Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole Resigns

Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole is calling it quits, citing opposition to his latest plans to rescue the city.

Santa Monica is projecting a $72 million shortfall through the end of June and another $154 million shortfall next year as a result of the pandemic. Those kinds of losses necessitate tough decisions, but they’re not decisions everyone is willing to accept. When Cole tried, he was met with a petition calling for his ouster. It has garnered at least 2,800 signatures to date.

He wrote the following in a farewell statement:.

The push to put in place a plan to pay down our massive pension obligations had already imposed unpopular fiscal constraints. The protracted struggle over pension reform has eroded the good will I previously enjoyed with our unions. The crushing demands of serving as Emergency Service Director over the past five weeks has put me squarely in the line of fire for anyone dissatisfied with any aspect of the City’s response to the emergency. Most importantly, the need to deal with a projected $300 million dollar shortfall over the next 26 months puts us all in a nearly impossible situation. It almost certainly will result in personnel reductions that will be devastating to the livelihoods of colleagues I’ve been proud to lead -- and devastating to community services I’ve been committed to enhancing.


Parenthood taught me that you can’t ask others to do what you aren’t willing to do yourself. I have profound confidence in the team we have assembled and it breaks my heart that we will not be able to complete the journey together. So I am offering to step aside now to facilitate the restructuring that must take place, knowing we will need to make reductions in staff at every level of the organization – literally from the top to the bottom (or as I have always preferred to think of it, from the spoke of the wheel all the way outward to where the rubber meets the road). The capable staff that remain will carry on the mission and pursue the vision of a city that works for everyone.

Although some Santa Monica residents were upset with Cole’s insistence that service cuts would be necessary, he had agreed to take a 20% pay cut himself.

Cole’s departure is a huge loss for Santa Monica, where he has been the top administrator since 2015. His experience and depth of knowledge are unmatched, having worked in public service for decades.

Cole started out as a city councilman in Pasadena and later became city manager of Azusa and Ventura. He also served as Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation for the City of Los Angeles. His leadership was integral during the expansion of the Expo Line and the closure of the Santa Monica airport.

“He’s put his heart and soul into making Santa Monica a model of 21st century city government, data-driven, focused and collaborative,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said in a statement. “I can only imagine how painful it is for him now to demonstrate, through his own action, how the coronavirus pandemic and resultant economic collapse have made agonizing sacrifices inevitable, right up to the top office in City Hall.”

Read more about Cole’s resignation here.