By Jorge Casuso
February 25 – After deadlocking for seven rounds before a packed audience, the City Council elected Planning Commissioner Gleam Davis to fill the vacancy left by Herb Katz, who died last month after a long bout with cancer.
The selection of Davis -- who is co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the powerful tenants group Katz fought for most of his political career – makes it the first time in a decade that two women occupy seats on the dais.
The appointment was a drag-out battle of wills between SMRR members Mayor Ken Genser, who held steady for seven ballots in his support of Patricia Hoffman, SMRR's other co-chair, and Council member Pam O’Connor, who was equally staunch in her support for Davis.
Council member Bobby Shriver, who unsuccessfully called for a special election when it seemed none of the 27 applicants had the necessary four votes, stuck for all eight rounds with Ted Winterer, who finished fifth behind Katz in the November race for four council seats.
Winterer fell one-vote shy on three rounds, while Hoffman and Davis did so on two rounds before the meeting was briefly adjourned after a masked woman clad in a silk green costume and green hat jingled into the chambers.
After the council resumed ten minutes later, Genser finally broke with Hoffman, joining O’Connor, Bloom and Holbrook in support of Davis.
Council member Kevin McKeown, who had shifted to Hoffman when it became clear Winterer did not have the necessary four votes, then switched his vote to Davis. Holbrook, on the other hand, switched back to Winterer with no explanation.
Davis was immediately sworn in and took her seat on the dais.
“I really do want to thank you all, and I will try and live up to the faith you’ve placed in me,” Davis said as soon as she took her seat. “I really look forward to serving all the people of Santa Monica.”
Davis, an attorney for AT&T and a graduate of Harvard Law School, finished fifth with 9,471 votes in the 2006 race for three open council seats behind Terry O’Day, who finished fourth with 11,756 votes. Although O’Day submitted an application for the seat, he was never nominated.
Hoffman, A member of the Bayside District Board who served two terms on the School Board, had finished a close fourth with 12,584 votes in the 2004 race for three open seats, fewer than 1,000 votes behind Genser. The two have been loyal SMRR allies and members of the group’s steering committee for more than two decades.
In fact, the only candidate nominated besides Davis, Hoffman and Winterer was former mayor Nat Trives, the only African American to hold a council seat. Holbrook nominated Trives, who had vowed not to seek reelection to the seat in 2010, in an effort to break the deadlock.
Like Shriver’s effort to call a special election, the motion went nowhere.
But whereas Trives’ nomination was a last resort to find a compromise, holding an election was Shriver’s preference from the start.
“When you win (an election), you feel a tremendous responsibility to represent the people who voted for you,” Shriver said at the beginning of the deliberations. "“That’s a powerful thing.
“I don’t think an election is expensive,” he said, noting that people in countries around the world sacrifice their lives for the right to vote. “One hundred thousand dollars is really cheap for what this is.”
City officials estimated an election, which would likely have taken place in mid-June, would have cost taxpayers about $150,000.
After Shriver indicated he would vote for Winterer if an election was not called, Genser said he would back the candidate “who has a track record with a wide range of issues,” referring to Hoffman.
In the first round, McKeown nominated Winterer, who was backed by Shriver and Holbrook, while Hoffman had the support of Genser and Bloom. Only O’Connor voted for Davis.
By the third round, Bloom had joined O’Connor in backing Davis and in the fourth and fifth rounds Holbrook had joined them. But Bloom switched backed to Hoffman in the sixth round.
That’s when the masked woman – it was Mari Gras -- walked into the packed chamber, strolled up to the dais, her steps setting off a jingling whir of percussive sounds, and began to confer to the City Clerk.
Bloom called for a break..
The council members mingled with the candidates and their supporters, while O’Connor sat dourly alone on the dais.
When the council reconvened, McKeown, Genser and Bloom voted for Hoffman, Shriver stuck with Winterer and Holbrook voted for Trives, leaving Davis once again only with O’Connor’s vote.
Finally, in the eigth round, Genser broke with Hoffman, joining O'Connor, Bloom and Holbrook. Davis had her four votes.