In 1995’s “The American President,” screenwriter Aaron Sorkin gave these beautiful words to fictional President Andrew Shepherd in the dramatic press conference scene near the end of the movie: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”

Santa Monica is much the same way. And this year, with the very survival of rent control essentially on the ballot, we recommend electing Ellis Raskin, Caroline Torosis, and Natalya Zernitskaya to the city council. We also have very kind words about candidates Jesse Zwick and Albin Gielicz, but more on them in a moment.

Mr. Raskin, an environmental attorney, is no backslapper. He’s not going to wow you with flowery or intense charisma. But he is going to shower you with competence and policy know-how. And that’s more than enough for us. As a planning commissioner, he’s adept at all things development and has stood up to commercial projects that do not fit city or neighborhood character. He’ll be ready on day one to implement the zoning changes and housing boom coming through the recently passed Housing Element. He is committed to renters and is endorsed by our good friends Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR). We like and trust his commitment to sustainability and know he’ll keep Santa Monica moving in the right direction on water self-sufficiency and other environmental measures.

Ms. Torosis is a former Rent Control Board colleague of Westside Voice’s publisher Todd Flora, and you better believe that has us biased in her favor. She’s an incredibly bright attorney who is an expert on L.A. County policy as Senior Deputy, Workforce Development & Economic Opportunity for Supervisor Holly Mitchell. Her expertise in labor and economic matters, and having some friends at the county level, will only help Santa Monica. Her fierce advocacy for renters is unparalleled. Torosis recently led to the development of Measure RC, also on the November 8 ballot, that would lower the maximum an annual rent adjustment can reach from six percent to three percent. This will really help renters deal with our inflationary times and bring much needed relief to our already rent-burdened residents. She, too, is endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renter’s Rights and will also be a strong ally to Raskin on sustainability measures. Torosis is also a wonderful collaborator and her council colleagues will be thankful to have her by their side.

We’ve only come to know Ms. Zernitskaya this calendar year, but we are impressed. A former President of the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica, Zernitskaya has an impressive immigrant story and all the bravery and character that comes with having fled the former Soviet Union with her family in the early 1990s. She has known want in her life as the daughter of parents on food stamps, and has a deep appreciation for rent control, which she says helped contribute to her family eventually being able to achieve a better life. We are confident her years of involvement in civic affairs, including roles as a Board Member of the Human Relations Council of the Santa Monica Bay Area and Advisory Board Member of Climate Action Santa Monica, have prepared her to roll up her sleeves and get to work on council matters. As a past president of the League of Women Voters, she will also no doubt approach every issue with tact and an open mind and seek collaborative relationships with council colleagues.

While we are endorsing Raskin, Torosis, and Zernitskaya, we do have some things to say about other candidates. Appointed Councilmember Lana Negrete is very affable, loves Santa Monica, and clearly looks like she’s enjoying the work from the dais. However, she disqualified herself recently when she tried to bring an 11th-hour proposal forward that would have completely dismantled the rent control system Santa Monica has enjoyed since 1979. Whether the idea was hers or whether she was unwittingly used by the group calling itself “Progressive Landlords of Santa Monica” is immaterial. She needs to start listening to different people and show better judgment. We also encourage her to grow a thicker skin when her motives are questioned, as they deserved to be on the rent control matter. Finally, she just too often sides with the so-called “change slate” councilmembers that, as Mr. Zwick likes to say, want to take Santa Monica back to the 1950s.

Speaking of, we really like Jesse Zwick. He’s incredibly intelligent and well-spoken, and in an interview we conducted shows he really knows the issues and has solid policy positions that are in line with our own. He has the SMRR endorsement as well as that of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Mayor Sue Himmelrich, among others. Our only ask of Jesse is that get more involved in Santa Monica first. Whether it be the SMRR steering committee, through boards or commissions, or some other venue, we would like Jesse to be more of a Santa Monica fixture before advancing to the city council. But a vote for him is laudable.

Much like what he enjoys with Ms. Torosis, Westside Voice publisher Todd Flora has a good working relationship and friendship with Albin Gielicz, who has deeply involved himself in Santa Monica over the years. He’s chaired the Board of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism, where he served for eight years; currently serves as a Recreation & Parks Commissioner; Board member of the Montana Avenue Merchants Association; and was a Board Member with Sustainable Works, among still many other boards and committees. He’s incredibly kind, thoughtful, and just a joy to be around. He already has good relationships with several sitting councilmembers and is qualified on day one to serve on the council. Should he win, we’re only waiting until 2026 for a possible endorsement to see if his independent streak will dependably keep him at a healthy distance from the so-called “change slate” councilmembers on certain policy matters that we find problematic. But we wish him well.

Voters, your choices are even more numerous, as we have not addressed every candidate. We encourage you to use city and private resources to learn about other candidates. But for 2022, we strongly encourage you to land on the side of Ellis Raskin, Caroline Torosis, and Natalya Zernitskaya for Santa Monica City Council.

Campaign Websites

Ellis Raskin —

Caroline Torosis —

Natalya Zernitskaya —

Jesse Zwick —

Albin Gielicz —

Photo by welcomia

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