Santa Monica voters may wish to treat the ballot as if it were a Chinese restaurant menu when they try to pick three candidates from the field of nine in the Nov. 6 City Council elections.
Voters, for example, might choose the combination of the two-candidate slate of Kelly Olsen and Tony Vazquez, supported by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, the tenants' political group that rode into power on the back of rent control.
Or they could back the three-candidate slate of incumbent Councilwoman Christine E. Reed, Donna Alvarez and Robert T. Holbrook, all former members of the now-defunct All-Santa Monica Coalition, which was formed in the early '80s to oppose SMRR candidates.
They could try an a la carte approach and choose among the four independent candidates, Larry Jon Hobbs, Kathleen Schwallie, Jean Gebman and Sharon Gilpin--although Schwallie and Gilpin are sometimes lumped together as two slow-growth candidates.
Or voters can simply choose one from column A, one from column B and one from column C.
"You can put together all the slates you want, but that doesn't mean people are going to vote that way," said Reed, who is seeking a fifth term on the council. "Santa Monica voters are liberal, independent-minded people who sort out the candidates from the issues. I think they look for balance in both the tickets and on the council."
Some candidates and other observers of city politics say voters may be growing weary of slates.
"I think people are tired of slate politics," said Gilpin. "There is a feeling that the council is divided and members made to take sides."
The city's police and fire unions have decided to take one candidate from each camp. In the past, the unions have endorsed Reed, but this year they snubbed her, primarily because contract talks with the city had been dragging on. Instead, they endorsed Olsen, Holbrook and Schwallie.
There are other endorsements that have raised eyebrows. The Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, for example, surprised some election observers by endorsing slow-growth candidates Gilpin and Schwallie, as well as Reed, whom both Gilpin and Schwallie have targeted for defeat because of her pro-development voting record.
Because slate-splitting is likely to be common, the election is a difficult one to handicap. No candidate has emerged as a clear front-runner less than two weeks before the election.
As the lone incumbent in the race, Reed has been the target of most of the criticism in the campaign, particularly in matters relating to development. Slow-growth candidates Schwallie and Gilpin have been quite vocal in their criticism of Reed, as have SMRR leaders.
"Christine Reed has voted to approve more commercial development than any council member in the history of Santa Monica," said Mayor Dennis Zane, a member of the SMRR steering committee.
Reed has attempted to play down her voting record on development by saying that some SMRR members on the council--including Zane--have joined her in supporting some of the projects for which she has been criticized.
"There is definitely a burden in being the lone incumbent," said Reed, who was first elected in 1975. "You get blamed for everything that is wrong in the city."
But she said the positives of being an incumbent outweigh the negatives.
"It's always an advantage in terms of name recognition," she said.
Following are brief profiles of each candidate, in the same order that they appear on the ballot.
Robert T. Holbrook, 48, has been a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education since 1983. He is a lifelong Santa Monica resident and is on the faculty of the USC School of Pharmacy.
Holbrook said he is stepping down from the school board in part because his three children are all in college now and because the current City Council has done little to solve the problem of homelessness in the city.
He has called for the creation of a Homeless Task Force to study and monitor homeless issues, but has joined others in blaming City Atty. Robert M. Myers' policy of not prosecuting homeless people for some misdemeanor crimes for aggravating the problem.
"We've got to get tough on tough issues," said Holbrook, who has adopted the phrase as his campaign slogan. "If the city attorney doesn't want to enforce the laws of this city, then we should throw him out of office."
Holbrook supports Proposition Y, which would change the city attorney's office from one appointed by the City Council to one elected by voters.
In the landlord-tenant battle of dueling ballot measures, he comes down on the side of the landlords, endorsing Proposition U, which would allow rents on voluntarily vacated units to increase to market levels. He says landlords need that kind of financial relief as incentive not to go out of business.