MALIBU PAYS SACRAMENTO CONSULTANT HOW MUCH? AND FOR WHAT??

For the last 13 years the city of Malibu has dutifully paid the firm of California Strategies nearly $2 million, without any apparent written accountability.

And as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBUU and select websites, , this is contrary to commonly accepted consultant practices, especially in the public sector.

With the Sacramento-based firm’s contract with the city of Malibu soon up for extension, perhaps it is time to halt the reflex action of rubber-stamping that has been the practice of past councils, and openly review the agreement. Time seems ripe for some City Hall transparency.

In answer to a pointed question, Malibu City Manager city Reva Feldman stated the firm has provided verbal “updates and political context,” to her several times a week, though she noted “we do not keep written logs of those calls or of meetings in Sacramento.

The firm principal Ted Harris added California Strategies does not prepare or submit written reports,” nor does it have a written list of the City’s goals, objectives, and priorities in our files.”

That was in response to a city request, prompted by a Freedom of Information inquiry I submitted with the assistance of KBUU and several concerned citizens.

In variance to the statement, Harris signature is on the firm’s recent contract with Malibu in which goals, objectives and priorities of the city are prominently listed. The executed contract further states “all files of the Consultant pertaining to the City shall be and remain the property of the City,” and “the consultant will control the physical location of such files.”

In addition, a scan of reports obtained in the FOI request indicated tens of thousands of dollars have been expended by councilpersons Lou La Monte, Laura Rosenthal and Skylar Peak, and Feldman, on numerous trips to mostly Sacramento, and also to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Not found was any reference to California Strategies.

While their expenses were documented, no notation could be further found indicating what particular venue was visited, what was discussed, and how it might affect Malibu. There have been brief oral remarks at Council meetings, of events attended but no specifics recorded.

ln the public and private sectors, when dealing with consultants, there is among professionals a commonly accepted hypothesis of “a reasonable expectation of service.” .

Perhaps this would be a good time for City Hall to adopt that standard, starting with a review of its agreement with California Strategies.

 

 

TRAFFIC WAGS THE CULTURAL DOG IN L.A.

When it comes to attending cultural events in L.A. , and wanting to avoid the increasingly taxing trip downtown, particularly attractive to me is the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing arts in Beverly Hills.

And happily for dance aficionados, upcoming at the Wallis next weekend, May 5, 6 and 7, are three special dance performances by the always engaging, and challenging, Paul Taylor Company.

As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBUU and select websites, I may not be able to do anything about the traffic, no waze short cuts to the center on Santa Monica Blvd. But I can suggest scoring tickets early, for the performances promise to be sell-outs, as they are wherever the company appears.

The program for the Wallis features 3 distinctive pieces,: SYZYGY, which is described as a nearly straight line configuration of three or more celestial bodies in a gravitational system; THE WORD, inspired by the biblical line, “For our God is consuming fire -,” and the classic, ESPLANADE, danced to the music of J.S, Bach.

 At 84 years old, Paul Taylor is a celebrated icon of dance, his company having performed for more than 60 years. and as observed by Wallis artistic director, Paul Crewes, “continues to this day to shape modern dance.”

This follows the recent performances by the equally iconic Alvin Ailey dance company , downtown. The program was stunning, but the stop-and-go drive getting there was awful.

True, the driving to the Wallis also calls for patience, coming as we do from Malibu and Pt. Dume. There is always the unpredictable drive on the PCH and having to weave on local streets to Beverly Hills.

But for me that is so much better than going to the music center downtown, whether by the agonizing slow expo line or the forever frustrating freeways.

You want to be culturally au courant. I was nurtured in my native New York on art, music, dance and the theatre, and have been increasingly pleased, at times dazzled, by the array of artistic attractions in L.A.

But getting to them has also been increasingly difficult. And forget going to the ridiculous pricey Dodger Stadium with the family, even if you sneak in snacks and drinks.

Yes, I have to declare that traffic in L.A. has become the tail that wags the arts and entertainment dog.

 

“PUTZING” WITH THE PCH

When it comes to the city fiddling with the dreaded PCH, it is one step forward and one step back, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Actually, the PCH is a state highway and the city really can’t fiddle with it, only make suggestions to the bureaucratic overseer CALTRANS.

And given the city’s proclivities, politics, and personnel, fiddle may not be the correct word. Let me suggest the Yiddish “putz” around with it.   So we have situations like no right hand turn lane at Trancas Canyon Boulevard, and other screw ups.  Or the latest involving parking on PCH.

And perhaps instead of describing the action as a step back, let me morbidly suggest the image of a brightly vested young valet parking attendant, darting back and forth on PCH, as if his or her life depended upon on it, because it just might.

