By: Zoë Muntaner
By: Zoë Muntaner
By: Zoë MuntanerHAPPY EARTH DAY!!! Do you bike or walk to work? I do! I am a progressive believer of alternative transportation, and do not own a car in LA. Hard to believe but is doable. I ride the bus, walk, Uber, share rides, and bike…until last Sunday when the folks at Gumbiner and Savett, Inc. decided to hire a gardener to cut my lock and vandalized my bike. The following day I stopped by their offices to inquire about the insurance policy to cover damages, and was emailed back with the following reply from Rick Parent, Managing Director of Gumbiner & Savett:
Dear Ms. Muntaner:
I was forwarded your email concerning your claim that your bicycle was vandalized and in which you state that somehow Gumbiner Savett Inc. is to blame. Let me be direct and state that Gumbiner Savett is not responsible for your bicycle whatsoever. As a matter of fact, you have left your bicycle on our property for weeks if not months and it should have been thrown away a long time ago. There is a sign marked “private property” a few feet away from where your bicycle was abandoned.
Additionally, I understand from our employee, Maria Ruiz, that this morning you confronted her in an aggressive manner. You are hereby notified not to step foot on our property again and if you should do so, we will immediately contact the police to have you removed.
Lovely! No? Not only they engage in criminal activity, they also fabricate a lie to cover it. Let’s see what the SMPD has to say. More will be revealed.
Two years ago I started filming a documentary about the influence of money in our local elections. Amongst my advisors is fellow Santa Monica resident & filmmaker Holly Mosher who produced the documentary Pay2Play. We have a team of researchers committed to finding the connection (if any) between the bullying behavior of business and/or developers and their political contributions. Remember City Council candidate Phil Brock’s anti-development rhetoric last election? We found out he solicited money from a local developer and confronted Residiocracy’s support/endorsement of his candidacy at their rally; one of the many flip-flops on his political record. Yep, you can call me the Pay2Play police, pro bono service to our community. STAY TUNED, coming to a screen and theater near you!
In celebratory environment news, the first criminal charges were filed for the Flynt water fiasco. Environmental racism advocates should be rewarded for their hard work and activism.
As a storyteller, I showcase my work at different venues. In New York, I started my career with The Moth, Speakeasy, The Liar Show and The Talkingstick. Lucky for you I am back in the saddle and this weekend will be telling stories on Saturday: In Heroes We Can Trust on 5420 Adams Boulevard and Sunday at BUSted in Echo Park at Stories Books & Cafe.
Go to my Facebook page for details. ZOË MUNTANER PUBLIC EVENTS PAGE
YEAR OF THE MONKEY
According to Joni Yung, 2016 is a leap year, I couldn’t agree with her more. We both were born in a Monkey year.
For her is the end of a decade and beginning of a new one. For me is the launching of this platform and release of the documentary I started to film two years ago during my run as a Santa Monica City Council candidate. Time flies! We have a new election in seven months and the stakes are higher than two years ago. So exciting! I LOVE politics. I live for election season. Elections show the best and the worst of the human condition at the same time. It’s pure theater and seduction, so much fun to watch people lie with such conviction, and don’t get me started with the Saturday Night Life skits. The Press has its field day. You have to have thick skin to be in politics, if you can’t get the heat, kindly remove yourself from the kitchen because I will be covering our local and national elections, get ready. Diversity MATTERS and its Monkey Year!
Back to Joni. Like me, she is a long-time Santa Monica resident. She moved to town for college and stayed. We were both born on the year of the MONKEY, therefore, this is our year to celebrate under the Chinese Lunar Calendar. I met Joni two years ago on her birthday at SATTVA Yoga when I went to Friday Kirtan with Amita and Clay. It was a chilly winter night in December, you could not notice it from the warm intimacy of the room and the sensual soft movement of incense smoke twirling around. SATVA LA community closed on May 2015, but Joni still here.
