Each year begins with new hopes and dreams and the wish that our lives and our world will become better. With that in mind, SMart takes a look at Santa Monica and expresses our fervent wish for actions that will shape an improved city in 2017.
- Municipal salaries are out of control. It’s time to begin the fix. Start by reducing the at-will position salaries at City Hall and take a tough stance towards the municipal employee unions as they negotiate new contracts this year. The future burden on taxpayers must be reduced. A ballot initiative was floated in 2014 to limit salaries to a median of those of other California cities plus a potential 25 percent cost-of-living signing bonus. Act now to stop our salaries, pensions and future indebtedness from becoming a ballot issue.
- Will the proposed Local Coastal Plan become no more than a way to remove impediments to more development? The Coastal Commission, however flawed, has served until now as part of the checks and balances system to protect our coast. Our residents need assurance that this plan won’t add more development along our coastline.
- Our Pier is a success by all measures. Unfortunately, the Twilight Dance Concerts are now a security burden to our city. They must be canceled and reimagined. Above all let’s remember that while we share our Pier with the world it must retain its local flavor.
- With all the hoopla about overdevelopment in our downtown, let’s remember that our city has neighborhoods to protect. Let’s focus on our neighborhoods this year.
- We have great parks in Santa Monica and will add more park acreage in the future. Let’s celebrate our green space this year by continuing to advocate for more breathing room in our dense city.
- Let’s recognize that our high sales and utility taxes affect our lowest income residents the most. We need to find ways to assist them.
- Westside Thanksgiving is a hallmark of our compassionate city. This charitable event took place for decades at the Santa Monica Civic. Let’s bring it home.
- Plunge ahead on implementing the Civic Center Sports Field. Let’s get it designed and built ahead of schedule and under budget.
- Santa Monica College should move quickly on the needed renovations to their campuses. Taxpayers ponied up more bonded indebtedness in 2016. SMC has pledged to give Santa Monica and Malibu residents priority for admissions and classes. That is good news – but we must go further. Free first year tuition must be offered to public high school graduates within our college district boundaries. Long Beach does it. Los Angeles may follow suit. Santa Monica should have led the way on this.
- The City Council should give serious consideration to the appeal of the City Services Building that will be attached to City Hall. The cost clearly outweighs the benefits of being environmentally forward. We can be great stewards of the environment while also being good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars. Let’s set an example of good governance. It’s not Monopoly money that’s paying for this building.
- Over 19,000 residents voted for Measure LV. It lost. However, no one should mistake its loss for carte blanche to add height and density “willy-nilly” to our city. Developers paid abundantly for this victory. Imagine the amount of developer money it will take to defeat the next measure. The City Council and planning staff need to vote for a height and density plan that will work in our city and will calm tempers. And, let us remind you, the successor to Measure LV is already in the planning stages.
- We have great non-profit, philanthropic service clubs in our city. Among them are the Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary. They have collectively made a positive impact in our community for almost a century yet they have no recognition at our city’s borders as they do in many cities. Let’s give these service clubs the chance to place their logos at major entrances to Santa Monica once again.
- Move quickly to integrate the Fisher Lumber site into Memorial Park. It’s been over a decade. Let’s make sure there are no further delays.
- Santa Monica is a world-class artistic community where over 40 percent of our community make their living in the arts (music, visual arts, fine art, film, television, theatre, literary, dance, architecture and more). Our parks, public and private spaces should be filled with performances and artwork of all types. Let’s encourage our resident artists to participate with a minimum of red tape. Make Music Day should be a common occurrence – not just once a year. Our city should be a showplace for public art.
- Let’s vow that this will be a year of conversation between neighbors. The enemy is oftentimes within us. Truth can’t be obtained without essential listening. City Hall can’t be seen as a monolith for developer interests. It’s time for our city government and our residents to sit down with each other without shouting, without recriminations, and talk with each other. It’s also time for a city ombudsman to expedite residents’ concerns and help them navigate City Hall.
Samohi is the pride of our city. It is celebrating 125 years of service to our city yet much of its signage is missing or damaged. Facilities are run-down, paint is peeling and it’s fundamentally embarrassing to students, faculty and our community. Let’s fix what’s broken…now.
- North/South transportation links within our city are far from stellar. It’s time for our own DASH bus system to ensure accessibility to the Expo stations and across town. Cheap, efficient and timely routes are needed. We can do this!
These are a few of our 2017 wishes for a better Santa Monica. We’ll have more next week in this space.
Phil Brock for SMa.r.t