Their life and perhaps the driver of the car that swerves to avoid hitting the jaywalking or running valet, and collides with oncoming traffic or a parked vehicle.

For the probability of this tragic scenario, I feel, has been unfortunately heightened by the hapless Malibu City Council’s approval to allow a hotel to park their cars off  its property, and most probability relocate them across PCH.

The request was made by a local anything-for-a buck architectural firm on behalf of the Malibu Beach Inn, to allow the hotel to replace its existing on-site parking with a swimming pool for guests. Nice.

Of course this opens the door for any oceanside hotel, motel or B&B to apply for off site parking to better use and profit from their guest serving facilities for whatever, a swimming pool, a sauna, a smoking lounge, maybe even a few more guest rooms.

Each case will be decided on site specific particular, so whomever might see dollar signs in all this, just pay your fee to the city, and get on line.  And don’t forget the extra charges for having the city and its ever-ready consultant produce the necessary studies on how traffic will be affected.

But anybody who has driven on PCH when hotel or bar patrons, or the valets, are desperately trying to park, or retrieve cars no doubt can guess the affect: scary. And not incidentally it will naturally slow traffic, assuming that you value life and your car.

Ignored in the city’s rush to please a commercial developer is that this is a case of local spot zoning, compromising established state highway standards dating back 70 or so years, and just may be illegal. Yes, another city screwup.

I can understand councilpersons Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal voting for it , given their accommodating view of anything commercial to add to the city’s coffers, and their business friendly posture in their lame duck term.

But the vote of first responder Rick Mullen is a puzzle. He did indeed comment that the proposal seemed to be bad for traffic and safety, yes, before voting for it anyway. Go figure.

 

KITES SOAR AT MALIBU CITY HALL

If you happen to be going to Malibu’s City Hall for some dirty deed or other, like depositing hazardous wastes or turning in old batteries, do check out in the atrium on the second floor for the Cultural Art Commission’s latest offering entitled, “Painting the Sky.”

Actually, you do not need an excuse to go see the modest exhibition in the makeshift municipal gallery, for the kites hung from the ceiling that were designed and built by the late Tryus Wong and the photographs of Sara Jane Boyer of him and his kites, are a delight, And so I comment on public radio 97.7 KBU and select websites everywhere.

The dozen or so colorful hand painted kites depicting a menagerie of animals appear to sway and shimmer in the raised, sun light bright space. Of course not as a soaring as if they were aloft on a nearby sandy beach, but the spirit of sky seeking kites can be sensed.

Loved the animals, that included swallows, cranes, owls and dragon flies. Most arresting was the 22 foot long undulating kite shaped like a caterpillar that serves as the centerpiece to the display.

The caterpillar was no doubt one of Wong’s favorites, and can be seen in a series of photographs by Boyer of being teased off the beach and into the air by an attentive Wong.

These and the other accompanying fine art photographs of Boyer complement and celebrate Wong, who interestingly photographed him for the last ten of his 106 years, on the beach, flying his kites., for which he had become renown .

One appreciates that the respected Boyer’s composed fine art technique focusing on the subject and not her skill. She respected Wong.

The kites were clearly Wong’s love, and designing and flying them obviously filled his extended later years with soul enriching art and the enjoyment of cavorting on the sandy beach, delighting himself and onlookers.

As I can attest, and my children acknowledge, flying kites can be fun, and challenging, depending on the construction of the kite, the fickle winds, and your skill.

Of course, Wong came to this mastery with a quiver of abilities honed working at Disney, among other studios., and in particular for his animation on such films as “Bambi.” The kite making came after his retirement in 1976. He died last December. His kites endure.

 

 

HYPE AND HUSTLE CONTINUE TO THREATEN L.A. MUSEUM

 
The deadhead design duo of the suave Los Angeles museum director Michael Govan and his servile Swiss architect Peter Zumthor staged another dog and pony show recently promoting yet another variation on their immodest plans for a new County Museum.
 
As I declare on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites everywhere, it deserves an update. I feel its soaring price tag of $600 million dollar and-counting-proposal and accompanying machinations need constant exposure as a hustle, or it will suck up millions in public and private funds.
 
As for the politicians and public benefactors being socially and politically pressured to support the project in the name of culture, let me predict here in blunt English that in time I expect it will bite them on the ass.
 
I really don’t care about that, for it’s my long experience with self-anointed so-called community leaders that most have no shame. Added to this mix at LACMA is Govan’s edifice complex, which he apparently acquired years ago when involved with the Guggenheim museum developing the heralded Bilbao museum designed by Frank Gehry.
 
What I care about is that this planning and design conceit is a sorry waste of time and money –we are talking millions, potentially one billion dollars here — that could be used for real culturally related projects.
 