For five years Joni has been moderating and producing YOGA CHAT, a podcast which covered my involvement and participation with The Mindful Living Health Expo through Compassionate Santa Monica back in 2015. you can listen to episodes here:
Joni is part of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition team, that will be participating in Climate Ride to have a positive impact on climate change. It will be her longest ride to date. I have been vocal about bicycle safety and support the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s work to make the LA region a healthy, safe and fun place to ride a bike. The team is captained by Greg Laemmle who returns for a fourth run as their fearless leader and as a seasoned vet who helps the team meet their fundraising goals. To read more about Joni and support her fundraising efforts click on the following link:
As she says: “female – check, minority – check, baby boomer – check! ” She is diversity on wheels and I wanted to hear more about Joni’s journey and celebrate her multifaceted interests and accomplishments. She now commutes primarily on bike, logging an average of 15-25 miles a day and still own the same car for 15 years, which she drives it around town whenever biking is inconvenient. Do you agree with me than we need more Jonis? Lets get to business, she needs to raise $3000 by May 8th, Mothers Day. Did I mention she is a wonderful mother of two amazing daughters? Open your hearts and wallets!
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY ART: is a new addition to the website development we are building for DIVERSITY MATTERS. I will be posting artwork on exhibition at our local galleries that move and inspire reflection to write. I love the blues, the lyrical, metaphorical and the actual color blue is my favorite (in all its hues). The sky, the ocean, I was born & grew up on an island …what you expect? Our environment deserves respect! Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery tells me about the shadow nature of our collective and individual souls. A penumbra is defined as an incomplete or partial shadow. In astronomy, it refers to the shadow cast on the earth by the moon in a partial eclipse. Brooklyn-based artist Randall Stoltzfus translates these natural phenomena in his current body of work. Celestial blue circles of cerulean and deep cobalt are layered and repeated, dispersed by a spectrum of soft white, yellow and black circles suggestive of dim shadows and illuminated horizon lines.
Stoltzfus’ meditative process begins slowly – compositions develop over months, and even years as controlled, circular layers of oil, hand-mixed pigments, and gold or palladium leaf are added over time. Abstracted landscapes and figures are illuminated and obscured in a push and pull of darkness and light as Stoltzfus builds visible texture. He compares his meticulous technique to the layering of scrim, a strong, coarse fabric, allowing the work to become a sum of its layers.
Layers are what I find fascinating about our local politics and the world at large. The more I research, the more I find, the more I learn, the more perspective I have to connect the dots. Sight and perception are intrinsic to Stoltzfus’ thoughtful process. “Our perception is … always partial, and always collective in a way we sometimes find difficult to acknowledge,” says Stoltzfus. “We see individual things, less often aware of the broader condition of light and shadow that make this possible. The sources that power our sight dwarf what we actually comprehend.” That is what sets me apart from the crowd. I am different, I represent diversity and that is my biggest asset as a writer, advocate and citizen.
PENUMBRA is an intimate study of light and the physiological response. Drawing reference from the color field painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, as well as the textured works of abstract expressionist Richard Pousett-Dart, Stoltzfus engages directly with his audience’s vision for a response that is at once physical and emotional. His paintings defy the two-dimensionality of the canvas to create visual narratives of wonder and mystery. I wonder if our City Council has the depth and courage to explore the shadow side on the implications of their votes at City Council Chambers? This work will be a good invitation to do that. A little reflection never hurt anybody. Kevin Mckewon is set to cut the ribbon at the Expo Se in Bergamot station, perhaps he will take a look.
In honor and celebration of the EXPO line opening at Bergamot Station, I will be posting a series of EXPO-SE posts starting next week. Get ready, is going to be a bumpy ride. Details for the EXPO-SE below. Don’t miss it!
Until next time…let’s get intense with it!
By: Zoë Muntaner
Before I start, I want to thank our City Manager, Rick Cole for giving me 40 minutes of his time today and listening to the projects I’d like to bring forth to our city. We had a productive exchange of ideas and the seeds of change were planted. Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer joined us at the end of the meeting, we reminisced on the words of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa eulogy of former LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s at his Saint Monica’s memorial last week: “Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres” (Google it!)
EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA!!!!!
A Coalition of Latino Residents and Neighborhood Groups Filed Lawsuit today against the City of Santa Monica. Challenging At-Large Election System in Santa Monica, Plaintiffs Claim At Large Elections Violate the California Voting Rights Act.
