MALIBU CITY HALL CONCEIT, CONTINUED

 

Still needing more comment is the recent candidate and city leadership workshop at Malibu’s City Hall. which I had presumptuously labeled a gabfest. It actually was more.

The event was sponsored by the Malibu Times as a non-partisan presentation of what one needs to know to run for office in Malibu, or at least to be involved. It also exposed a few municipal conceits, as I note in my City Observed commentary for public radio KBUU and select websites.

As I had commented previously, the gabfest began with a session focusing on the workings of the City, delivered with a modicum of megalomania and a pinch of paranoia.

Displaying a touch of the megalomania was recently anointed mayor Lou La Monte, and seemingly enjoying it.

The paranoia was expressed by skittish city manager Reva Feldman, persevering city attorney Christi Hogin, and planning apparatchik Bonnie Blue. The gist of their remarks is that Malibu is a preferred city manager form of government, ostensibly relying on professionals, in short themselves.

This conceit had been adopted across California in the last century to avoid local government being infested by political appointees. However, some feel that over time it has replaced political corruption with bureaucratic corruption, at the whim of local office holders.

The afternoon session was to be a discussion of specific issues, not a forum for airing grievances, or candidate grandstanding. This would make a rare Malibu event.

Despite being weighted with pro development panelists, the session did get off to a coherent start with school board member Craig Foster giving an optimistic update on Malibu’s efforts to divorce itself from the Santa Monica dominated School District.

He noted that the issue of finances was methodically being resolved, as is the safety and upgrading of school facilities. And this despite the persistent criticism of a self-promoting parents group and the unfortunate over reaction of the district. That brew over the presence of PCBs and what to do about them has been politically toxic.

Then it was on to the rising resident concern of over development, with realtor Paul Grisanti stating how it was undermining the pressing need to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure.

Echoing that concern was lobbyist Don Schmidt, who went on a length to comment on the imperative of development, adding that the city was going to have to let property owners build or it would have to spend big bucks buying them out. More tempered was former conservative mayor and now planning commissioner Jeff Jennings.

Long time resident Barbara Cameron also was on the panel, but being on the city payroll she wisely kept mostly quiet. Not so the iconoclastic John Mazza, who reportedly elbowed his way onto the panel, as he is wont to do, and argued convincingly that Malibu already was overbuilt and PCH just cannot handle more traffic.

And so it went, with mostly Schmidt and Mazza trading observations, making me feel that I was sitting cramped between the two in a car on gridlocked PCH.  8.24.16

MALIBU CITY HALL GABFEST

If anyone wanted to glimpse the conceit of small town government and get a discordant earful of local issues, a good seat would have been at the candidate and city leadership workshop last Friday at Malibu’s City Hall.

The workshop was hosted by the Malibu Times as a non partisan presentation of what one needs to know to run for office in Malibu, or at least be a conscientious citizen. Attending were a gaggle of candidates, lobbyists, city hall junkies and my ever curious self, for Malibu’s KBUU and select websites.

The gathering attracting an estimated 40 or so persons was heralded by Times editor Arnold York as a public service, though a few ruefully noted that the newspaper no doubt will make a pretty profit from the political advertising sold in the next two months until elections. Not seen was anyone from the sadly withering Surfside News.

Actually, it was less a workshop than a gabfest, with the morning session focusing on the workings of city hall, its organization and management, and financing and budget, delivered with a modicum of megalomania and a pinch of paranoia.

Featured were neophyte city manager Reva Feldman, and persevering city attorney Christi Hogin, always ready to tell why the city can’t do something, except if certain interests want it to, and the city can afford the additional legal fees. She did not disappoint with her convoluted comments.

Nor did Bonnie Blue, officially the city’s planning director, but in reality its top zoning apparatchik; real planning in Malibu I feel having been left to developers and accommodating consultants.

Stirring comment at the session was the reminder that Malibu with its 15,000 or so residents was not a rural sea coast village, as it likes to be described, but with 15 million annual visitors, it is in effect a tourist town.

Those 15 million and rising, about equal to Disneyland’s annual attendance, is what actually drives the city’s pricey development; and that the increase in traffic on the PCH, which is not really from people wanting to go shopping in Malibu, but rather primarily to go to the beaches and parks.

Also revealing was the remark by genial mayor Lou La Monte, that all anyone needed to know about how the city works was in a thick packet council members receive from staff detailing upcoming agenda items.

Too bad it’s all buried in bureaucratic babble, making it maybe legal but difficult to dredge and understand. If the city is sincere about wanting citizen involvement, this information needs to be transparent, and somehow summarized and prioritized for the public.

That would be a real service by City Hall rather than grinding out as it now does reams self aggrandizing press releases.

