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Council Expected to Choose Between Two Black Applicants for Open Seat
By Jorge Casuso
July 10, 2020 -- On Saturday, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) will interview two Black applicants vying for an open seat on the City Council, indicating one of them will be chosen by the Council Tuesday.The steering committee of the powerful political organization will interview Dr. Karen S. Gunn and Kristin McCowan, who are among nearly 120 applicants to replace former Councilmember Greg Morena.
SMRR Co-chair Denny Zane called the two applicants "stars" and said they had been invited by SMMR's executive committee to Saturday's interview with the group's board.
"I can't tell you what will come of it," said Zane, a former mayor. "This is obviously an important (appointment). The Council is close on many issues and divided on some."
Zane said Gunn and McCowan "stand out among the applicants."
"We are feeling fortunate and blessed," he said. "It might be difficult to choose between them."
Gunn and McGown share similar goals -- including furthering social and racial justice, building more affordable housing and paving the way for minority owned businesses, according to their applications.
But the women -- who both have strong community ties -- come from different generations and professional backgrounds.
Gunn is a retired tenured professor in Psychology at Santa Monica College (SMC) who has owned a small consulting firm in the city since the mid-1980s, according to her application.
"I have built what I believe is a strong foundation in interpersonal communication which I think is an essential skill for working with the Council members, City staff and community constituents," Gunn said.
Gunn notes that her professional background and volunteer work -- she has sat on numerous non-profit boards and is the lead member of the Santa Monica Black Agenda -- are especially important during a time of change.
"A good deal of my professional work and community volunteerism has been involved with changing the status-quo, addressing inequities and institutional inertia through the development of new and better (i.e., innovative) methods/programs/services," Gunn wrote in her application.
McGowan, who was born around the time Gunn was starting her business -- has deep roots in Santa Monica, where she returned last October with her husband and two small children.
She attended the local school system her children will attend and says she offers "a homegrown perspective with 40 years of lived experience as a Black child and then woman in Santa Monica."
McGowan also plans to tap her professional experience -- in her case the years she spent working in Washington D.C. and in her current post as executive director of the Getty House Foundation under Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
McGowan -- who attended local schools with Morena and serves on the Santa Monica Pier Corporation Board that was his stepping stone to the Council -- thinks it's important to have a younger face on the dais.
"When we don’t see our face in government it feels alienating to lend
Both applicants are members of the newly formed Santa Monica Black Agenda, which is working with the City "to address issues of systemic racism in Santa Monica," according to City officials.
In her "vision" statement Gunn, who was a mentor and teacher in the Black Collegians, Adelante and Scholars Program at SMC, wrote:
"The Council would act with tenacity and creativity to address its history and circumstances derived from decades of segregated neighborhoods, systemic racism and sexism (to name just two key issues) and openly acknowledge the profound privilege many people have and the disparities in resources, opportunities and access that others live and cope with everyday, especially people of color."
Gunn and McCowan are among 177 residents who submitted applications to fill Morena's seat ("Nearly 120 Applicants Seek Appointment to Vacant Council Seat," July 7, 2020).
The new member would need to win the November 3 general election in order to finish serving the final two years of Morena's term.
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