Critic of Local Government Dies
By Jorge Casuso
March 14 -- Joe Natoli -- a constant presence at City
Council meetings known for his trademark cap and blunt, often controversial,
testimony -- died Wednesday at a Santa Monica hospital after suffering
a massive heart attack. He was 55.
A native of Oswego, New York, Natoli was a outspoken participant at nearly
every government and town hall meeting held in Santa Monica, where he moved
two decades ago.
He spoke out on nearly every item on the agenda, often questioning the data
and motives behind policy decisions, and usually took up all the time allotted
“There were a lot of things we disagreed on,” said Mayor Herb Katz,
“but the man was passionate, sincere and he and I have always been kind
to each other.”
“He wasn’t at all shy about expressing his often outspoken views,”
said Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom. “In some ways he exemplified what democracy
is about -- the ability to speak out no matter how outspoken or outrageous your
views might be.”
Natoli appeared on the local political scene eight years ago, when
he became an outspoken supporter of saving the Boathouse Restaurant
on the Santa Monica Pier. After the City sank the restaurant’s
bid to renew its lease and brought in Bubba Gump, Natoli stayed
He remained a regular at Pier Restoration Corporation Board meetings
and began regularly attending meetings of the Bayside Board, City
Council and Planning Commission, speaking out against development
and the exodus of small businesses.
Soon, Natoli was attending nearly every political gathering held in his adopted
“I think he attended more council meetings than some of the council members,”
said Jerry Rubin, a local activist who attended most of the same meetings. “He
probably went to some town hall meetings that didn’t even happen.
“He was a unique activist who spoke his mind freely,” said Rubin,
who knew Natoli for ten years. “He was a dedicated and caring person.
He was one of a kind. He will be missed.”
While Natoli was outspoken when it came to political issues, he mostly kept
his personal life private, friends said.
Few knew he was an amateur handwriting expert who amassed a vast library on
the topic and was sometimes called by attorneys to analyze the handwriting of
potential jurors, friends said.
“He studied handwriting analysis for the last 15 years,” said Dan
Crisafulli, a lifelong friend. “His books went back to the 17th and 18th
Natoli was also a freelance photographer who took publicity shots
and traveled with an aerobics and an acrobatic troupe, Crisafulli
“Joe was one of the most kind, loving, generous persons you’ll
ever want to meet,” said Crisafulli, who knew Natoli since the two were
four years old. “He was a real giver. He may not have had a lot of money,
but he always wanted to offer help.”
Natoli is survived by two brothers and four sisters. A remembrance
will be held at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. before the March 25 council