Santa Monica, California – Four months after minority residents notified the City of Santa Monica that its at-large system of electing its City Council violates the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”), and having received no response from the City, a coalition of Latino residents and neighborhood groups filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court today, demanding an end to Santa Monica’s racially-discriminatory election system. The lawsuit was brought by the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA), Maria Loya – a Latina activist and resident of Santa Monica, and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS). Since at-large elections were adopted in Santa Monica 70 years ago, only one Latino has ever been elected to the City Council. According to a report commissioned by the City in 1992, that is exactly why at-large elections were adopted in 1946 – to keep the minority residents living in the southern portion of the City from achieving representation. “As a mother, former city council candidate and resident of the Pico Neighborhood, I want to ensure that future elections are fair. The current at-large election system is illegal and has led to a lack of representation in local government, which in turn has led to neglect of our community. All residents and every neighborhood can benefit from a neighborhood-centered approach to representative democracy.” stated Maria Loya. Ms. Loya ran for City Council in 2004, and although she was overwhelmingly preferred by Latino voters, she placed 7th in a crowded field of 16 candidates for three seats. “Aside from providing residents more fairness in their elections, district elections can decrease the influence of special interests and increase the influence of residents over what happens in their neighborhoods,” added Cris McCleod, Chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association. Historically marginalized communities have used the CVRA to gain representation in municipal governments across the State. “In the 14 years since the CVRA was enacted, it has brought fair elections to more than 200 cities, counties and school districts. In the case of Santa Monica not only do the at-large elections violate the CVRA, they violate the California Constitution as well because they were adopted with the purpose of disenfranchising racial minorities,” explained attorney Kevin Shenkman who represents the Plaintiffs. Mr. Shenkman and his co-counsel – Rex Parris, Milton Grimes and Robert Rubin – has won hotly-contested CVRA cases against the cities of Highland and Palmdale, which was ultimately ordered by the court to adopt district-based elections after spending an estimated $7 million in legal fees. Other cities, like Hemet, Buena Park and Wildomar have voluntarily changed their election systems in response to letters from that legal team. “In our efforts to improve Malibu public schools, we have become keenly aware of how at-large elections prevent minority groups from having their voices heard. The intentionally discriminatory provision of the Santa Monica City Charter prevents not only the City, but also the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, from adopting district-based elections; we want the school board to be empowered to voluntarily adopt fair elections, and set an example for the students,” said Roui Israel, President of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools. Although seen as a wealthy liberal bastion, Santa Monica is a tale of two cities where minority residents living in the Pico Neighborhood have endured gang violence and all the other problems associated with California’s less-wealthy regions. Many residents have claimed for years that the City neglects their needs. “Our City leaders have an opportunity to bring justice to one of our City’s darkest moments, when people of color were deliberately disenfranchised. I hope that one day every resident and every neighborhood is represented in our government. Residents deserve equal representation, a stronger democracy and an electoral system that increases the influence of residents and decreases the influence of big donors,“ stated School Board Member and Pico Neighborhood resident Oscar de la Torre. Click on the link below to learn more:
THE KOUSSER REPORT
I became aware of the Kousser Report yesterday through one of my sources who directed me to the smfairelections.com website. Today I gave a copy of the report to our City Manager Rick Cole in a scheduled meeting to discuss the 2016 agenda of Compassionate Santa Monica & DIVERSITY MATTERS. Mr. Cole has never seen the report before and agreed to read it and get back to me with a comment. Basically the report findings established that if the City of Santa Monica wants to avoid the costly litigation of a lawsuit and public embarrassment of a racially discriminatory intent to prevent fair racial representation in our city government, they should replace the at-large system with elections by district. A waste of financial resources on its way…
This begs the question: What is worst? The people who initially committed the crime or the ones that knew it happened and did nothing about it, benefiting cycle after cycle to remain in power? Silence is compliance.
I personally have been victimized by the vicious monster of racial bias by city employees of Santa Monica. (That is subject to a whole new post intended for the future). This is the WHITE elephant in the room (no pun intended); both city officials and residents fail to address the issue and stuff it under a rug. The problem with that, is that it’s not a sustainable strategy. Sooner or later someone chooses to do a “Spring Cleaning”(no pun intended, I am behind mine) and the dirt come out to air polluting a carefully crafted narrative that no longer holds. Ohhhhh, Spring what have you brought us this year!
