Alan Katz, the Santa Monica City Council's lone independent who has often played the role of mediator between the city's two rival political factions, will not seek reelection next year.
Katz's announcement this week confirmed widespread suspicions that he would sit out the 1988 City Council elections. Instead, he plans to devote more of his spare time to helping Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy's bid for the U. S. Senate.
Katz, 34, is McCarthy's chief of staff. He said that the duties of that office, combined with his workload as a city councilman, forced him to choose between running his own reelection campaign or advising McCarthy. He took the latter.
However, Katz said he will complete the two-year term he was elected to in 1986.
"I still have an agenda on the council and still have things to accomplish," Katz said. "I am still the only nonaligned (member). I'm still the fourth vote. You can't be a lame duck on a seven-member council."
Katz's decision likely will send the city's two main political factions, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights and the All Santa Monica Coalition, scrambling for the vacated seat.
Each group holds three seats. Katz is considered to have played an important role in the evolution of the council into a more harmonious body than in years past.
"My main goal was to help the council operate in a more cooperative, civil manner," Katz said.
He said his work at the state level allowed a cross-pollination of issues. When he saw other cities working on certain ordinances, for example, he might carry the idea to Santa Monica or promote a bill in Santa Monica--such as the recent ban on the sale of toy guns--as a way to encourage similar legislation at the state level.
"Alan has been a very effective council member," Mayor James Conn said.
"He has played his role as an independent at a critical time in the political life of Santa Monica," Conn said. "He has certainly smoothed the waters . . . forcing the factions in this city to face each other and work together."
Some observers suggested that the absence of an independent would send the council back to the bitter bickering that often characterized sessions in years past.
But others said the two factions have moved close enough on many issues, or at least have learned enough about how to work together, that the old divisiveness need not return.
"There is less need now for contentiousness," said Councilman Dennis Zane. "The lack of contentiousness is more a sign of the times than the result of any one person."
Katz said that one of his last main projects on the council will be election reform. He is promoting a system of numbering council seats so that candidates run for a specific seat, rather than at-large for several seats.
He called his proposal a way to ease election for independents.
"The system now is skewed to assure the success of slates," Katz said. "Now there are two doors to the council and the keys are held by SMRR or the coalition. Under my system, there would be seven doors and the voters would hold all the keys."
However, Katz faces an uphill battle in getting that instituted and said he was even prepared to "go the initiative route" to put the proposal on the ballot.
Zane said he opposed the system because it "does not improve the way democracy works."
Katz was first appointed to the council in 1985 to fill the seat left empty with the death of Ken Edwards. He was elected to a two-year term the next year. In addition to his seat, those of Conn, Zane and Herb Katz (no relation to Alan Katz) are up for grabs next year.
Conn and Zane are members of the liberal Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, while Herb Katz represents the coalition.