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Lengthy Slate of Council Candidates Qualifies for November Ballot

By Cindy Frazier

August 17-- Signaling a higher than usual interest in local politics, a bumper crop of 16 candidates qualified to run for four open seats on the City Council -- the most in 12 years.

While many leading candidates have grouped themselves into slates backed by powerful local organizations such as Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), the wild card entry of Bobby Shriver -- a Kennedy family member and brother-in-law of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- is expected to give some who might have coasted to a win a run for their money.

The 25-year-old renters group -- which has enjoyed a majority on the Council for 19 of those years -- also faces stiff opposition from the Chamber of Commerce, which will soon endorse a slate of “opposition” candidates backed by the group, said Kathy Dodson, chamber chief executive officer.

“We have a large database of people who want to make change” in City government, Dodson said. “The main issues are homelessness, parking and traffic.”

In 1992 -- when 19 also vied for a seat on the Council -- California was also in financial straits due to an economic meltdown, and locals were in an uproar over the number of homeless encamped in the city’s parks.

This year, the issues are similar, with Santa Monicans divided over homeless services, as well as efforts to increase wages for tourism industry workers.

For his part, Shriver -- a 17-year city resident who is chairman of the California State Parks Commission and has worked to support Special Olympics, founded by his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver -- became involved in city issues after being cited for an over-height hedge.

Shriver says he wants the city to treat its residents with “respect,” and will work for a “regional” solution to the homeless issue.

The challengers will face four incumbent Council members with four decades of combined experience: Herb Katz; Ken Genser; Mike Feinstein and Richard Bloom.

Bloom and Genser will enjoy the backing of SMRR, along with challengers Maria Loya, a Pico Neighborhood activist, and Patricia Hoffman, a former president of the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board.

The renter-backed candidates were also endorsed by a union advocacy group, the Coalition to Support the Living Wage, giving them a potential army of union members and supporters to take their message to the streets.

Feinstein -- a Green Party activist who lost a bid to be returned to the SMRR ticket in a contentious convention showdown August 1 -- said this month that he had already signed up 100 volunteers and amassed a campaign war chest of $10,000 on his own.

The Team for Change slate of Bill Bauer, a political columnist and copywriter; Kathryn Morea, a database analyst, and David Cole, a healthcare administrator, say they want to address issues residents are interested in.

One pair of challengers, Jonathan Mann (formerly known as John Stevens) and Letitia Anderson, a nurse, call themselves “running mates.” Stevens has made four unsuccessful runs for the council, saying he did so to spread the message of the importance of the Internet in local governance.

Other candidates are Matteo Dinolfo, a physician who made a respectable first council run in 2002; Tom Viscount, executive director of the Santa Monica Red Cross; Lorene Mendelsohn, a retired real estate agent, and Linda Armstrong, a data entry operator and advocate for homeless women.

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