Who was in the room? was the question that started this blog, now we know that the white elephant (no pun intended) has been in the room all this time. How authentically diverse is the City of Santa Monica? Can a Liberal be a Racist? Are you familiar with the Inkwell statue? Can we have a real diverse represented democratic government with at-large election system? Do you know that the first City Council of color was appointed not elected, and when he ran in an election he lost? This is a National conversation I intend to start here.
NORMAL PEOPLE LIKE US
On March 25, I attended the Social Services Commission meeting at The Ken Edward Center to learn about how the City of Santa Monica is addressing homelessness. I went with an open mind to hear different perspectives, but as I listened to reports from the Santa Monica Police and OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) who manages most of the homeless shelters in the city, I became aware that the reason we have not made progress with the issue is the lack of compassion and tag line of this blog: Who was in the room? I will be posting an interview with Shawn Landers in an upcoming post to discuss issues related to the Social Services Commission. Click in the link below for more information:
At one point, one of the Commissioners phrased a question referring to “most of us” then went on to speak saying: “you know what I mean, normal people like US”. I checked out, my skin started to itch, I could not stay one more second in the room… but I patiently waited until I addressed with candor the lack of compassion and empathy from the comment. See, the only person who has spent time in a homeless shelter in that meeting was me. I have four years of field experience with the homeless population. Is part of my daily interactions on the bus and streets of Santa Monica. I can tell you they are PEOPLE like us, with unfortunate circumstances and no access to mental healthcare. If we claim to be a model of a Wellbeing Community and affirm the Charter for Compassion, we must address the issues of inequality head on without fear or shame. The conversation is over, is time for action. Compassionate ACTION.
As the old adage goes: “Actions speak louder than words”
By: Zoë Muntaner
Through the years, people asked me to blog about any of my many passions. It took me a while to finally commit and launch something sustainable with meaning and purpose. Thanks to everyone that read the inaugural post and to the many who encouraged me to write it. I’m profoundly grateful and humbled by the praise and road ahead. With purpose, I will give voice to the less fortunate and push the boundaries of our thinking with compassion. My aim is to bring light and awareness to issues vital to our community and the world at large. Your feedback is always welcome and brings hope that one single person can make a difference. In the words of Activist & Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai: “When the whole world becomes silent, even one voice becomes powerful”
That was the meme I used to tweet about the Santa Monica Democratic Club presentation & discussion of the Downtown Community Plan (formerly Downtown Specific Plan) this past Wednesday at the Santa Monica Main Library. The panel included Santa Monica planning director David Martin, community activist and Ocean Park Organization board member Mary Marlow who co-chairs a neighborhood group subcommittee studying the DCP, and architect Ron Goldman, a member of Santa Monica Architects for a responsible tomorrow (SMart) which is also studying the DCP. Although they brought flash drives with their respective presentations, no one brought a laptop and mine was designated to make the visuals available to all. Hence, now everyone not present that night can view the presentations by clicking on the names here:
You be the judge of what you envision Downtown Santa Monica should look like for future generations. I respect my readers too much to encourage support or boycott petitions. I also respect the democratic process that allows citizens to take control of their desitny and encourage active participation in the political process. Anyone who discourages the activism of its citizens in the process is not a friend of democracy. My job is to present information and data, your job is to analyze it. DIVERSITY MATTERS is about sharing different perspectives of our own humanity and how we approach the daily task of living while affirming our personal and political identities. I am inspired by grassroots organization, the mobilization that evolves our democracy. Bernie Sanders Campaign is an example of how committed citizens can transform the political culture and create revolutionary results. In our city, Residiocracy proved to inspire residents through the Hines referendum and now they are trying to repeat the feat with the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE). I dig living in a city of engaged political discourse. As a Sander’s newsletter in my inbox read: “Our power comes from a simple, timeless truth: when people come together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
ROBERT FRANK @ BERGAMOT STATION
Bergamot Station Arts Center continues to be a hub of artistic activity unrivaled not only in the city of Santa Monica but in the Western United States. Robert Frank, one of the most important visual artists, (His photos bookend this post.) has created an exhibition of works presently on view at building g-1 home of the old Santa Monica Museum of Art. This show is compiled of the artist’s photographic prints, books, and films. It is a most amazing feat to have an exhibition of this importance and magnitude at Bergamot Station, and for this we must thank Shoshana and Wayne Blank, the founders of Bergamot Station Arts Center; Richard Ehrlich of UCLA; Steidl Publishing House; and the Steve Tisch foundation, all of whom had the vision and fortitude to bring to our city a world class show that will be traveling to 40 other international museums and institutions. The exhibit is the brainchild of Gerhard Steidl, Robert Frank’s longtime friend and publisher. In New York Gerhard Steidl gave a Master Class to students and post doctoral candidates -“How To Make A Book” and offered critiques to any interested students. The exhibition was was a smashing hit! Thus our mandate is clear: to duplicate if not surpass it in LA at the Santa Monica Museum space at Bergamot Station. Robert Frank: Books & Films 1947-2016 runs through April 16, 2016. Do not miss it!
