In 2022, The Election Changed the Mayor, Sheriff, and City Council. But Santa Monica's Problems Remain
After an election where voters by and large reaffirmed the State's agenda on problems such as crime and homelessness, 2023 began.
January 13, 2023
Our picks for the top ten local stories of 2022 come mostly from politics, Santa Monica being a political town and last year being an election year.
1. Gas, water and power prices all went through the roof. At one point it was over $7 a gallon to fill up your car. Prices did go down a little after the election.
2. Homelessness: The homeless get blamed for every crime but are responsible in fact only for some crimes. And most of those are committed against other homeless people. But the number of homeless on the streets and the city's quality of life they degrade was undeniably the top local story of 2022.
3. Covid-19 faded as an issue as the year progressed. County Health Tzar Barbara Ferrer threatened to reimpose a mask mandate as case numbers increased. Most people experienced the Omicron variant as no worse than a bad cold, however. So far, Ferrer has backed down on reimposing the indoor mask requirement.
4. Parking Garage Number 3: The City tore down the 50-year-old parking garage in Downtown Santa Monica, intending to replace it with a homeless treatment center. As of today, the parking lot has been paved over, and there is currently no construction activity. No one is sure why.
5. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was the only local elected official who took action on the homeless, moving them off of Venice Beach and into hotels through Operation Roomkey. The electorate, however, was unimpressed, removing Villanueva from office by a large (almost 2:1) margin. They even approved a measure giving the County Board of Supervisors authority to remove his successor, should they choose to do so.
6. Former Mayor Dies in a Plane Crash on the Beach. A Cessna in which Rex Minter, 95, former Santa Monica mayor and councilmember, had been a passenger, crash-landed and flipped upside down just south of the Pier on December 23rd. The pilot, who had been attempting to make an emergency landing on the beach, was taken to a hospital. According to a flight recording, the pilot reported engine trouble and tried to return to the airport. It was a spectacular accident and end to a long career.
7. Murder at Public Library. A homeless man allegedly stabbed to death another homeless man at 7 pm on Friday July 28th in front of the Santa Monica Main Library at 601 Santa Monica Blvd., said SMPD spokesman Myesha Morrison. The suspect, later identified as 34-year-old Quade Larry Colbert, allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed the victim twice. The victim died at the scene. He has since been identified as 46-year-old Rimond Esmaeil Blandi. Colbert ran from the scene. He was tracked down and arrested. The incident underlined why people have come to feel unsafe in Santa Monica.
8. Sheila Kuehl retired from Politics: She had been on the LA County Board of Supervisors from 2014 to 2022. Previously Kuehl had served in the State Assembly and Senate. At 82, the former actress decided to hang up the politics. Some say a minor scandal involving funding for a friend's toll-free number to report sexual harassment at MTA was involved. The well-funded phone number got less than one call per month. Lindsey Horvath, a protege of Kuehl's, replaced her on the Board, defeating Bob Hertzberg for the seat.
9. Sue Himmelrich's opponents were surprised when the former mayor announced she would not run for re-election. She and her well-connected husband had been involved in local politics for 20 years, ensuring that as many housing units as possible would be approved for every square inch of public lands. This over the objection of some who felt SM was becoming too crowded.
10. City Council Election: Two of three elected to City Council were SMRR candidates: Caroline Torosis and Jessie Zwick. The former is said to be a protege of Himmelrich's, but time will tell if that's true. Zwick is a progressive believed to have outspent his opponents two to one. A slate of Santa Monica Forward candidates was largely unsuccessful, with only Lana Negrete being selected for SM City Council.