2004.10.15: October 15, 2004: Headlines: Peace Corps Directors - Shriver: Politics: Election2004 - Shriver: Boston Globe: Bobby Shriver takes family activism to California

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Bobby Shriver takes family activism to California

Bobby Shriver takes family activism to California

His mother founded the Special Olympics, and his father headed the Peace Corps, VISTA, Head Start, and other programs before he became Senator George McGovern's running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket in 1972. "I don't view the family business as only running for and holding public office. It's very dramatic and sounds sexy, but that wasn't the Shriver vibe. The family business, if you want to generalize it, is looking out for the little guy. 'What's the program? How can we serve somebody?' "

Bobby Shriver takes family activism to California

A 2d Shriver takes family activism to California
Vies for city council after hedge campaign

By Steve Carney, Globe Correspondent | October 15, 2004

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- He's one of 13 candidates vying for four council seats in this upscale beach city outside Los Angeles, but his name and his campaign volunteers are setting Bobby Shriver apart.

He is the only one in the field to have Senator Edward M. Kennedy stumping for him, as he did at a fund-raiser yesterday morning. Or to have Maria Shriver, NBC news personality and wife of California's governor, organizing events and canvassing door to door.

Shriver is Maria Shriver's older brother, the eldest son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and R. Sargent Shriver, and the nephew of Edward, John, and Robert F. Kennedy. Even with a president, two senators, and a vice presidential candidate on his family tree, Shriver rejects gibes that he's now joining the family business.

"I resent that. I've been in the family business," Shriver said.

"I don't view the family business as only running for and holding public office. It's very dramatic and sounds sexy, but that wasn't the Shriver vibe. The family business, if you want to generalize it, is looking out for the little guy. 'What's the program? How can we serve somebody?' "

His mother founded the Special Olympics, and his father headed the Peace Corps, VISTA, Head Start, and other programs before he became Senator George McGovern's running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket in 1972.

Bobby Shriver said he had not considered politics before this. Instead, he has been a newspaper reporter, a venture capitalist, and a television and movie producer, among other things. Since 1987, he has produced eight holiday music compilations that have raised $60 million for the Special Olympics. In 2000 he cofounded DATA -- or Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa -- a group to raise money and awareness for debt relief and AIDS in the Third World, working on such issues with U2 singer Bono and other celebrities.

Shriver's current interest in politics grew from issues involving hedges.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, Shriver and his neighbors received notices that their hedges were too tall. The city was enforcing a long-ignored 1948 ordinance, and said residents had to cut back their shrubs or face misdemeanor charges.

Mayor Richard Bloom said the upper limit was supposed to be 8 feet, but some had grown unchecked over the decades and some had reached 50 feet.

The city backed down after an initial backlash, but came back in April with another demand to trim the hedges, which complainants said were blocking their views and sunlight. This time the city gave residents a month to cut, or start facing $25,000-per-day fines.

"I'm not running because somebody tried to cut my hedges down," Shriver said. He insisted that issue is a symptom of a city government that, according to his campaign, "has lost sight of the reason it exists -- to serve its people."

"Once I realized it, I was sort of unable to sit still," he said. "I felt inspired here. I just had to do it."

Now he is advocating changes in the way the city deals with homeless people, traffic, parking, growth, and open space -- key issues in this city of about 86,000 people, with Los Angeles on three sides.

Bloom, who is running for reelection Nov. 2, conceded that the shrub-enforcement tactics were heavy-handed but said it was merely city staff members trying to respond to residents' complaints about the hedges. Now, he said, Shriver and others are politicizing the hedge controversy, accusing the council of being too active.

"We're not without our problems, and there certainly is room for improvement," Bloom said. "We have a very beautiful, successful, well-run city."

Bloom has roots in Massachusetts: His mother is from Salem, his father from Lynn.

Councilman Herb Katz, also running for reelection, acknowledged Shriver's interest in local issues has grown beyond the hedges. "I know Bobby pretty well, and I think he's pretty sincere," Katz said. "I don't think he's just a one-shot deal, and I'm glad he's running, even though we're, quote, running against each other."

While many Kennedys have held elective office, not all have fared well at the polls. In 2002, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert Kennedy, failed in her bid to become governor of Maryland. The same year, her cousin Mark Shriver lost a Democratic congressional primary in Maryland.

Santa Monica is decidedly liberal -- the seven-member City Council features five Democrats and two Greens -- enough celebrities live there that the electorate is unlikely to be star-struck by Shriver's candidacy, Bloom said.

"I think voters in Santa Monica are very intelligent," he said. "They're not going to automatically vote for somebody because he has a recognizable name."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Story Source: Boston Globe

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