At a time when the city of Santa Monica, owner of most of the land the arts center inhabits, is contemplating a plan to turn the center into an office building and hotel complex, it is very important to note that the artist, his collaborators, and supporters chose Bergamot Station because of its worldwide reputation for being an accessible and open arts venue for all to come and appreciate and enjoy for free. Robert Frank’s most iconic body of work, ‘The Americans’, photographs made on several road trips throughout the United States in the 1950s, is best known for its portrayal of the inequality of race and economics that existed in this period of American history. Right now, in 2016, we, Americans, are confronted by such very similar issues.
The City of Santa Monica has long had the reputation of being a haven for those committed to racial, economic and cultural diversity. I fear this is no longer true. The city seems bent on becoming an enclave of the wealthy and privileged. Do we really need another hotel / office business park? When all is said and done, a forward thinking city needs to realize that investing in the cultural life of its citizens is also the best investment for the economic life of the city. At this moment, we are at a critical juncture. The galleries at Bergamot Station have a vested interest in continuing to bring to the our audience significant, far-reaching and diverse exhibitions and events that enrich and enhance our collective lives in our city. The Robert Frank exhibition is a most fine example of what they strive to accomplish day in and out. Robert Frank has stated that his intention with this exhibition is to make young folks aware of these works. When asked what advice he would give a young photographer, he responded -“keep your eyes open”!!! That advice also applies to Santa Monica residents that concern themselves with the dramatic changes to the character of our city and the direction the Planning & Community Development Department is taking. The second day of the exhibition I witnessed hundreds of students from all parts of Los Angeles County at the center. This is community at its best. Diversity lives at Bergamot Station.
MARIMBA MADE ME DO IT
Last Sunday I went the Main Street Farmer’s Market to get groceries. The sun was hiding behind clouds but the atmosphere was celebratory and joyful. At this point, I’d like to introduce another member of the Santa Monica community, Venice HS teacher and community organizer Marcy Winograd. Marcy and I met up at the busy Main Street Farmers Market last Sunday.
Marcy shared with me: “Standing there at the Farmer’s Market, a few blocks from my home, I felt as though I was at the intersection of African, Latin, and American traditions” as the talented Masanga Marimba band captivated the crowd with beats and song from Zimbabwe and Latin America .”
(Remember that I’m Latina, I hear Latin sounds and I am trasported, anything can happen when I hear Afrocaribbean sounds, so I allowed Marcy to tape me and share in Facebook to much of my embarasment.)
Back to Marcy … “According to the band’s website (masanga.com), “The word Masanga comes from an African word that means coming together of rivers …” and indeed the lyrics and music brought people together of diverse ethnicities and ages. This wasn’t just a venue for adults but children, too, for in between jam sessions, when the band took a break, girls and boys, toddlers among them, practiced percussion, experimenting with their own brand of Marimba as their wrists went wild. Kudos to Dr. Ric Alviso, a CAL State Northridge ethnomusicologist and professor of World Music, for assembling this rare 9-member ensemble and bringing the beats to Santa Monica, and a special thanks to City staff for inviting Masanga for a repeat performance.”
Until next time, join the Diversity Bandwagon!