MALIBU COUNCIL ELECTION GETS PERSONAL, FINALLY

The election campaign in Malibu for City Council became a little more interesting this week as the six candidates finally came under more personal and pointed questioning.

The emphasis here is on finally, for most of the forum until the last few minutes, was, frankly, not revealing. if the critical Giant Dodger game wasn’t blacked out for most, I doubt if the hometown drama at City Hall would have attracted a nearly packed house.

The questions were convoluted, diffidently delivered, aggravated by a fumbled sound system, that unfortunately, I feel, prompted predictable answers, and echoed a previous forum at City Hall awkwardly orchestrated by the Malibu Democratic Club.

In full disclosure as a registered Democrat, the less I comment about that evening that ended in a bungled ballot for a questionable endorsement, the better.

The latest forum was conducted by the Malibu Times, and featured its venerable editor Arnold York in uncomfortable command. He is a print journalist, not a broadcast journalist, and not at ease with direct questions and extracting clear answers. .

To be sure, the grilling came at the end of a long, and mostly mundane forum with the candidtes perching on the stage in the council chamber’s, as they all hope to do as elected members in a few months.

After throwing various softballs at the forum, York delivered a hard ball to Skylar Peak, citing his poor attendance record and his position on encroachments on Pt. Dume that had led to a wellspring of protests and an embarrassing reversal for the City Council.

Peak looking nonplussed replied he only missed a fraction of the meetings, albeit attendance at some were by phone. Modest applause

As for the charge Peak proposed the encroachments, he stated it was not he that did but a traffic consultant, and whatever he eventually voted against them. Silence.

Jennifer DeNicola was questioned if her relatively recent community advocacy, in particular battling the school district on PCBs, and now presumptuously running for the council, was just a bare political maneuver for a high political appointment or office. She stumbled through an answer, proclaiming her sincerity and love for her adopted home of Malibu. Scant applause.

York then turned to, or should I say turned on, Laureen Sills, asking if she as a councilperson would just be a complaint sidekick to her good friend, Laura Rosenthal. Sills replied with steely conviction that in her 30 years as an active, concerned resident she had many friends, many at times she disagreed with, and while listening and respecting all, would be fiercely independent. Strong applause

As for being independent, York asked Zuma Jay, given his resume as a former mayor and popularity, why he was running on a slate. with lesser lights Ouch. He replied because he generally agreed with Peak and Rick Mullen, though at time they will no doubt disagree. Scattered applause

Rick Mullen was questioned about his lack of credentials, citing in reply a thick resume that includes a long active residency that includes being a local fire chief and parent. Polite applause.

Carl Randall also was chided for his lack of identity. He, too, in reply cited his positions in the parks and school’s communities, And then there also was his family’s involvement, in particular his mother, Carol, who is well connected at City Hall. Strong but limited applause from the family.

However provocative, it is to York’s credit that these are the questions Malibu residents are asking. To the voter, the six appear to be in agreement on most issues, so it is frankly the hearsay the most likely swing the election.

 

 

 

GETTY ENGAGING AS EVER, ESPECIALLY IN FALL

Fall is finally here, and the crowds are definitely smaller at the southland’s popular museums. Gone are the Summer tourists, as I comment on my arts and entertainment wrap for Malibu’s public radio KBU.

Indeed, on a recent Saturday there were spaces on the more accessible parking levels in the Getty’s underground garage and no lines waiting for its trams up to the center’s campus.

There were no lines also in the pleasant café featuring a reasonable menu, and with seating indoors and out, make it a good time to visit.

This places it high on my to do list whenever we have visitors from afar, and definitely if there are particularly engaging exhibits on display.

At the Center now is a must for anyone interested in the contemporary cultural forces at play in the evolution of art. The exhibit, labeled “London Calling,” is a revealing and provocative selection of paintings by six artists who took root in post World War Two in England.

