By Ann K. Williams
November 3 -- Competing with a slew of propositions,
measures and local and statewide candidates, five Santa Monica
College Board hopefuls are trying to get the voters’ attention
before they go to the polls next Tuesday.
Last month, they answered questions in a televised candidates
forum being aired on CityTV and sponsored by the League of Women
Voters of Santa Monica Education Fund.
Here are some of the things they had to say. The candidates are
listed in random order.
Nancy Greenstein: The only incumbent running
for reelection, Nancy Greenstein presented herself as an experienced
team player and a champion for equity. Greenstein is one of four
candidates sharing the Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR)
endorsement, a slate backed by the College Faculty Association.
Greenstein said she prided herself for casting the one dissenting
vote in 2003 against eliminating time-honored vocational programs,
such as automotive repair.
The students who would have enrolled in these programs were “sometimes
the poorest members of our community,” Greenstein said.
“Getting trained in automotive technologies allows them
to immediately get a job with a decent salary.”
A lot of people go to the college for reasons other than transferring
to a four-year college, she said.
“They’re coming just to move forward in their job
or to be better able to work with their children,” Greenstein
said, adding that the college needs to do a better job of marketing
“how good we are at these other areas.”
Teamwork and cooperation came up repeatedly in her answers.
“It takes all of us working together to make a difference,”
she said about on-site governance, and “I think we have
to work with the neighborhood in terms of reviewing their issues…
and being a partner where we can be helpful” when asked
about neighborhood concerns.
Occasionally, her answers were mystifying, but always positive.
“All our programs should have the highest priority,”
she said when asked about the relative importance of vocational
Tom Donner: The college’s former Interim
President and retired Chief Business Officer, Tom Donner said
he could bring something unique to the Board – 30 years
worth of institutional memory at a time when three board members
with 50 years combined experience are stepping down.
And his answers were laced with anecdotal detail that gave the
impression that the questions he was hearing were nothing new.
Donner called the vocational education cuts of 2003 “an
unfortunate part of a budget triage, never an easy thing to go
through,” and added that the new courses replacing them
ought to prepare students for the jobs of the future.
When asked about the future of the beach shuttle lot, Donner
gave a blow-by-blow recounting of the saga of the former airport
shuttle parking lot.
But Donner saw traffic and parking as part of a larger dilemma.
“Santa Monica is a destination city,” he said. “People
come here to work, they come here to buy goods, they come here
to play, and we like to think they like to come here also to be
Donner envisioned the City and the college pooling resources
to provide parking, but said that the problem won’t go away
until people change their driving habits.
“Until we shift the way that we transport ourselves, until
we get away from using the car all the time, we are going to continue
to have this type of problem,” he said.
Andrew Walzer: Andrew Walzer lost no time slamming
fellow candidate and former Interim President Tom Donner’s
recent administration of the college. Walzer is also on the SMRR
slate backed by the Faculty Association, which hopes to elect
a faculty-friendly majority to the board.
“There’s been a history of conflict and tension between
the various constituencies in the college, between faculty and
administration, between administration and community groups, between
administration and city government,” said Walzer.
A former SMC teacher, Walzer called for healing and “transparency
and accountability… so that everyone feels that they have
a voice in the decisions that are made at the college.”
He wasn’t any more sparing when he turned to the college’s
relations with its neighbors and the City.
“First and foremost we need to listen to the residents,”
Walzer said. “The administration does not have a good track
record of doing that.
“We have to work in a cooperative fashion with the City
government, which has not been past practice,” he added.
A political science professor at Los Angeles City College, Walzer
said he would reduce traffic near the college by giving the students
free bus passes to “get them out of their cars and into
public transportation.” He’s started such a program
where he works.
And if Walzer has his way here, the students will be riding clean
fuel vehicles, not the diesel buses that are “poisoning
David Finkel: While David Finkel shares the
pro-faculty slate with Walzer, the tone of his answers was more
conciliatory. In addition to having been a City Council and Rent
Control Board member, Finkel was a Superior Court Judge before
he retired from the bench and became a professional arbitrator.
He thinks the college could use his skills.
“What I see the need for more than anything else is mediation
between conflicting interests, said Finkel. “That’s
my background and that’s what I can do.”
Finkel compared the college, the community and the City to a
“The thing we have to do is manage that love-hate relationship
that exists in every family,” he said. “There’s
only one way that you can deal with problems like that and that’s
to talk about it, mediate it.”
When asked whether he was “participating” in a plan
like the one in a past election in which students sent out campaign
materials for extra credit, Finkel, who teaches political science
at the college, answered, “There’s a catch-22 in that
“It’s one thing to encourage students to participate
in local political affairs. It’s another thing to nudge
them into taking a position on particular issues for particular
candidates,” he said.
Teachers have to “be neutral” in the way they present
“opportunities for participation.,” Finkel said, though
he didn’t say whether his, or any other students, are getting
credit for campaigning in this year’s election.
Louise Jaffe: Most Santa Monicans know Louise
Jaffe as one of the founders of the Community for Excellent Public
Schools (CEPS) – the group that got the City to pledge $6
million a year to the School District. It takes a fast eye to
catch the lifelong-learning advocate’s credit as Script
Supervisor for The Simpsons as it flashes by.
Pragmatism and good networking skills were the strengths Jaffe
was selling as she explained the changes she would make if elected
to the board.
“I’m very committed to building face-to-face relationships
with people so that trust is established and credibility is established”
Jaffe said, when asked how she would improve college governance.
“I have a record of bringing people together, trying to
identify a common goal and then working towards that.”
Traffic and parking – the bugaboo of college/community
relations – isn’t a parochial problem, according to
Jaffe, “it’s citywide – City of Los Angeles
And it won’t be solved without collaboration between the
City, the college and the school district, she said. Preferably,
using clean fuel vehicles.
Jaffe sees the college’s neighbors as its partners and
Citing lectures, films, concerts and the annual Fourth of July
“Celebrate America” festivity that draws thousands,
Jaffe said calculating the number of locals who use the college
is “like asking how many Santa Monica residents are at the
beach all the time.”
Jaffe is also on the SMRR, pro-faculty slate, although she shares
the CEPS slate with Tom Donner.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 7.
For more information, go to www.smartvoter.org