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Letter: New PACs Aren't the Problem With Elections

The problem in Santa Monica elections is not new resident-controlled groups, says Ivan Perkins, chair of Santa Monica's newest slow-growth political action committee.

City Council candidate Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis and Shari Davis' recent statement denouncing "newly formed" political groups misses the point.

The problem in Santa Monica elections is not new resident-controlled groups. It is the sudden appearance and disappearance of shadowy PACs run by outside developers with projects going before the City Council. These groups frequently employ underhanded tactics to confuse voters in order to influence elections.

We recall the dishonest practices of a developer PAC calling itself “Santa Monicans for Quality Government,” or SMQG. Two years ago, SMQG issued a deceptive mailer titled “Santa Monica Democratic Voter Guide” days before the election, which left off candidate Ted Winterer’s name from lists of candidates endorsed by local Democratic Party organizations. Mr. Winterer barely lost that election, by a mere 56 votes.

This time around, one of the developers behind SMQG—NMS Properties— is behind a new “pop-up” PAC. This PAC is named “Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future,” which is remarkably (and confusingly!) similar to our own name, “Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth.” This new PAC has usurped 75 percent of our name. We feel that this has been done intentionally, in order to confuse voters as to which group is the genuine, community-based, responsible growth / slow growth organization.

We, Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth, are a group of Santa Monica residents who came together to elect City Council candidates who will put residents’ interests ahead of developers’ profits. We are supporting Richard McKinnon and Ted Winterer in this election—candidates who have strong track records advocating for responsible growth. In addition, we are not a “pop-up” group. We are here to stay!

It is astonishing to us that O'Day, Davis and Davis would diagnose the problem in Santa Monica as “newly-formed” groups without a “history,” rather than the real problem, PACs that are completely controlled by outside developers with financial interests before the City Council, who seek to confuse voters and thereby engineer a more compliant Council. It is not legitimate, or accurate, to present all “new” groups in the same light.

Two months ago, when we sent the City Council candidates a questionnaire about development-related issues, O’Day, Davis, Davis, and other candidates publicly refused, in a “Transparency Pledge,” to engage with us until we provided information about ourselves. We complied.

Those three candidates have “denounced” what they termed “pop-up” groups. That’s not enough. By creating, signing and publicizing the Transparency Pledge, Terry, Gleam and Shari raised the bar. They should stand by the spirit of transparency that they touted, and demand that NMS Properties—sorry, “Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future”—immediately stop campaigning on their behalf, until they change their name to accurately represent who they are.

May I suggest “Outside Real Estate Developers for Building As Much As Possible in Santa Monica”? OREDBAMAPISM has a nice ring to it, and the name would be admirably transparent.

— Ivan Perkins Co-Chair, Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth

W Smith October 13, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I commented on this the other day. Something definitely stinks. I raised the question as to whether the City Council should be investigated for graft. Specifically, why, exactly, without reason did Fresh & Easy decide that shying away from City Council scrutiny was easier than facing them. First this is an international corporation. Secondly it's not like this is a smoke or porn shop, this is a GROCERY STORE for crying out loud! If you want a parking/traffic problem - take a look at Trader Joes at 33rd and Pico. The F&E issue, and "depression era" condo building are tips of a possible corruption iceberg. It's no surprise you've been attacked. I sympathize with the fact your name has been hijacked.
Brenda Barnes October 13, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Hi Ivan. You are so right. The Davises and O'Day came out against this group, supposedly, again in a letter after the forum Wed night, when the entire audience was clearly negative about overdevelopment. Suddenly it is a real minus to be associated with NMS, as I'm sure they've heard talking with voters, too. Nonetheless, we got glossy mailers from them touting both Davises this week whereas no one else but SMRR has enough money to send out mailers this early--thank goodness, no more junk mail. Please keep me in touch with what your ghroup is doing, at brenda@flashbyte.us. Thanks.
Brenda Barnes October 14, 2012 at 08:25 PM
"Responsible growth," though, is not nearly enough. Someone has to figure out and specify a plan to run the City without developer money. After all, Richard Bloom before he ran for the Council was for "responsible" or "smart" growth and had actually filed a lawsuit against the Ralph's Market complex spreading three square blocks from 20th to Cloverfield and Olympic to Colorado. After he got on the Council and got "educated" by the old-timers about how developer's fees and higher taxes allow all the spending the City does, there was no development so horrible he would not champion it. We need a really specific plan, which Winterer and McKinnon do not have.
Brenda Barnes October 14, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Saying you are against development while always voting for it is the same kind of cynical pro-developer charade trick as saying, as the Davises and O'Day have, that you denounce the developer group sending out mailers to support you. Both are to deflect attention from the fact that developers know these four people have ended up voting for every development that came before them while they were in office--or in the case of Shari Davis who isn't in office--aligned themselves with pro-development forces. Developers know who is for them, so that is who they support. You don't have to ask for their support or acknowledge you benefited from it if you're these four. Just always vote yes, as developers know you will.
Brenda Barnes October 14, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I therefore think now that the Daily Press has decided to have only the pro-development candidates at their debate on Monday the 15th, residents opposed to overdevelopment need to go with picket signs that say "Pro-Development Candidates This Way" and "Anti-More Traffic and Corruption Candidates This Way." Or how about "Developer Lapdog Candidates This Way" and "Pro-Resident Candidates This Way"? Or "Developers Fund the Candidates Inside--Ask the Daily Press Why They Promote More Development" and "Join Resident-Funded Candidates in Courtyard--and Support Less Development by Voting for Them." I also learned when I went to Occupy Wall Street in New York last September that free food is easy and cheap to make and gets people there. Beans and rice were the most popular foods and homemade lemonade in pitchers labeled Sweetened with Stevia the most popular drink we had. So we should make lots of beans and rice and homemade lemonade and get people into the courtyard to boycott those developer lapdogs and their press sponsor. BTW, in case you think all Occupy people are unwashed hippies, I am a 68-year-old retired SM real estate lawyer. I have worked full time for three years with my Cambridge-educated urban planner husband Peter Naughton against the proposed closing of Village Trailer Park, where I invested in a home 26 years ago. We know exactly what we are talking about, and have seen these players in action, voting for development while they claim to care about us.
Brenda Barnes October 15, 2012 at 03:25 AM
It looks like John C. Smith is one of the invited candidates, since he raised over $9,000. So our signs will have to say "Developers' Lapdogs and John C. Smith This Way." John C. is not pro-development.

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