There in largely destroyed London they challenged the then popular rising trends of abstract expressionism, conceptualism, and minimalism, to paint reality, in a raw, rough and lush style, focusing a critical eye on the human figure and landscapes.

Included in this so called school of London, though I feel a better label would be the London gang, were the more recognized Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and R.B. Katjai. They and others in the gang present a reality that is riveting and haunting. Go see it.

Also on display to the end of November are two very different photography exhibits, for which the Getty has a special curatorial affinity.

The more engaging exhibit, entitled the Real and Ideal, displays the emerging art of photography in France, from 1847 to 1860, Through a fascinating selection of dated photographs, illustrated is the debate at the time whether the new medium was art or science, and what would be its future, depicting the real or ideal.

Bear in mind that at the time novelists and painters were also struggling with the question whether to represent everyday subjects and the world, as it was, the good, bad and ugly, or some fanciful conceit.

In contrast to such questions, the other exhibit at the Getty examines the work of a contemporary photographer, Richard Learoyd. His focus is distinctive, very personal large-scale color photographs that prompt you as the viewer to connect with the subjects.

Both exhibits run through November 27th, at the always engaging, and now more accessible Getty Center.  9.23.16

 

THE LOOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS

The bloated local ballot in Malibu needs some attention, that is if we can possibly tune out the inanities emanating from the national elections, where the gut issues of the day are being drowned out in the nit picking of a trumped up Trump, and a harassed Hillary,

For the first time they are being held the first Tuesday in November, concurrently with the national and state ballots, in hopes a decent turnout, as I comment in The Local, on 97.5 KBU. FM and select websites.

Ever since the city of Malibu was founded 25 years ago the local elections had been held in the Spring, with the results there has been a depressing decrease in voters.

Generally the turnout over the years has registered about 25 percent lower that state and national elections.

The reasons have been many: The time of year, which occasionally conflicted with Spring break for schools and families going on vacation; and no gut-wrenching issues threatening residents, such as the closure of PCH, or a blatant municipal scandal.

In addition, a self satisfied, comfortable public seemed frankly content with the status quo, whether just an illusion, the lack of municipal transparency or an undiscerning local media. Whatever.

To be sure, there was a quiet complaint that the low turnout feed a favored a select clique of residents who dealt in personal favors. But this was put down as scattered whining .

That is, until recently, what with traffic on PCH becoming increasing intolerable; the civic center being stripped of local serving business for high end shops; the public schools being neglected by a distant school district, and a languid City Council, except when it came to self aggrandizing.

But even it could not ignore the low turnouts and the heightened concerns, and subsequently approved moving the elections from the Spring to the Fall, to coincide with State and National elections. No doubt a factor was that the move gave incumbents an extra 9 months in office.

The question now is whether it will actually improve the local vote. That will require voters to wade through the top of a long ticket, plus some 17 propositions,  before having to ponder the local elections, and the six candidates vying for the 3 council seats.

For some indication of that task coming soon in the mail to every registered voter is a 224 page Voter Guide, said to be the most voluminous election guide in California history.

Voters are just going to have to be more alert than ever, listen harder, and think more about what the candidates, are saying and doing. That especially applies to our local candidates judging from the recently launched election campaigns.

All six presented themselves to a crowd of about 100 elbowed into the community room in City Hall at a recent forum sponsored by the local Democratic Club.

Most of the statements of the smiling candidates tended to be indistinguishable, all pledging their commitment to uphold the city’s mission statement to avoid suburbanization and commercialization, try to somehow to better handle traffic on the PCH, and to encourage a transparent and responsive City Hall.

The most excitement came after, when the club voted to see whom it will endorse. It was chaotic, raising questions concerning the eligibility of some who voted and whether the balloting was handled correctly, and should the vote be nullified. It is a mud pile that whomever emerges no doubt will be sullied.

One hopes the official balloting in November will go more smoothly.

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THE REDCAT THEATRE, THE CUTTING EDGE OF L.A.

