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Mayor Pam O’Connor Is the Focus of Glowing Piece in The Guardian

Yesterday, the Guardian’s online-American edition published an Earth-Day piece praising the City of Santa Monica for its efforts to work with businesses to create a healthy and sustainable city. While the piece explored some of the recent and not-so-recent history of the city, it also focused on Santa Monica’s current mayor, Pam O’Connor.

The Californian beachfront city got in on the green-living game early, establishing a Sustainable City Plan two decades ago. The plan’s adoption coincided with the election of city councilwoman Pam O’Connor, who quickly emerged as a champion of “community liveability“.

Now Santa Monica’s mayor, O’Connor remains a prominent voice for sustainability, and was recently singled out as one of the Purpose Economy 100.

At Streetsblog, we’ve been fans of Pam for a long time, so much so that she received our 2013 Elected Official of the Year Streetsie so it’s nice to see her get some recognition from outside the immediate area. Ever herself, O’Connor tries to deflect much of the praise in the piece.

But this is an election year, so rather than enjoy a moment to celebrate how far the city has come as a leader in sustainability, comments on social media tended to break down into what people think of O’Connor and her electoral prospects. A good example of this is this thread, started by our own Juan Matute, on Facebook.

Our enjoyment of the article doesn’t mean we think it’s a perfect one either. For one thing, it’s a little weird not to mention that being mayor in Santa Monica doesn’t mean she won a “Mayoral Election” but rather that it’s a title passed back and forth by Council Members. Also not mentioning her role with the Westside Council of Governments, Metro, or Expo Construction Authority is a little odd.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting read. Buried in the debate on Facebook, former Santa Monica Mayor Mike Feinstein sums up both some issues with the article and why it’s an important read in one paragraph (I broke it into two for readability’s sake.)

Actually I think this piece is fair, in that Pam OConnor accurately describes the twenty-plus year process and philosophy behind the development of our Sustainability City Plan, including how we’ve worked with the local business community, how we combine regulation and incentives, and how we promote the practical daily benefits of living sustainably.

Could the overall success of our programs still be challenged in some places? Sure, but that wouldn’t be Pam’s fault per se, nor did she misrepresent the city’s policies in the article or claim personal credit for things that were collectively conceived and enacted. As to the success of those policies, the city does a Sustainable City report card on its own and often criticizes insufficient progress realizing our policy goals. Maybe the article could have been stronger to mention this, including a few of the areas where we have not succeeded as much as we’d like.

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