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OPINION Pico Neighborhood Residents Deserve An Uncompromised Voice on the City Council

By Maria Loya

Last night the Santa Monica City Council appointed Pico Neighborhood resident Ana Jara as the new Councilwoman to fill Tony Vasquez’s vacated seat.

I am not surprised that Ms. Jara was appointed, considering Judge Yvette Palazuelo’s recent decision on the Pico Neighborhood’s successful CVRA lawsuit that requires district elections as a remedy to the City’s unlawful and unconstitutional at-large election system.

Ana Jara served as one of the City’s key witness and the only Latina who testified in opposition to the Pico Neighborhood Association’s lawsuit that seeks to empower Latino voters.

During her testimony she also protected the City Council over the lack of diversity in commission appointments and supported Gleam Davis’s false claim of being Latina while even Tony Vazquez in deposition refused to accept that to be true.

Ms. Jara has a long history of working with the establishment and the power structure that has worked to systematically marginalize the Pico Neighborhood by making it a dumping ground.

This same power structure has manipulated the affordable housing crisis to push for development that has resulted in rapid gentrification and displacement of long term renters and small businesses.

Ms. Jara's appointment was not about qualifications; her selection by this desperate Council is part of a strategy to undermine our neighborhood’s effort from having an independent and authentic resident voice that will stand up to the power structure.

The current City Council would only appoint a person that they know they can control and Ms. Jara has shown through her actions and inactions that she is a perfect fit for the role the power structure has written for her to play.

We don’t need another “rubber stamp” on the City Council that will work in favor of special interests that control City Hall.

Before the voting rights lawsuit, Ms. Jara was the only Latina sitting on any City commission, including the Social Services Commission, which is responsible for preparing an annual assessment for the City Council on whether agencies and programs are achieving goals and objectives for social services.

For the past two years, the Commission has failed to submit that report.

In fact, Ana Jara, as a Social Service Commissioner and Pico Neighborhood “activist” has been silent on the Police Activities League (PAL) child molestation scandal, even though all of the victims are Latino/a from the Pico Neighborhood.

You would think that Ms. Jara would use her position to bring up issues of accountability and advocate for more protocols to ensure the safety of the children that attend PAL programs.

Yet there has been no mention of the various incidents of child molestation at the Social Service Commission meetings. We have heard nothing from Ms. Jara.

Does her silence have anything to do with the fact that her daughter works for Santa Monica Police Department? Or could her silence have anything to do with her parent group Familias Latinas Unidas (FLU) being financially sponsored by the City of Santa Monica and SMPD?

Regardless of the reason, clearly Ms. Jara is compromised and unless she proves otherwise, she is expected to play a willing role of a rubber stamp and purveyor of the culture of silence at City Hall.

Until Santa Monica has district elections we will continue to deal with the current City Council’s "poli-tricks" in their effort to maintain power and control, attempting to forestall the inevitable.

Soon we will have district elections in Santa Monica and residents will have an opportunity to vote for an independent and uncompromised resident voice on the City Council representing our neighborhood’s best interest, not self or special interests.

Maria Loya is a Pico Neighborhood activist annd a plaintiff in the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the City.

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