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Charter Changes Promote Diversity or Lead to Nepotism, Ballot Arguments Say

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

August 17, 2020 -- A Santa Monica ballot measure that would eliminate rules to fill open positions will either help diversity the City's workforce or lead to "nepotism and cronyism," according to ballot arguments submitted to the City Clerk last week.

The ballot measure would remove two provisions from the City charter that require "vacant positions to be filled using a closed internal promotional recruitment" and "selecting from only the top three highest ranked internal candidates."

The Council voted unanimously last month to place the measure on the November 3 ballot saying the current rules benefit a narrow pool of internal candidates, while excluding other qualified candidates from being considered.

If the measure passes, the Council would need to approve an ordinance replacing the affected sections ("Council to Consider Ballot Measure Changing Hiring Rules," July 24, 2020).

Proponents of the measure argue that it furthers the City's "values of equity, transparency, inclusiveness, (and) diversity" by removing "barriers to employment that prevent qualified workers from upward mobility and growth."

"Voting YES allows your City to reform and modernize its staff recruitment practices to further ensure that the City's personnel structure aligns with our values" and "is better reflective of the greater community," proponents wrote.

Opponents argue that the measure "is a power grab" by the Council to give high paying jobs to friends and political supporters."

"It does not deliver personnel diversity or equity based hiring," opponents wrote in their argument against the measure.

"Do you really want to give the one-faction Santa Monica Council MORE power?"

The Charter currently requires that promotions "be made on the basis of ascertained merit, credit and seniority in service, and examination," according to a impartial analysis of the measure by the City Attorney.

It also requires that vacancies "be filled by promotion upon competitive examinations unless the appointing authority in particular instances believes it impractical or not in the best interest of the public service," the analysis states.

A separate rule requires that "when there is an open position, the Personnel Director provides the appointing authority the names of the three highest candidates on the promotional eligible list or the names of the candidates in the top three bands on an open (non-promotional) eligible list for the position."

The argument in favor of the measure is signed by City Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) Co-Chair Michael Soloff, Santa Monica Democratic Club President Jon Katz, Santa Monica Police Officers Association Chair Erika Aklufi and former Counciilmember Tony Vazquez, chair of the State Board of Equalization.

The opposing argument is signed by Peter Tigler, a former member of Santa Monica's Charter Review Commission; Santa Monica resident Michael Fernandez; former City employee Michelle Duncan; former Pico Neighborhood Association chair Don Gray, and retired school teacher Clara Ben Ray.

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