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Rivals Argue About Santa Monica College’s Bond Measure Needs
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 26, 2016 -- Supporters of a proposed $345 million bond measure to pay for facilities improvements at Santa Monica College (SMC) say the money is needed so the college "can better meet the needs of our community."

Opponents say SMC has in recent years received enough bond money, which is funded through property taxes assessed to people who live in the community college district that includes Santa Monica, Malibu and surrounding unincorporated areas.

These differing viewpoints were included in arguments submitted to the City this week that will appear on the November ballot ("$345 Million Santa Monica College Bond Measure Placed on Ballot," July 7, 2016).

“As technology changes the workplace and the cost of higher education soars, access to a high quality community college education with safe, modern and efficient facilities adaptable to changes in technology is more important than ever,” supporters wrote.

The argument also included statistics to show SMC has a connection to residents, a status that has been argued over the years.

Supporters wrote that 50 percent of Santa Monica High School students attend SMC and the college “has served more than 27,000 Santa Monica and Malibu residents in the past decade.”

SMC critics have pointed to the fact that the majority of the school’s students are from outside Santa Monica.

Samohi was the “last high school attended” for 4 percent of SMC students, according to the most recent statistics (from fall 2014) on the college’s website.

Opponents looked to the student population issue in their argument as well as the fact that none of the four SMC bond measures approved since 1992 have been paid off.

They also criticized previous bond-funded projects, and wrote that others ones will cause more traffic.

“SMC must wisely spend the money we have generously given four times in recent years, recruit more local students and be fully transparent and accountable,” opponents wrote. “Then we can talk about another bond.”

All the signers of the argument in favor have a local leadership role.

The signers were SMC Board of Trustees Chair Louise Jaffe, Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez, Malibu Mayor Lou LaMonte, former Santa Monica mayor and current Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights co-Chair Denny Zane and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board President Laurie Lieberman.

Signing the opposition argument were former SMC Citizens Bond Oversight Committee member Lorraine Sanchez; former Santa Monica Landmarks Commissioner Ruthann Lehrer; former Santa Monica Public Library board member Sherrill Kushner; Nancy Coleman, former member of the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury, and Laurence Eubank, former chair of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont).

If approved, the bond will be funded through a property tax costing $8.56 per month for the average Santa Monica homeowner and $1.59 per month for the average renter, SMC officials said.

The bond requires the approval of 55 percent of voters in the SMC district. An SMC bond measure has never lost, with the first one passed in 1946.

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