 

From my catbird seat in Malibu I love the cultural blooming in Los Angeles, in particular the avant-garde art, cutting edge dance and-music, experimental theatre and inventive film. It is what I feel makes L.A. such a great place to live and learn.

What I frankly don’t love is getting to the varied venues scattered across the Southland. Traffic downtown, to the arts district, to Bunker Hill is most times off putting, driving a pain and using mass transit actually worse.

You have to learn to beat the traffic.

That is one of the reasons I like the Redcat Theatre, tucked in the southwest corner under the Disney Concert Hall at Grand Avenue and Second Street, almost as an after thought to the iconic, undulating Frank Gehry conceit. The theatre is about what happens in it, not the architecture.

Curtain time for its evening performances are at 8.30, a little later but allowing for traffic to lighten or lingering at a dinner. Best for me are the Sunday performances, scheduled at 7, when traffic tends to be even lighter, parking painless and returning home easier and earlier.

But first and foremost is that the Redcat founded by the trendsetting California Institute of the Arts – known as CalArts – has been a well spring of creativity, outshining the region’s other more prevailing, and pricey, institutions.

In my opinion, if you want to be on the cutting edge of culture, and get a glimpse of the future, now, get to the Redcat. Whatever is being presented might not work, might indeed by uncomfortable, but for sure you’ll stay awake and be challenged, and probably will not easily forget what you have seen.

Me, I’m going to the Redcat this weekend to catch a dance performance of the center for national choreography of Monteplier, France. The performance is said to be wild, combining contemporary dance with folk dances, in an explosion of vitality by eight male dancers, energized by two on stage percussionists.

In its review, the Le Monde of Paris declared the performance “the joy of being alive, of being together momentarily, and the visceral excitement of dancing. “

Certainly sounds like more fun than beating the visceral excitement of driving in heavy traffic.

 

TIME TO CELEBRATE IN MALIBU? NOT YET, BUT…

The legal hostilities over what to do about the PCBs on the Malibu High campus hopefully are over, now that a federal court in effect slapped the hands of all involved.

This includes the litigating parents and the school board, with an extra kick in the pants to the District to clean up the toxics on the Malibu High campus.

It was not a victory as all have claimed, certainly not for the reputations of the district and high school, nor, for that matter, Malibu’s, as a congenial community with safe public education facilities, as I comment on 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites everywhere.

Of course doing well, were the lawyers and consultants hired by the School District who opposed the parents, who originally gathered under the banner of Malibu Unites and now America Unites for Kids.

Sadly, I feel all could have been resolved from the outset years ago, when parents became rightfully concerned by reports that several teachers in classrooms with window caulked in material containing PCB had been diagnosed with cancer.

Not helping was a defensive School Board and a muddled District bureaucracy that never had been particularly sympathetic to Malibu’s concerns: spurning transparency they instead circled the wagons, and brought in the lawyers.

The District was never clear if all the PCBs would be removed, prompting the parents to become more concerned, and the District more guarded.

It became even more recalcitrant by the entry into the fray of a Washington DC whistleblower support group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

This happening in high profile Malibu involving a skittish school bureaucracy and a vainglorious parents group was like throwing in a raw piece of meat into the cage of the DC group. The cancer card was played up.

Though PCBs have been linked to cancer, whether there was or is a cancer cluster on the Malibu campus has not been proven. Many people have cancer for as many reasons, and identifying clusters is reported difficult, and unlikely to be caused by a single environmental factor or exposure.

 Meanwhile, the District pursued a clean up program on the Malibu campus, following the so-called best management practices prescribed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

This nevertheless was questioned by the involved parents. Hence the lawsuit.

Enter the City Council, which with any leadership might have calmed the situation. But instead to curry favor, it awarded a token of public funds to the protesting parent group, in effect compromising the city’s efforts to divorce itself from the District. The city’s school advocates were chagrined,

But putting the cacophonic conflict in perspective, I feel there was oddly a winner: Malibu’s valiant efforts led by AMPS to diverse itself from the Santa Monica dominated school board.

