By Jorge Casuso
October 30 -- City Council incumbent Pam O'Connor is
the latest target in what is rapidly becoming one of the most
negative local elections since tenants and landlords began fighting
for City Hall a quarter century ago.
But this time, the hard-hitting piece comes not from opponents
of the powerful tenants' group, but from slow-growth supporters
of Council member Kevin McKeown, one of O'Connor's Santa
Monicans for Renters' Rights running mates in the race for three
open council seats November 7.
The mailer -- sent by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable
City's (SMCLC) political action committee -- accuses O'Connor
of being "willing to sell Santa Monica out to developers,"
and focuses on contributions made to her campaign by officials
and employees of the Macerich Company, which owns Santa Monica
"City Councilmember Pam O'Connor took thousands of dollars
from one developer months before she was to vote on their project,"
reads the mailer, which shows a dour-looking O'Connor next to
large green dollar signs.
The mailer urges voters to "tell Pam O'Connor and developers
that Santa Monica is NOT for sale," and concludes, "It'’s
our city. Let's take it back."
O'Connor openly acknowledges having received the 13 checks from
Macerich employees referred to in the flyer. But she quickly adds
that, like the other council members, she voted to send the company
back to the drawing board after its plan to redevelop Santa Monica
Place and include a 21-story condo tower failed to win support.
"This is the only thing they could find -- that I took legal
money," said O'Connor, who is seeking a fourth council term.
'It didn't influence my vote, but they're trying to spin it into
O'Connor said that leaders of the coalition -- which was formed
less than two years ago to oppose the Macerich project -- have
tried to influence the council, sitting in the third row of the
council chambers earlier this month to visibly back one of their
members for a seat on the Convention and Visitors Bureau board.
The coalition's candidate failed to win the appointment, with
McKeown casting the only supporting vote.
"This is a special interest group who don't want leaders on the
council," O'Connor said. "They want people who jump when
they say jump."
"These are people with deep pockets who don't like me, because
they can't dictate to me," she said. "The longstanding
community groups have never tried to strong arm me."
The mailer exposes a rift in the SMRR ranks that has been growing
since long before the election campaign kicked into gear. During
the group's convention in early August, McKeown endorsed Gleam
Davis, but not O'Connor, for the SMRR slate. (see
Among those bankrolling the coalition's mailer were SMCLC head
Diana Gordon, Pier Restoration Corporation Chair Ellen Brennan,
Elizabeth Riel and Victor Fresco, according to a campaign finance
report filed with the City Clerk last week.
Brennan, Riel (who was pictured in a mailer for McKeown) and
Fresco each gave $250, the maximum allowed under local election
law, to McKeown's campaign, according to a campaign finance statement
filed earlier this month.
The two other contributors to the mailer – which hit mail
boxes this weekend – were Laurel Ronneau, a long-time friend
and supporter of McKeown, and Art Harris, a longtime supporter
and former member of the Bayside District Board.
McKeown returned Brennan's $250 donation because it was in violation
of the Oaks Initiative, which bars candidates from receiving money
from individuals and organizations who benefited from their votes.
The law -- approved by voters six years ago and being challenged
by the council at the ballot box November 7 -- covers members
of the Pier, Bayside and Convention and Visitors Bureau boards,
all of which receive funding from the City. (see
Members of the School and College boards also are subject to
the law's restrictions because both governing bodies receive
funding from the City.
The mailer against O'Connor comes in the midst of an expensive,
hard-hitting campaign against McKeown bankrolled by the Edward
Thomas Management Company, which owns Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters
on the Beach. (see
A demonstration was held outside the hotels Sunday. (see