From Renters Write, July 2010

What I Have Learned

I joined the Santa Monica City Council in February, 2009 when the Council selected me to fill the seat left vacant by the passing of Herb Katz. My time on the Council has been busy, but very enjoyable. Over the months, I have dealt with issues ranging from the construction of regional mass transit to the selection of vendors for our great farmers’ markers. I have come to know better our wonderfully engaged residents, our local community, business, and non-profit organizations, and our remarkable city staff. Most importantly, I have learned that being on the City Council gives me a real opportunity to help shape Santa Monica’s future.

We all know that the City Council has to grapple with big issues like the Land Use and Circulation Element and the detailed zoning code that will implement it. Council members, however, also have championed smaller initiatives that will make a big difference. A great example is the wonderful transformation of the westernmost section of Ocean Park Boulevard into a complete and sustainable street that is friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. In the process of approving the Ocean Park Boulevard plan, I learned about bioswales (landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water) and bike boxes (designated street areas for cyclists to wait for passing traffic). When these innovative features are in place, Ocean Park Boulevard can be a model for improving streets across Santa Monica.

Similarly, it is clear that Santa Monica’s budget is a reflection of our values. That is why the Council adopted a budget that continues to support public safety, lifelong learning, and livable neighborhoods. I am particularly proud of the fact that, because Santa Monica’s economy remains relatively healthy, it still can fund affordable housing and social programs that reach out to the homeless, seniors, economically disadvantaged persons, and at-risk youth. Although there is general consensus around the budget as a whole, I have learned that individual council members can make meaningful amendments to the budget. I was honored to lead the effort to save full-day summer preschool programs that serve low-income, working families. I also supported proposals made by other SMRR council members to increase funding for Solar Santa Monica and to fund enforcement of Santa Monica’s laws prohibiting the use of leaf blowers on our streets and the use of polystyrene containers for takeout food. These additional expenditures were small in relation to the budget as a whole, but I know that they will have a positive impact on our community.

Serving on the City Council is a challenge but every day I learn something new. Our agendas frequently cover such diverse topics as the preservation of historic buildings, animal welfare, and noise regulations. It can take hours to prepare for each meeting and the meetings often last until well after midnight. Despite all the homework and the late nights, I am having a wonderful time! It is a privilege to serve the residents of Santa Monica and to have the opportunity to make Santa Monica a better place to be.