More easily consumed was the free lunch, the cost of which apparently met in part by the donations of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, whose conservative politics I thought are not particularly sympathetic to free anything for those in need.

Lending some humor to the proceedings at lunch was the remarks of a political campaign consultant, playing to four of the six city council candidates vying for office who attended. Trying to stay non partisan, no names will be mentioned here, but you can guess.

.The afternoon was a lively panel on the issues, which I will review in future commentaries.

 

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POINT DUME RESIDENTS PREVAIL

Malibu needs to move on from the latest local government debacle, specifically the resolution to compel property owners to remove landscape encroachments from the municipal right of way edging roadways.

Not to belabor the issue, but I feel it is important to get the facts right and dampen the emotions that are still swirling in the aftermath in which reason argued by concerned residents prevailed over a too often ill informed City Hall.

As I comment on public radio KBU, radiomalibu.net and other select websites. the victory needs closure: the council thanked for its decision to rescind the resolution, and the residents for their persistence not to see the resolution simply suspended, but buried.

A big also is for the city to stop the nitpicking enforcement on homeowners and selective streets. Oversight will be needed, be it a Point task force or some sort of consortium of the concerned.

Let’s hope some lessons have been learned; that, as our founders commented, vigilance indeed is the price of democracy; that civil servants need to be civil, and city council must be transparent. And all, more courteous.

Already under fire for being too friendly to developers and special interests, the Council did not make their admittedly tough jobs any easier by stumbling over what could have been a reasonable plan for the Point, generating some validation in its waning days in office.

To those just tuning in, the ill-considered resolution was a questionable tailpiece on to what I have described as a traffic mismanagement plan. The plan had called for a grab bag of remedies that included lowering speed limits –good – and a smattering of questionable speed humps –all presumably to calm traffic.

Then there was the resolution requiring the clearing of the rights of way, which would in effect widen streets and among other things encourage speeding, and also attract more cars cruising for parking. So much for calming traffic.

We ‘re talking here of all landscaping, fences, walls and mailboxes, at resident expense, and not incidentally the selective removal of no parking signs. So long rural Point Dume and property values, hello suburbia.

No street site plans were offered, no priorities and timing, no city costs, let alone the cost to property owners, and no cost benefit analysis. What a pig-in-the poke; what an annuity for city staff and contractors.

You have to ask, what were they thinking at City Hall: a peace offering to the Coastal Commission, a stick-in-the eye to Council critics, or just flaunting their powers?

I am reminded of a recent comment made by the venerable Walt Keller, Malibu’s first mayor, that some times unfortunate things happen to well meaning people once elected to office.

 

POLITICS ARE INDEED LOCAL AND LOUD IN MALIBU

For me, for now, all politics is local. My latest commentary from my roost in misanthropic Malibu:

So what really happened at City Council Monday night:

After a parade of Point Dume residents implored the City Council to rescind a poorly conceived and ill considered resolution to compel property owners remove landscape encroachments from the municipal right of way, it was councilperson Laura Rosenthal stating that it was time for the city to step back.

It had been Rosenthal as the past Mayor that originally strongly advocated and lobbied for the resolution, and had been intractable in face of mounting opposition.

Downcast and in subdued voice, she then provided the swing vote approving a motion by a stalwart Mayor pro tem Skylar Peak to rescind the council’s recommended original action to suspend the resolution, pending a questionable traffic management survey

Residents had feared the resolution was part of a city plan to use the right of ways for possible sidewalks, and do away with selective no parking signs, to please the Coastal Commission and perhaps win future concessions for questionable development.

Presumably also being deep sixed as urged by the residents was the flawed traffic management survey that many felt was rigged to support the city’s continued compromising the encroachments.
The vote to rescind was 4 to 1, with the motion being seconded by Councilman John Sibert, who indicated he never really liked the resolutions and had originally cautioned the council, even though he voted for it.

Also approving the motion was a rueful Mayor Lou La Monte, though he took exception to what he described as the persistent off putting lobbying by a loose consortium of residents opposed to the resolution.

Nevertheless, it was the campaign by the residents informally organized by an impassioned Don Richstone that apparently swayed the Council, as speaker after speaker criticized the resolution as poorly researched and arbitrarily approved.

The Council was particularly castigated for being less than transparent in its deliberations, apparently in deference to an omnipotent Coastal Commission who it feared would take strong exception to the loss of public parking on the Point.

The Council was further reminded that the resolution was in clear violation of the city’s Land Use Policy, 2.4.6. that states “the city shall avoid improvements which create a suburban atmosphere such as sidewalks and street lights.”

The lone vote against rescinding it was cast by a contrite and confused Joan House, for a wrath of contradictory reasons she attributed to select constituents whom she did not identify. She was booed for her remarks.