And this in my opinion is big, and rises above the fray.

Say what you may about the parent group’s persistence and public rants, it did unquestionably light a fire under the negotiations between Santa Monica and Malibu, and appears to have prompted a settlement.

Hopefully in time what ill feelings might have been generated by the fracas will be mitigated, as will the PCBs; the schools repaired, and eventually, so will be Malibu’s reputation.

9.10.16

 

 

GERMANS AND JEWS BEYOND GUILT

Having in maverick past written and produced documentaries, I have a special affinity for its capacity for story telling, using real events and involving real people.
 
I also have liked the documentary’s latitude for encouraging advocacy and personal expression, which I must confess I have indulged in as an unrepentant commentator.
 
But most of all I have appreciated the documentary’s potential for presenting issues that challenge my personal biases, as I comment this week on 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites everywhere.
 
So if you have ever thought about, or frankly sought to avoid, the issue of Germany and Jews, consider finding time to get to one of the two Laemmle Theatres, in West L.A. or in Encino, to see the documentary “Germans & Jews.” It runs for a week.
 
The film explores the complicated relationship between Germans and Jews in postwar Germany, with Berlin a focus. As described by others and echoed here, the film is “at once uncomfortable and provocative, unexpected and enlightening.”
 
Beginning with a gathering of second generation Jews and non-Jewish Germans at a dinner table, the film moves from the present to the past, and back again, surveying the waxing and waning of guilt, anti Semitism, and, yes, holocaust fatigue.
 
Along the way we learn that Berlin and Germany have been increasingly attracting Jews, and have the fastest growing Jewish population in Europe. And that includes an influx of Israeli Jews, taking exception to their country’s treatment of the Palestinians.
 
Most of all we hear from both Jews and Germans of the struggle to come to terms with their tortured past, with perhaps I thought a soft touch of self satisfaction. For some it is no so easy to forget.
 
Whatever your roots from wherever, you more than the likely will experience the well crafted and composed film on a personal, gut level. I did, as a first generation cultural Jew from Eastern Europe.
 
Havjng once done a documentary on a Berlin that I knew before and after the Wall. I was snapped to attention by the film’s opening interview consisting of the quote: “My father said there are two kinds of people in the world: Jews and Nazis. “
 
It was what my “shtarker” father had similarly barked on awkward occasions, and that I had purposefully forgotten at the urging of my mother, who counseled that the mark of a survivor is not to look back.
But as the documentary Germans & Jews reminded me, sometimes you do.
 

CALIFORNIA INCLINE BETTER; SANTA MONICA TRAFFIC WORSE

The opening of a reconstructed California Incline is a cause for celebration. Or perhaps not, as I ask in my City Observed commentary for KBU, radioimalibu.net and select websites.

To be sure, the landmark connecting downtown Santa Monica with the PCH, has been redesigned to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and most importantly seismically upgraded.

And as before the 17 month reconstruction, the bridge edging the Palisades Park cliffs offers great views of the sprawling shoreline curving westward to the Malibu ocean front silhouette.

Nice, if you are a tourist framing a selfie, and perhaps recalling scenes from the movie “Its a Mad, Mad, World.” or “Knocked Up.” And the view of the sunsets from the Incline is in a word, spectacular.

The storied sandy beach beckons, and so does the diversions of the Santa Monica pier.

But it is not so nice if you are one of the 80,000 commuters who drive the PCH daily; it being a long. long traffic light at the Incline, and particularly frustrating for the estimated 15,000 who actually traverse the Incline between the PCH and Santa Monica.

The crush of increasing traffic on PCH is bad enough, what with rush hour now expanding to most hours of the work week, and the weekends near impossible with the rising waves of beachgoers.

