Embedded in the remark echoed by a parade of local politicians at the recent State of the City gathering in Malibu was the memorable plea made by Rodney King during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
Most direct was those of the engaging State Senator Henry Stern, who declared he was concerned about the state of the city, “but not because of our competence, not because of our financial condition of our infrastructure, but because of relationships with each other.”
As I write in the Local and other select websites, Stern obviously was alluding to the growing chorus calling for the ouster of City Manager Reva Feldman, for failing to prepare the city for the anticipated Woolsey fire, for abandoning it in the heat of the fire, for absolving herself of any responsibility and for fumbling in the projected aftermath.
Her financial acumen also has been questioned, as well as her leadership abilities. Comments in the social media have been particularly scorching, while a petition for her removal has garnered 4,000 signatures.
Further galling her critics has been Feldman perversely promoting herself as both a hero and a victim of the disaster, while never admitting to, or apologizing for, any failures. Instead she has depended on the questionable support of recalcitrant councilmen Rick Mullen and Skylar Peak, and self-important residents and special interests that she has favored.
Sorry Henry, but any chance of a civil dialogue is going to have to await Feldman ceasing favoring back scratching friends, supporters and consultants. Also must end is her stonewalling any resident she perceives as not being an ally.
Answering emails would be a start and simply doing the job for which she is overpaid, while not incidentally padding the city payroll for others to do it for her. Though not likely, she could, of course, simply resign and give up her $300,000 a year job she has wrangled for herself, which is more than the salaries of the State’s governor and U.S. Senators.
As for Stern who defends her by default, he may be a promising young progressive, but as most politicians, when push comes to shove, is a protector of the status quo and not prone to probe hardened bureaucratic arteries.
That pose in effect allows one to stand and shout in a boat adrift in the waves of democracy but careful not to rock it so it tips. This is a problem among public office seekers.
As for County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner, likeable as they also are, they obviously have shortcomings in their relationships with the city manager. Kuehl with her political establishment network and show biz connections of old seems to know who butters her toast and the ever amiable mayor sometimes is just too amiable.
You would think that after Wagner’s home burned, same as the 1,000 plus other victims of the fire, he’d be angry and would demand accountability and, yes, an apology from the wayward first responders and Malibu’s bloated bureaucracy.
Accountability in public service? There’s the rub.
So, can Malibu be mended? Can the local bickering stop?
I’m optimistic. But first, frankly, the bull being shoveled out of City Hall has to end and that begins with the council taking back the governance of the city from defacto mayor Feldman.
Get that elephant out of City Hall, and maybe the dialogue might begin, hopefully before the next disaster hits Malibu.