For the first time in a decade, the Santa Monica City Council must pick a new member to join the seven-member body, filling the seat of the late Councilman Herb Katz, who passed away January 7th from a longtime battle with cancer.

At its meeting January 27th, the council officially declared the seat of Katz — who had for over three decades been involved in public service in Santa Monica, most recently serving as mayor last year — vacant.

The council also adopted a resolution to begin the appointment process for the vacant seat. Councilman Bobby Shriver was the only opposing vote, as he felt strongly that a special election should be held instead.

The Santa Monica City Charter states that the council must make an appointment within 30 days of declaring a seat vacant.

If the council fails to come to a decision within 30 days, an election will be held to fill the vacant seat.

“I do think we should try to make an appointment if we can — if there are at least four council members who agree on who that person should be,” said Mayor Ken Genser. “I think an election not only delays the decision but is also very costly at a time when we shouldn’t be making unnecessary expenditures.”

Genser did note that he recognized people have different points of views of what is and isn’t unnecessary.

But Shriver thought that the council should hold a special election, especially since the person who is chosen to fill

Katz’s spot will serve a full two-year term.

Shriver acknowledged that a special election could be expensive — about $100,000 — but said that, for the democratic process and “for the legitimacy of the council, it’s an insignificant amount of money.”

The last time a vacancy existed on the council was when Asha Greenberg resigned in September 1988.

Her seat was filled by Councilman Richard Bloom, who was elected in 1999 after the council could not agree on an appointee.

At the council meeting January 27th, Bloom noted that the City Charter “that governs us is pretty direct; it gives us some pretty strong direction on what we should be looking at.”

That direction, he says, is to try to appoint someone, and if the council cannot come to a consensus on an appointee, holding a special election to fill the vacant seat.

“I really do think it’s important for us to at least make an attempt to appoint a member of the City Council,” Bloom said.

Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor agreed with Bloom that the council should be guided by the City Charter.

“The charter was adopted by the voters of Santa Monica,” she said. “I think it’s important to honor the charter and begin with an appointment.”

Applications and letters of interest for the vacant seat must be submitted by Tuesday, February 17th. Those applications will become open to the public shortly thereafter.

The City Council will attempt to start the process of making an appointment at its meeting Tuesday, February 24th.

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