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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hallkaplan

Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

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