Author: christinahanford

Council declares Katz’s seat vacant

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...

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Santa Monica: City Council delays ban on single-use plastic bags

The Santa Monica City Council was set to adopt an ordinance earlier this month banning single-use plastic bags from all retail establishments in the city, but postponed taking action on the ban so that city staff could conduct additional environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A day before the meeting, the city received a 17-page letter from Stephen Joseph, an attorney representing, which is an association of plastic bag manufacturers and related businesses, stating its intent to file a lawsuit against the city after the ban is passed, according to Dean Kubani, the director of the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “The letter alleges that the city’s claim of a CEQA exemption that’s written in our staff report right now is invalid and that the group has provided sufficient information to require the city, at a minimum, prepare an environmental impact report [EIR] prior to the adoption of this ordinance,” said Kubani. EIRs are required before any ordinance is passed that may have a significant negative impact on the environment. Because of the letter from the coalition, Santa Monica city staff recommended that the council still hold a public hearing and give direction on the substance of the proposed ordinance, but defer the first reading and adoption of the ordinance, so staff could perform an appropriate level of environmental review. Kubani noted that...

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Smoking ban extended to common areas of multiunit housing

Once again, Santa Monica has extended its far-reaching smoking ban. At a meeting earlier this month, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved an ordinance amending the current anti-smoking law to regulate smoking in common areas of multiunit residential housing. The item had gone before the council in October last year, but the council sent the ordinance back to the drawing board for revisions that would protect noncompliant tenants from possible eviction. City attorney Marsha Moutrie pointed out at that meeting that, because of rent control in Santa Monica, “landlords may have a huge financial incentive to evict existing tenants.” While that would be a financial motive independent of the purposes of the ordinance — to protect health and safety — it is still a reality. “Council directed staff to go back and prepare an ordinance that would do two things, curb and actually prohibit smoking in common areas of multi-unit residential properties, while also protecting the rights of existing tenants from possible eviction or harassment as a result of the prohibition,” said attorney Adam Radinsky, head of Santa Monica’s Consumer Protection Unit. “The ordinance we have prepared, we believe, meets both of those concerns of council.” The ordinance provides a right of action for any person to go to Small Claims Court and collect damages of at least $100 in response to a person who smokes in a...

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City Council releases funds to school district that were held up in special ed controversy

After over a year and a half, the Santa Monica City Council voted at a recent council meeting to release remaining account funds — in the amount of $804,470 — to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) as part of its Master Facilities Joint Use Agreement. Since June 2007, the city had withheld these funds pending further action by the school district regarding its controversial Special Education Program. The city cited concerns brought forth by parents of special education students about a policy that had been in place for several years requiring them to sign confidentiality clauses in their settlement agreements. In order to receive the funds, the council required that the district put a moratorium on the policy and conduct an independent evaluation of its special education plan by March of last year. The district has complied. At that time, Tim Walker was deputy superintendent and Dianne Talarico was superintendent of the district. Since then, both have resigned. An independent audit of the district’s Special Education Program, conducted by Lou Barber and Associates, noted several concerns — including the fact that confidentiality clauses create a sense of “secret deals and unequal treatment of students and families.” “The use of settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses needs to be reduced dramatically,” the consultants said, adding that the district needs to “create a culture of much more transparency and openness...

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Edison Language Academy fundraiser featuring comedian Carlos Mencia canceled hours before performance

A comedy night fundraiser that was scheduled to feature Carlos Mencia, Gabriel Iglesias and Greg Fitzsimmons to benefit Santa Monica’s Edison Language Academy was canceled by interim superintendent Tim Cuneo the afternoon of Sunday, January 11th. The event was scheduled for 7 p.m. that evening at Barnum Hall, on the Santa Monica High School campus. Proceeds from the event were to go to the Edison Parent Teachers Association (PTA) to support instructional aides, art and music programs, field trips and assemblies. The event was canceled because the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District had received several complaints from community members who felt that the material to be presented in the comedy night fundraiser at Barnum Hall wasn’t consistent with district standards, Cuneo said. “There were concerns that [the material] really kind of divided the community,” Cuneo said. “What we want to do is unite our school community, not divide it.” He continued, “Every performer has a reputation, and [Mencia] has a certain genre that he uses, so knowing what his genre is, some people really objected to it.” Mencia’s style of comedy is political and typically involves issues of social class, race and culture. Cuneo said the district does not support “material that demeans or exploits women or any other racial or minority groups.” Added school board president Ralph Mechur, “What’s the message we’re sending if we’re inviting adults to...

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