But worse is downtown Santa Monica., whether just driving through it and having to negotiate the stop and go traffic and the pedestrians seemingly impervious to cross walk cautions.

Add to this the bumptious bicyclists, with the result traffic becomes a frustrating crawl, block after block, and maddening if you are looking for a parking space.

What is happening is that area residents, and that includes those living in Malibu, as well as the Pacific Palisades and also Santa Monica itself, are simply avoiding downtown.

They’re seemingly are abandoning it to the tourists and the L.A, at large crowed, reminding one of the old faded Westwood weekend scenes 40 years ago, only worse.

To be sure, on the surface Santa Monica is booming: restaurants are full, retail sales are up, and rents and property prices at record highs. All of this is filling the city ‘s coffers, fattening the already bloated local bureaucracy and making the bean counters happy. Or so it seems.

It certainly has Santa Monica’s voluble city manager Rick Cole, concerned, who stated in his blog that city traffic officials have “never seen this number of people and volume of traffic” in Santa Monica before.

He noted that crowds were getting bigger and visitors are staying later, and declared the city has “finally hit the tipping point, with many local residents are saying, ‘Nobody goes Downtown anymore, it’s too crowded.'”

To ease the situation, Cole did announce several mitigating measures, including promoting more walking, biking and public transit, facilitating the traffic flow, and adding more fringe parking. They might help.

Meanwhile, I’m glad the incline has been made safe.

But frankly I don’t expect the traffic situation to improve in downtown Santa Monica or on the PCH, and that more and more Malibu residents will be avoiding the Incline and Santa Monica, as well, preferring going over the hill to Agoura and Westlake to shop, eat, go to a movie, whatever.

There are certainly lessons in this for sanctimonious Santa Monica, and misanthropic Malibu too.

9.3.16

 

 

MOVING SAM MALOOF

For my pubic radio commentary this week, an unusual topic involving an uncommon craftsman and a distinct historic landmark, chronicled in singular book by an adroit architect.

It makes for an interesting read, especially for historic preservation buffs, and prompt a visit to Rancho Cucamonga. You will not be disappointed.

The topic is the diligent relocation of a two woodworking studios, a hand crafted residence, guesthouse and 20 odd mature trees out of the path of a planned freeway to a protected site three miles away.

The book title tells it all: “Moving Sam Maloof,” with an explanatory sub title, quote “Saving an American Woodworking Legend’s Home and Workshop,” end quote. Revealing also was that it was written with empathy by Ann Kovara , who not incidentally was the relocation project’s construction manager.

You usually do not get this literary quality from a practicing architect or perspective from a writer.

Packing the contents, taking down several detailed structures, uprooting a score of select trees, then moving it all a short distance on local streets, and reconstructing and replanting it all, is not your usual dramatic subject for an engaging book.

But “Moving Sam Maloof,” surprisingly is, especially if familiar with the original bucolic compound and a friend and admirer of the owner.

When I got to know Sam he already was an acclaimed woodworker, a true California Living Legend, indeed the first craftsman to receive a MacArthur Foundation so called genius grant; his exquisite furniture was in demand, back ordered for years, and workshop thriving.

Nevertheless, he always found time to open his shop and beguile my students venturing out of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Those days for me ran into evenings and relaxed meals with him and his lovely wife Alfreda and children at an accommodating nearby restaurant. He also gave his time freely for several TV segments I produced.

Kovara captures that spirit of Sam that was truly tested when the State made clear its intention to run a freeway through his 5 acre compound of 45 years.

Tough negotiations followed, during which time preservation grants became available, the overseeing bureaucrats became sympathetic, and the elaborate relocation details were resolved, with all involved bending a little, not unlike a rare pliable hardwood.

Sam witnessed the move, which took 3 years, from 1998 to 2001. He sadly passed, in 2009, at age 93.

The relocated house and studio is now under the care of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation, and can be toured. Contact the foundation for days, hours and other details.