Last month, Santa Monica Next reached out to all 10 candidates for City Council with an 11 question questionnaire. Some questions were written to give voters an idea of the candidates personality, others on their positions. So far, six candidates have responded. We would like to thank (in order of response) Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis, Mende Smith, Ted Winterer, John Mann and Terrance Later for their responses.


In past Q and A’s, we’ve made meme’s for one of the candidates to accompany the story. At the moment, we’ve memed each candidate that has submitted an answer to our questionnaire, so we’re going to skip that portion in the interest of fairness until we get to LV next week. Every candidate will get an LV meme.

If you’re just joining us, here is a list to past Q and A’s:

We hope to hear from Mayor Tony Vazquez, Armen Melkonians, Oscar de la Torre and James Watson so we can share their answers for the remaining six questions.

Today’s Question : Despite the fact that roughly 25% of Santa Monicans are between 18 and 35 years old (2010 census), there is currently nobody in this age group on the City Council. Why do you believe this age group is underrepresented? Do you believe it is the responsibility of our current leadership to help cultivate young leaders? If so, what can our current leaders be doing to better facilitate the growth of young leaders? What can you do, if anything, personally?

Gleam Davis : 

I think young people are underrepresented because being on the City Council is time-consuming and it may be difficult for people just starting careers and families to make that time commitment  Also, they may be more engaged with professional organizations or the school district and other institutions that have a more immediate impact on their careers and families.  Nevertheless, I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of current leaders to cultivate and encourage young leaders.  To reach young people, we need to go where they are.  The City needs to do more focused outreach to this group by using technology to allow them to participate even if they cannot attend a meeting.  At a personal level, I try and attend events that are likely to attract younger people.  If they seem to be looking for ways to get involved, I make sure they know about programs such as the People’s Academy where they can learn about city government and meet other community members.  I may also recommend that they identify an issue about which they can be passionate and encourage them to make that the focus of their efforts. 

Jon Mann : 

Nothing! No one young OR old can get elected without the backing of Santa Monica Renters Rights, City Employee Associations, and/or developers. A young person who is against growth doesn’t have a chance, although SM Next and SM Forward would like to compete with SMRR and put its own puppets on the council so they can turnb the city into Miami Beach!

Ted Winterer : 

I suspect the underrepresentation of this age group has to do a lot with the fact that public service on the Council requires a great commitment of time and energy for very little compensation. Younger citizens are busy building careers, finding life partners and rightfully enjoying their youth while those of us of, ahem, a certain age are financially more secure, in established, long term relationships and more likely to be able to devote our time to our community.

That said, we do need to cultivate young leaders and efforts such as our People’s Academy and heightened focus on outreach through social media acknowledge address that need.  I’m personally always interested in appointing younger residents to our boards and commissions and getting this demographic involved in our local political organizations. My personal efforts have ranged from involving Samohi students in the discussion of our recent minimum wage ordinance to cofounding Climate Action Santa Monica, which has engaged many of our youth in addressing our most significant cross-generational challenge.

Mende Smith : 

It certainly is our responsibility. A great way for young people to participate in local government is to run for and get on the college board at Santa Monica College. But why is there only one trustee elected yearly when the college board is made up of 7 people? Electing more than one student would give a greater voice to the younger generation, and give more experience to those in need. I’d like to see a lot of the ‘Berners’ who went to Santa Monica College this year and campaigned for Bernie, also run for the four-year term if they get the opportunity. I advocate for civics engagement.

Terry O’Day : 

I believe there are multiple reasons behind this phenomenon, but among other factors, we have serious issues with local leadership discouraging young people from participating. I was 28 when appointed to the Planning Commission and 36 when appointed to Council.

When I first expressed interest to Denny Zane about Planning Commission, he told me it was “not my time.” When I met the first Planning Commission colleague the day of my first meeting, she told me that “young people were moving into town and changing the character of the city with their discretionary spending.” I gave her a confused look and she asked my age. Then she told me she meant 27 year olds. It’s funny to recollect, but not really.

Sitting through a SMRR convention makes it clear that it is difficult for young people to break through the old guard. It becomes especially clear when the will of the convention’s floor votes is overruled by the old-guard on the steering committee, which has ruled the organization for decades.

I will work with our community on the following strategies to address this. First, increasing opportunities to bring young voters into city government and expose them to how our government works. This will include supporting the growth of the Santa Monica Citizenship Academy, pressing our local institutions such as the Chamber and SMRR to open programs and membership to young voters, using our board and commission appointments to provide new opportunities for civic participation, and using new communication tools to reach voters where they already are.

Terence Later : 

This age group is under-represented in all political offices, not only in Santa Monica, so it makes sense that there are no people between 18-35 currently serving on City Council. I would like to see that change though and I feel the best way to do it is to work with established youth-centered initiatives such as Police Athletic League (PAL), Pico Youth & Family Center (PYFC), International Police Association Youth (IYG) and the Santa Monica Jaycees to groom their members who have an interest in serving their community. I have been involved with these organizations for years and have always had a strong hands-on approach to working closely with youth. We need to continue to enrich and develop programs that will build strong leaders right here in our community.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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