together, to better focus their resources, find new solutions to homelessness and build a regional solution to homelessness. He will report to the City Manager and keep the Council informed as he moves forward. He may require council support through ordinances, funding or other means, so a close working relationship with the council is vital.

Q: His appointment comes as the City is reevaluating their strategy on dealing with the problem of homelessness. How should the City deal with homelessness as an issue? Do you agree with the new strategies added to the Continuum of Care model, such as Housing First?

A: The City has become more aggressive in attacking the problems of homelessness. (Council member) Bobby Shriver has engaged our community and our social service providers on a non-stop basis this past year. My sense is that our staff and council members genuinely believe that there are solutions to homelessness and we are on the right track to solve this problem. Housing First is a program that has produced good results in the San Francisco area. Homeward Bound, a program that provides bus tickets to homeless people that want to go home is also working very well.

Q: In the past, there has been some tension between Santa Monica College and the City on land use, expansion and other issues. What can you as mayor do to smooth those relations? How would you describe the current relations between SMC and the City?

A: The relationship between Santa Monica College and the City of Santa Monica has been strained. It is important that better communications be built between the two entities. As mayor I will assign a high priority to improving our relationship with Santa Monica College. I will have regular meetings with the College leadership to exchange ideas on how we can work together to better serve the needs of our residents and meet the educational goals of Santa Monica College.

Q: The college has also hired a new President, Dr. Chui L. Tsang, who headed San Jose City College. How do you envision the City's relationship with the new president? What would you ask of him as he comes into that post?

A: It is unique that the CEO of the City and Santa Monica College were appointed at almost the same time. I want to see them meeting together as soon as possible so that we will better understand the college's vision of their future and how we can meld that plan into our vision of the City's future.

Q: For years, the City Council meetings have gone into the early hours of the morning, with some City Council members, including yourself, even taking legal action to end meetings early. What will you do to shorten City Council meetings, while still tackling all of the City's business.

A: I will move our agenda along as quickly as I can. I am asking the council to try and shorten their discussions on the agenda items, and I am prepared to ask that meetings be carried over to the next evening rather then continue till the wee small hours of the morning.

Q: There are four City Council members endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) and three who are not. Would you say there is a division within the City Council on how each group sees the City's future, and if so, how?

A: I believe the vision of the future for Santa Monica is different for each council member. My priorities reflect my vision of our future. A city without a homeless problem. Reduced traffic and improved neighborhood parking. A good question for each council member.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what are your hobbies, interests, aspirations etc.

A: I am excited to serve as mayor. I had this opportunity in 1998, but my time was limited as I worked full time. Now I work part time so I can spend time each day on City business. I have many interests and hobbies. I love Santa Monica history and have a nice collection of early (1900 to 1920) postcards of Santa Monica and Ocean Park. I collect and restore radios from the 1920's and 1930's and I drive my 1916 Model T Ford around town. If that isn't enough to keep me busy I am an avid USC sports fan. My aspiration is to have a great 2006 as the mayor of Santa Monica!

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