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Planning Commissioner Arlene Hopkins' Farewell
After serving four years on the City's Planning Commission, Arlene Hopkins recently announced that she would not seek reappointment to a second term. Following is a letter to the community looking back at her tenure and forward to the challenges facing the city's most powerful commission.
Dear Santa Monicans,
These past four years have simply gone by too quickly.
When I was asked to apply to a seat on the Planning Commission in June 2001, I committed four years of my life to serve you and our community.
Now I need to re-focus my attention on my expanding small business. But, I intend to remain active in our community, and will most certainly join you on the issues that are critical to our common future.
Looking forward, there are two outstanding challenges for our hometown: local democracy and a livable community. Let's exercise our rights as citizens on these, as well as other challenges that face us in the years ahead.
Local Democracy: In a real democracy, “all politics is truly local.” Santa Monicans deserve improved transparency, accountability and public process in City Hall, and residents have made it known they expect that. I've received many calls and emails from residents urging that the "electeds and appointeds" be reminded that our community is, first and foremost, our hometown. When the people lead, their leaders should follow – or, at least, get out in front of the crowd.
Livable Community: People have been rethinking what “economic development” and “land use” mean to Santa Monica because there appears to be an inverse relationship between City Hall's interest in revenue and its dedication to livability for residents. Attractions that enrich the city treasury have been accompanied by serious erosion in the quality of life for the city's residents. It seems wrong, for instance, that parking and traffic issues should displace and inconvenience residents in order to make way for development that is out of character with our community. Ultimately, a city government that does not put the interests of its citizens first cannot really be said to represent them.
Santa Monica is at a crossroads today. Residents want sustainable solutions that include economic vitality but don’t sacrifice environmental sustainability and an equitable social contract to achieve it. Our goals for livability and sustainability can only be legitimately achieved by putting residents first.
Santa Monica is a traditional Southern California beach town, and it is a beach town with remarkable sophistication. It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve our community on your behalf. And, that is largely because Santa Monicans are informed, smart, critical, creative, demanding, progressive, no-nonsense participants in our hometown democracy.
I am grateful for the opportunity I've had to serve you on the planning commission. I may no longer be in front of you, but I will definitely continue to work with you and among you in our mutual quest for good government and a livable community we can all be proud to have helped create and sustain.
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