October 4, 2012 -- This is the third in a series of posts that provides the answers to questions by candidates in the November 6 race for Santa Monica City Council. The answers from the candidates will be posted in the order they were received.
Candidate Profiles --
Name: John C. Smith
Birth place: Seattle, Washington
Running for: City Council
How long have you lived in Santa Monica?
In what neighborhood do you live?
Five years, in Wilmont and now Mid-City
Describe yourself in 10 words or less.
Four-time Emmy-winning journalist, college-level teacher and candidate.
What was your first job?
4. Describe your history of community involvement, if any, in 75 words or less.
Twenty-five years as a journalist covering issues in three major cities: Seattle, Washington DC and the past 20 years in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In the mid 90’s I helped create and co-chaired the Sierra Club’s Ballona Wetlands Task Force, to protect the wetlands and oppose the Playa Vista project. I am still a Sierra Club member and serve on Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Task Force.
LIMIT YOUR ANSWERS TO THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS TO 50 WORDS OR LESS:
5. How would you rate the current City Council? What particular decisions stand out for you that made you form that opinion?
Give Kevin McKeown five stars. The rest, average. Knowledgeable but misguided and too reliant on studies, and consultants who don’t live here. Not enough awareness of how development decisions are changing the character of our city. Need to see the forest through the trees.
6. What is the most frequent complaint you hear on the campaign trail? What do you plan to do about it?
A lot of people complain about traffic and parking, and say the Council focuses too much on sidebar issues at the expense of more pressing problems. I’m a career journalist who always listens to all sides and lets the facts guide decisions. True leadership means putting people first and not taking money from vested interests.
7. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:
There are already enough jobs in Santa Monica, so the city doesn't need more commercial development.
I agree. With room for exceptions as the need arises.
8. Should Santa Monica residents be allowed to vote on major development agreements? Why or why not?
It’s our city.
9. Do you believe developers have undue influence on City government?
10. How would you solve the traffic problem in Santa Monica?
Within my first term, push for a regional commitment for a subway extension into Santa Monica. Reduce the scale and pace of development. Demand more affordable housing so people who work here can live here. Work with LA to improve traffic flow between the city limits and the 405. Make developers pay the true cost of the traffic their projects generate.
11. If Santa Monica has the authority to shut down the airport, should it do so?
If a majority of the city supports closure, yes. But not if those 227 acres will be sold off by City Hall to create a Playa Vista in Santa Monica.
12. With which statement do you agree more:
Tourism is an important part of Santa Monica's image and a major revenue source and should be encouraged.
There are too many tourists in Santa Monica and businesses are catering to tourists at the expense of locals.
Sorry. I agree with both. Tourism and the revenue it brings are important, but there are limits. Such as when development starts catering to visitors so people who live here find it harder and harder to enjoy their own city.
13. True or False: Santa Monica has become Beverly Hills by the Sea.
False. At least not yet.
14. With which statements do you agree. You can pick more than one.
Creates blight and brings crime.
Pays back hotel and restaurant union workers for their political support in the past
Creates more tenants to vote for Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMMR) candidates
Addresses a legitimate need, especially in Santa Monica
First, define “affordable”. I define it as housing that city employees, police officers, firefighters and working people can afford. Most cannot. Wonder why we have traffic problems? Because people who work here live somewhere else. I say, “D”.
15. In the past ten years, the number of laws passed by the Santa Monica City Council has increased from 32 in 2002 to 48 last year. This is:
A reasonable response to the concerns of residents.
A council that tries to please everyone
A council that believes it knows what's best for the city and likes to impose its will.
Answer: “A” and “C”.
16. Santa Monica's contribution to employee pensions has risen from $10 million a year a decade ago to $40 million and growing today. To help pay for its growing contribution Santa Monica should:
Lay off workers
Generate more cash by increasing development
Increase local taxes.
Definitely NOT “B” or “C”. The correct answer is “D”. You establish priorities. The Postal Service, California and Santa Monica all have to wrestle with employee pension issues. Pensions must be balanced against the overall needs of the city. It’s common sense.
17. Do you support Measure ES, a $385 million bond to build and improve Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District facilities?
Yes. But I want real transparency and verifiable assurance in the form of a report every three months of how the money is being spent. Voters want accountability when they are asked to pay more. Give it to them.
18. Has Santa Monica successfully addressed the homeless problem?
No. It is still a major problem. In fact, many voters I talk to say much of the help actually encourages the problem. We need to keep trying pilot projects and chip away at the problem from several angles. If we can reduce homelessness by even ten percent a year we can cut it in half in five years. That’s progress.
19. Do you believe Santa Monica is a segregated city?
20. Do community groups play an important role in Santa Monica?
They do and they are essential! They galvanize public support toward better decisions and policies and are instrumental as a “watchdog” to the City Council.
21. Which of the following statements do you agree with. Santa Monica is:
Doing enough to encourage biking
Not doing enough to encourage biking
Doing too much to encourage biking
Answer: “A.” I am an avid cyclist. I have ridden a bike 200 miles in one day. I own a car but often bike to work or on errands. However, it is fantasy government to believe we can “bicycle” our way out of our traffic congestion problems.
22. Do you support a law banning smoking in apartment and condo units?
No law is perfect. Do I think a single Mom who has a child with asthma has a right to know before she rents an apartment that the person living next door is a chain smoker? Yes. Do I think the law would be costly and nearly impossible to enforce? Yes. Do I think landlords might use it to force older, smoking tenants out of apartments? Yes. Do reasonable people smoke outside? You bet.
23. What is your favorite place in Santa Monica? Least favorite place?
Best: On a boogie board riding a good-sized wave near Lifeguard tower 26.
Worst: The alley on Broadway between 2nd and 3rd where a homeless guy pulled a knife on me once. I ran.
24. What is the last piece of music you bought?
“No Surrender” by Bruce Springsteen, from ITunes, so I can learn to play it on my guitar.
25. If you were emperor with absolute authority for a day and could do one thing for Santa Monica, what would it be?
I would wave my magic hand and create an instant subway that ended at 3rd and Wilshire. It would benefit every single person who lives and works here.