My list includes subsidizing art education in under served public schools, art student scholarships, art programs for seniors, traveling exhibits.the list goes on and on.
 
At the latest promotion last week in the safe confines of the county museum, Govan and Zumthor were the only two on stage, no one to raise embarrassing questions there, nor were any allowed from the audience.
 
The presentation focused on the tweaking of the original design, replacing the existing museum with an ugly undulating black bob of 400,000 square feet, spilling across Wilshire Boulevard.
 
I would describe effort with the raw cliché of putting a mustache on a pig.
 
The color has now changed to tan, the blob is less curvaceous, and landscaping is promoted. But still to be demolished is the fractured though functioning and familiar museum, its encyclopedic collection packed away for several years, and no special interim exhibitions for which LACMA is justly famous.
 
But the rape of the museum –and make no mistake about it, that is what this plan is – is not really about design.
 
It is about power and egos, the curse of the desire for edifice architecture and wannabe celebrity architects, and not about architecture’s noble purpose of creating spaces and places for human endeavor.
 
 
 

IMMERSIVE THEATRE IN BEVERLY HILLS

Saw the acclaimed production of The Encounter recently at the always inviting Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Every time I attend a production there, it makes me think how great, and convenient, it would be if Malibu had a similar center, with a creative and resourceful administration. There is always hope.

Meanwhile, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites, The Encounter is one of those productions I would definitely label creative, and frankly challenging. But I also would add that though it lost me at times, I found it riveting, indeed mesmerizing, and would recommend it, especially to those who appreciate what is described as immersive theatre.

We are talking here of avant-garde productions that plumb your imagination, employing every device imaginable to play on whatever senses are exposed, which was sight and hearing at the Wallis.

For The Encounter, this required the audience putting on small earphones attached to each seat, which when adjusted transmit wraparound sensitizing sound that creates a sense of space.

Then there is the open set that looked like one hell of a messy work room, featuring a plain table cluttered with water bottles, a carton of exposed film, and in stage center, a large bulbous binaural microphone, manned by an intense, frenetic, confiding Simon McBurney, in a wrinkled Tee-shirt and jeans.

He is IT, the show’s single performer, and director, with a variety of voices, and supported by mind bending sound and lighting designers. He tells the true story of a National Geographic photographer, Loren McIntyre, who in 1969 became lost in the Brazilian Amazon while in search of the mysterious Mayoruna tribe.

It is a wild telling, based on a book by a Romanian journalist, Petru Popescu, entitled “The Encounter: Amazon Beaming.” that McIntrye quotes from with mounting passion, only to be interrupted by his young daughter who can’t seem to fall asleep, and whose squeaky voice we hear asking for water, questioning what her father is doing, and finally gets him to tell her a story.

Of course, it is about this photographer who gets lost in jungle. It is definitely a production you also can get lost in, and enjoy.

If so, you are going to have to get to the Wallis this weekend, for the remaining performances.

 

 

 

 

“INTO THE WOODS” REVIVED WITH VERVE

Spring break for me, thank you, was a most enjoyable writing a remembrance and  gardening at home, and attending the theatre downtown.

So instead of doing a city observed on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites as I do every Saturday, it is an arts and entertainment observed,  happily hailing the current production at the Ahmanson,  “Into the Woods.,”

The revival running until mid May has to be one of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s most fun musicals, a mash up of fairy tales both familiar and fractured, engaging, enchanting, sure to please children of parental guidance age, and also a little edgy, to please hardened adults.

Premiered 30 years ago to much praise on Broadway, it has been a favorite of touring and regional production companies everywhere, and also made into the inevitable Disney movie a few years ago
Overblown with over-the-top performances by superstars Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, it nonetheless was a much praised commercial hit.

We all know the weaving of the playful story lines,  and the adventures and misadventures of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel,  tested by the all purpose witch, along with a big bad wolf and a bigger giant.

Therefore, to be a critic, in effect an advocate for the theatre goer, one must approach a revival with a wary eye, alert to what makes the production special, and not a forgettable, ho hum, cash cow rip off.

Fear not. It is an absolute pleasure to report this latest revival of “Into The Woods,” brought to L.A. by the Center Theatre Group, is fresh, brimming with a new look and new energy.

On an open bare bones stage, fashioned and played with a charming abandon by the acclaimed Fiasco Theatre company, it is sure to delight even the Sondheim purists.

And there being no set pieces, it allowed me to focus on the performances, which were marvelous, most of the actors performing multiple roles with aplomb.

Loved Darick Pead, in 3 roles, including the cow, and also Bonnie Kramer and Anthony Chatmon, He particularly was great as the prince and a wolf, in a great musical. Kudos all.