Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Gleaming City Council Cat Fight


October 27, 2014

As Shriver tries to move up to Supervisor, Gleam Davis

decides to scratch out his eyes, while Holbrook defends him.

The contest for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor seat left open by the retirement of Zev Yaroslavsky took a nasty turn this week, starting with an “open letter” by Santa Monica Councilmember Gleam Davis. Davis’s letter trashes Bobby Shriver, who’s running for the Supervisor seat. It was distributed to media outlets by the campaign for Shriver’s rival, Sheila Kuehl. Kuehl has been a longtime member of the California state assembly, termed out in 2008. Davis’s letter was so surprisingly hostile that it provoked another “open letter,” a response by fellow SM City Councilmember, Bob Holbrook, who disputes Davis’s assertions and heaps praise on Shriver.

Shriver, one of 7 SM City Council members, is running for County Board of Supervisors. There are six members of the Board, a holdover from the County’s 1880 charter. They have been described as the most powerful politicians in the US, since just 6 County Supervisors run a municipal entity with ten million people. Los Angeles County has no chief executive.

Below you will find the texts of both Davis’s and Holbrook’s letters regarding Bobby Shriver. It is possible, however, the whole boondoggle says more about Ms. Kuehl and her friend, Gleam Davis.

The following is an open letter from current Santa Monica City Councilmember Gleam Davis on serving with Bobby Shriver:

Bobby Shriver and his supporters are touting his experience on the Santa Monica City Council as a reason to vote for him for County Supervisor. For more than three years, I served on the City Council with Bobby Shriver and I am supporting Sheila Kuehl. Let me tell you why:

Bobby decided to run for City Council because he was angry that the City’s enforcement of its hedge ordinance would require him to trim the hedge around his home. Before the hedge issue came up, he never had shown any interest in local politics or local issues.

Bobby was sufficiently upset about the hedge issue that he decided to run for City Council. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money on his campaign. No one in our small city had ever seen that kind of personal wealth spent on a City Council race.

Bobby ran on a platform of collaboration and respect for residents. Once Bobby was elected, it became clear that this was just campaign rhetoric.

After he was elected, Bobby was difficult to reach. When he was willing to speak with residents, he often seemed impatient and distracted. On the dais, he was rude to his colleagues, city employees and members of the public. He frequently interrupted members of the public and other councilmembers when they were speaking. Bobby didn’t work well with others so he did not get very much done.

Soon after he was elected, Bobby’s lack of interest in local politics resurfaced. Except for a very few issues, Bobby seemed unprepared for meetings and unconcerned about the matters on the Council’s agenda. The City Council only meets twice a month, but Shriver completely missed 46 meetings -- 1 out of every 5 meetings. He was late, some times as much as two hours late, to 102 meetings. In fact, Shriver was present and on-time for only 39% of the Council’s meetings. And he often left meetings early before the public comment portion of the meeting.

I want a County Supervisor who listens to the public, treats everyone with respect, and can collaborate with her colleagues. I want a County Supervisor who shows up on time and is ready to work. I want a County Supervisor who stays as late as necessary to make sure all voices are heard. That’s why I am supporting Sheila Kuehl.

Gleam Davis

Santa Monica City Councilmember

An Open Response to Councilmember Gleam Davis from City Council Member Bob Holbrook:

Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Davis’s letter has all three.

My first reaction: The letter is too ridiculous to dignify with a response. But then I decided Davis and Kuehl should not get away with sending people such blatant lies.

The most effective lies are hinged on particles of truth. Let me sort the fact from the fiction:

1. Bobby did get involved in city politics because he received a letter from the city threatening him and many others, he soon found out, with $20,000-a-day fines if they did not cut their hedges to com- ply with a 1946 law that had not been enforced for decades. About 200 people organized and presented a set of well-reasoned arguments for taller hedges to the council. The council and city staff basically told them to take a flying leap. The issue immediately changed from hedges to the arrogant way City Hall treated the people it was supp- osed to be serving. I and others met with Bobby and pointed out how much good he could do on the council. Everyone who enters local pol- itics has a defining moment—realizing what he could do for the city was Bobby’s.

2. Bobby had to put a lot of his own money into his first camp- aign. Davis neglects to mention that his major opponent was the co- chair of the political machine that has controlled the city for the past 30 years. The machine’s PAC typically adds around $100,000 to the funds candidates raise. Another fact check: This was not the first in- stance of significant personal funding of a Santa Monica council race. In 1992 an independent candidate spent $65,000, mostly his own money, on his campaign and lost.

3. Regarding the red herring the Kuehl campaign has been throw- ing around since January: Only a desperate campaign would take the time to generate those statistics about meetings and votes. The council min- utes for eight years consist of about 1,600 pages. If anyone actually did the work, it would have taken about 20 hours to come up with those umbers—which means they can feed them to anyone without fear of contra- diction. Except when attending the funerals of his mother, uncle, and father, Bobby made sure he was present for every important vote. Santa Monica voters approved of the job he was doing by re-electing him in 2008 by more votes than any council candidate ever received. None of his own money went into that campaign.

4. Davis shovels on more untrue, unsupported claims, but for bre- vity, I’ll end with the most idiotic: “Bobby didn’t work well with others, so he did not get very much done.” Here’s a short list of what he got done—and he did all this while part of a 4-3 or 5-2 minority on the council. That’s the best evidence that he got along very well with his colleagues and city employees.

· Homelessness is down 20% in Santa Monica, even though it has increased in LA County. This would not have happened without Bobby’s work. Because people told him homelessness was their biggest concern, he got the council and city staff to change policies that were simply helping people live on the street to programs that helped them move off the streets into supportive housing. He convinced the council to hire former LA County Supervisor Ed Edelman as “Homeless Czar.” Ed, Bobby, and city staff work- ed to create programs that have moved hundreds of people into housing: the Homeless Court, the Serial Inebriate Program in the jail, and Project Homecoming, which reunites people with family, are three. Soon 60 chroni- cally homeless vets will move into a rehabilitated building on the West LA VA campus. Bobby made that happen.

· Santa Monica Bay had the second dirtiest water in the state. In 2006 Bobby raised funds and helped run the campaign to pass Measure V, which provided money to clean the storm water draining into the bay. Water quality went from D’s and F’s to A’s by 2011. Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold said, “Measure V never would have passed without Bobby Shriver.” · The Annenberg Beach House would not exist, if not for Bobby. He found out the State of California was ready to take back control because Santa Monica was not doing anything with it. He got Wallis Annenberg involved, which brought a grant from her foundation of $27 million and the beautifully restored public facility we enjoy today.

· Smarter city budgets resulted from Bobby’s watchdog mentality. City Manager Rod Gould told me, “Bobby made our staff perform better, be- cause they knew he was going to ask hard questions.” Even though it meant retribution from unions, Bobby wasn’t afraid to point out that the city’s pension plans are unsustainable, unless employees contribute to them. Santa Monica’s police union gave $50,000 to the union PAC supporting Kuehl, and not because of anything she ever did for public safety.

I could go on, but I hope it’s clear: Anyone who says Bobby “didn’t get much done” as a Santa Monica City Councilmember has been drinking too much Kuehl-Aid.

I have served on the Santa Monica City Council for 24 years. During that time, no other councilmember even came close to working as hard and getting as many good results as Bobby did. Los Angeles County would be very lucky to have him as a Supervisor, and that’s why I am supporting Bobby Shriver.


Bob Holbrook

P.S. Three other Santa Monica City Councilmembers have also endorsed Bobby, making a council majority.


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