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Outspoken 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 to speak.

“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 involved.

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 city.

“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 centuries.”

Natoli was also a freelance photographer who took publicity shots and traveled with an aerobics and an acrobatic troupe, Crisafulli said.

“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 meeting.

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“He wasn’t at all shy about expressing his often outspoken views.” Richard Bloom



“I think he attended more council meetings than some of the council members.” said Jerry Rubin


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