Nick Boles seeks a generational shift at City Council
Not so long ago, Hollywood native Nick Boles was studying accounting at Santa Monica College, finding himself standing by the back wall of a full classroom where all the seats were taken. Now he seeks a seat on the Santa Monica City Council. Boles is one of the candidates who's political aspirations will be weighed by voters on November 4. At the age of 28, Boles is the youngest candidate on the ballot.
An experienced accountant who has worked as a nonprofit consultant, Boles became immersed in the world of labor unions and nonprofit groups through his career and as a result, was inspired to seek political office. "I wanted to stay in Santa Monica," he says one afternoon, "but I also realized that there's no real representation for the future of Santa Monica."
A self-described political moderate, Boles believes there is a major generation gap between those in city government and the city's own inhabitants. The majority of Santa Monicans range from the ages of 25 to 35 and it is that group Boles seeks to tap. "We have different wants, we have different needs," he says.
His staff has already come back from the campaign trail with interesting, sometimes bizarre stories to tell. "We've had a canvaser chased off a property, one of my canvassers had a door be opened by a man without any pants on, fully aroused. I've knocked on a door and had a guy with nothing on but a halter top and snot coming out of his nose." But Boles adds that "the majority are really good people. For every bad apple there are ten people who are very appreciative."
It is no secret that Santa Monica's younger residents, especially students, deal with the immense cost of living in this area by seeking roommates or small bedrooms with price tags of over $800 dollars. Boles himself still lives with roommates because he simply can't afford a place for himself. "We're looking at Santa Monica being the highest-priced city in Los Angeles County," he observes, "and if you look back 15 years ago there were 30,000 units that were considered affordable for low to moderate income earners. Fast forward to today there's only 18,000. The cycle is continuing and it's getting worse."
Building more housing to relieve market rate pressures is just one policy on Boles's proposed agenda as well as innovative policies for middle income earners. "We had a huge influx of new businesses, entrepreneur start ups, you name it, which boomed the economy but didn't provide adequate housing for that workforce. We have so many workers who commute here everyday, but no place to put them," says Boles.
If elected Boles hopes to push forward policies that will make rent flow with wages and not market rate. "You would be maxed out at 35 percent. Let's say you're making $50,000 a year, you're maximum allowable rent would be 35 percent of your take home as opposed to market rate," he explains. Boles also envisions making transportation in Santa Monica easier and faster, this would include all revenue made by the Bergamont Station be invested in faster buses and easier, accessible routes for students and other residents who commute and have a hard time finding parking.
Bringing change has never been an easy proposition. While Boles states that he has an open, friendly relationship with the current city council, the major roadblock in seeking office there is money. Boles revealed that one candidate has invested $90,000 into his own campaign, whereas the council seat only pays $1,000 a month. Anyone in their 20s seeking office but who lives from paycheck to paycheck will find it a difficult venture. "We're seeing the biggest road block is funding the younger generation against those who are entrenched already in the funding process," he says.
Indeed, jumping into politics has proven to be a decision that has re-shaped his everyday life. "I have no personal life," he says with a laugh, "it goes on 24/7. Luckily I have a very good team which is in fact mostly comprised of Santa Monica College students." A bachelor, Boles hasn't had time to meet anyone properly because of the hectic world of political campaigning. He occasionally goes ballroom dancing but all that has taken a backseat to campaigning intensely for a spot in the city council. He's a lone wolf with a cause.
Santa Monica is also known for how early its eateries close. By campus usually Burger King and Yum Yums Donuts are the only food businesses open past 10:00 P.M. Boles explained that new zoning policies need to be formed in order to move food businesses to areas where noise levels will not interfere with local neighborhoods, thereby making it easier to stay open later.
On the recent, controversial issue of whether the Santa Monica Airport should be closed, Boles believes the land belongs to Santa Monica and should be taken back, but only through a popular vote. And popular votes are something rarely discussed in an atmosphere where young voters feel increasingly apathetic towards politics. In addressing this Boles says "local politics are by the far most important because every local policy directly affects you. The city government works in lock step with Santa Monica College for example. It's pivotal that students become active so this school stays up front on the cutting edge."
For Boles getting change done will require a gradual changing of the guard. On November 4, voters will decide if it is, to paraphrase Victor Hugo, "an idea whose time has come."