With his family and supporters standing by, 32-year-old Alan Katz was named to the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday night, filling the vacancy created by the death of Councilman Ken Edwards.
Katz, the rumored front-runner among several people vying the seat, was sworn in moments after his appointment. Sitting with his council colleagues for the first time, the bearded businessman said he hopes to provide a fresh perspective on issues facing the city.
Katz said that he will honor Edwards' well-known commitment to the "politics of civility and communication." But he added that he also intends to follow his own path. "I'm not Ken Edwards," he said. "I'm Alan Katz."
Katz's appointment was approved by a 4-0 vote with one abstention.
The liberal Democrat won the unanimous support of the All Santa Monica Coalition, which holds the council majority. Coalition members are Mayor Christine E. Reed and Councilmen William Jennings, David Epstein and Herb Katz (no relation).
Councilman Dennis Zane, an Edwards ally in Santa Monicans' for Renters Rights, a minority faction led by tenant activists, abstained from the voting after an unsuccessful attempt to have the selection postponed. Minority member James Conn was absent.
Renter activists had criticized Reed for calling the special meeting after Conn announced that he was unable to attend because of other commitments. Reed made a public apology to Conn Tuesday night, but said the hastily called gathering was necessary to end a "campaign of rumors" about whom would be chosen to replace Edwards, who died in August.
"I am sorry, but I thought at the time that it was the right thing to do," Reed said.
Zane accused Reed of trying to "cut Conn out of the process." But his motion to postpone failed for lack of a second. Shortly afterward, Herb Katz nominated Alan Katz for the open seat.
Herb Katz said the selection was difficult because all of the leading candidates for the appointment were good. He said he was nominating Alan Katz over the others because of Katz's independent standing in the political community.
Epstein seconded the nomination. In a short speech, Epstein confessed that he initially favored Irene Zivi, a community activist who made an unsuccessful bid for the council last year, but was persuaded that she did not have enough council support to win the open seat. Epstein said he was supporting Katz in the interest of council unity.
"I did not know Alan Katz, but I made it my business to speak to him and see him," Epstein said. "And I became persuaded that Alan Katz is as fitting a replacement for Ken Edwards as we could have."
Katz's nomination was approved about 15 minutes after the meeting started. Zivi, who attended the meeting, congratulated Katz. Afterward, she said she expected him to be chosen, but regretted the loss.
"I knew and understood what was going to happen very clearly," said the 54-year-old Zivi. "But I'm distressed over the lack of women (on the council) in this day and age. I think a severe mistake has been made."
Zivi and Katz were commonly mentioned as the front-runners for the position over the past week. Others who made serious bids for the seat were Pete Barrett, a retired businessman; Martin Sosin, an attorney and Santa Monica Arts Commission member; Judy Gewertz, a member of the city's Commission on Older Americans, and Eileen Hecht, a city planning commissioner.
People close to City Hall said Katz triumphed because of strong support from organizers within the moderate wing of the All Santa Monica Coalition, which is composed of Democrats and Republicans. Observers said Katz, who will face the voters in 1986, when Reed, Jennings and Epstein are also up for reelection, also was considered the most energetic campaigner.
No Promises Made
Katz said he has not promised to run on the coalition slate next year, and claimed that he would act independently of both political organizations. But he added that he hopes to win the support of both factions.
Contacted after the meeting, Conn said renter activists would withhold judgment on Katz until they determine where he stands on rent control and development. Conn said that Katz, who moved to Santa Monica 13 months ago from West Los Angeles, is difficult to judge because he has "no track record" in the community.
Zane echoed Conn's statements.
"All I know is that nobody knows him," Zane said after the meeting. "He has had a very short residence in the community. I have no evidence that, on the important issues like rent control and development, he'll resemble Ken Edwards in any way. But he'll have a year to prove himself."
Noting his past involvement in Westside politics and community affairs, Katz said he "hasn't exactly been in hiding." But he added that he "obviously has to prove himself" to his fellow council members. Katz said he expected to benefit from his independence from traditional political alliances.