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Santa Monica Council Votes to Spend $100,000 on 'Wellbeing Summit'


Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

February 27, 2019 -- It's won global awards for the City and grants totaling well over $1 million.

The City manager's office has a $200,000-a-year "czar" and staff dedicated to improving it.

But what is wellbeing?

On Tuesday night, the City Council approved spending $100,000 in discretionary funds to explain the concept to Santa Monica residents.

The money will be used to "create a local 'Wellbeing Summit,' describing and demonstrating our important work around community wellbeing," according to the council member item on the agenda.

"The idea is to explain what wellbeing is in a community and what we can do to improve wellbeing," said Mayor Gleam Davis.

"One of the issues we have is that people don't understand what we mean by wellbeing," Davis said. "The idea is to have a summit to explain the work we're doing."

The summit will "offer concrete opportunities (for residents) to improve their own wellbeing and that of our community," according to the motion.

"This will be an opportunity for people who live and work in Santa Monica to understand how these (wellbeing) programs can and will benefit them," McKeown said.

McKeown noted that an initial wellbing meeting was attended mostly by "staff and policy wonks" and that it is important the summit is focused on the needs of the residents, who will attend for free.

Davis assured him "it won't just be another day of talking heads."

She said the summit would lead to action, whether it be in the form of "micro-grants" the city gives to projects that enhance wellbeing, or participation in block parties and programs.

Still, several Councilmembers weren't clear on what the summit is intended to achieve.

"We've invested a lot of time and money on wellbeing," said Councilmember Greg Morena. "We've put a lot of gas in the tank."

The Council, he said, "would like to see some measurable" results.

"This is an abstract idea at the moment," said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich. "We need to look at outcomes, and I do want to understand what the anticipated action will be.

"The idea of having a summit seems to be more self-promotion than self-improvement."

Councilmember Jara suggested that the City use any surplus money from the summit to boost the wellbeing "micro-grants" for residents of the Pico Neighbohood to "macro-grants" ("Santa Monica Gives Out First 'Wellbeing Microgrants,'" August 24, 2018).

"Wellbeing has been really successful in the Pico Neighborhood, but there are dreams the community set forth," Jara said. There is "what we have and what we would like to have."

Jara suggested funding the wellbeing grants with money left over from the summit, which staff anticipates will draw philanthropic funding that could reduce the cost to the City "significantly."

But Davis cautioned the discretionary funds would be needed for the summit.

"One hundred thousand is sort of the minimal to put this on," she said, noting the global caliber of speakers the City wants to invite.

Himmelrich, who is in her fifth year on the Council, said that the $100,000 in discretionary funding was the "biggest number we've done since I've been here."

After discussing the item, which drew no public comment, for nearly half an hour, the Council voted unanimously to approve the funding.

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