October 28, 2004: Headlines: Peace Corps Directors - Shriver: Politics: Election2004 - Shriver: New York Times: Bobby Shriver considers himself an accidental politician

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Bobby Shriver considers himself an accidental politician

Bobby Shriver considers himself an accidental politician

Bobby Shriver considers himself an accidental politician

A Reluctant Candidate With a Decent Pedigree

Published: October 28, 2004

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Oct. 27 - Bobby Shriver considers himself an accidental politician.

Even in a family whose legacy extends to a president, two senators, a vice-presidential candidate and a California governor, it was not a given that Mr. Shriver, who in his 50 years has been many things, including a newspaper reporter and a record producer, would ever run for office.

That is, until the code enforcement people went after his hedges.

In the 11 months since, Mr. Shriver has found himself at the head of a residents' revolt calling for a rout of the City Council's members. Somewhat to his surprise, Mr. Shriver appears to be a shoo-in for a Council seat in next week's election.

It did not hurt that his uncle Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts; his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver; at least two Kennedy cousins; and his sister, Maria, the first lady of California, have all stumped for him here, spreading the word that he is a natural politician.

"I didn't plan this," Mr. Shriver, whose father, R. Sargent Shriver, was George McGovern's running mate in 1972, said over breakfast at Café Montana. "It felt like the real deal. It dawned on me that I'd gotten myself so far into this thing that I had to do it."

He and dozens of his neighbors in the expensive, tree-filled district north of Montana Avenue received citations just before last Thanksgiving that sought to enforce a 1948 ordinance governing the height of hedges and fences.

In all, as many as 700 Santa Monica residents were cited for having hedges taller than a regulation three and a half feet at the front of their properties or eight feet in the rear. They were threatened with fines if they did not trim them. In what the city now says was a mistake, offenders were told that fines could run up to $25,000 a day.

The ordinance, rarely enforced until now, sought to promote an open, uncluttered look for residential streets and to prevent tall hedges from blocking views or casting shadows on neighboring properties.

Residents, including many in less wealthy neighborhoods, were appalled at the crackdown, and formed the Santa Monica Hedge Activists to combat the citations and the ordinance. They argued that the hedges were crucial for safety and privacy in a town whose population of 84,000 swells daily to about 300,000 when visitors and workers are added.

"The Council and the leadership are combative toward the residents," Mr. Shriver said. "They didn't have a 'We're in it together' attitude. Their attitude was, 'I will photograph your hedges at 5 in the morning with a special camera and send you the pictures.' It's like Big Brother sneaking around in the middle of the night."

Homeowners criticized what they called high-handedness from city officials. "They have stirred up activism where none existed," Larry Mollin, a resident, wrote in an e-mail message to a reporter. "It shows the disdain the city has for property owners to treat them as criminals."

In the ensuing dispute, Mr. Shriver became the standard-bearer for the disaffection, and was persuaded by his fellow activists to run for office.

Mr. Shriver, a 17-year resident of Santa Monica, used his name recognition and a garrulous personality to become the most visible of the 12 candidates - four of them incumbents - seeking four open seats on the seven-member City Council.

During a candidates' forum, Mr. Shriver emphasized that he was "not running because of my hedges," but rather because of how he and other residents had been treated. He pledged to produce a regional plan to alleviate homelessness, protect renters' rights, support public schools, create more parks and clean polluted storm drains that feed bacteria to the waters offshore.

He also dropped several names, including that of Bono, the U2 singer, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I can work with our Republican friends, including my brother-in-law," he said, referring to the latter.

Even so, Mr. Shriver has had to battle the impression that he is a dilettante. "At first I thought I wouldn't vote for him," said Stacey Abarbanel, a 14-year resident. "You know, here's this rich guy who's mad because they're making him trim his hedges.''

"But then I thought, it doesn't hurt that he's got the ear of the governor," Ms. Abarbanel said.

While some other candidates welcomed his candidacy because of the attention it brought to the election, others regarded Mr. Shriver with skepticism. "He's livened things up, turned people's heads," said Mayor Richard Bloom, whose seat is up for election. But, Mayor Bloom went on, Mr. Shriver "didn't have positions on some of these issues until a few weeks ago."

Citizens' complaints about the hedge issue clearly had an effect; the Council decided this month to postpone enforcement until a new ordinance was written. The new measure, Mayor Bloom said, would let residents keep their hedges tall unless they posed a safety problem, like blocking views from driveways.

The $25,000 fines were not intended for hedge violators, he said, but for users of private airplanes at Santa Monica Airport who violate noise rules. Mayor Bloom also said that the decision to enforce the hedge ordinance was part of a general effort to enforce codes more rigorously.

Mr. Shriver, whose ficus hedges were planted in 1933 and measure about 35 feet tall, believes that the city's sudden interest in foliage stemmed from a need to raise money.

In any event, his family and friends have rallied to his cause.

"I can't believe I'm doing this again after 50 years," said Eunice Shriver, Mr. Shriver's mother and one of President John F. Kennedy's sisters.

At a tea party here on Saturday, she described knocking on doors and urging voters to support her son.

"I asked Teddy, that there must be some places we're not going to," Ms. Shriver recalled, referring to her brother, the Massachusetts senator. "He said, 'Try bowling alleys and coffee shops.' I told him, 'No, I'm not going to coffee shops.' "

Maria Shriver said that entering politics had "always been an issue for everybody" in the Kennedy-Shriver clan.

"Bobby had to wait until it was his own calling, and not someone else's," Ms. Shriver said of her brother. "He had to wait until he felt it himself."

Bono, with whom Mr. Shriver four years ago founded DATA, a group dedicated to relieving African nations of debt and helping them combat AIDS, spoke at a dinner for Mr. Shriver here last week.

"He's got a very good ear for the opposing argument," Bono said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "You don't expect that from a guy with such a loud voice, and you don't expect the rigor. Behind that open face and giving personality is a very cautious guy who won't take on something he can't manage."

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.

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Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: New York Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps Directors - Shriver; Politics; Election2004 - Shriver



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