Malibu  strong, yes. But Malibu smart? That is still very much in question. As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, that will depend on what the new City Council and the everyday staff will or is even capable of doing.

And that will require the Council aggressively pursuing what exactly went wrong in the Woolsey wildfire, and how the City might learn from it and somehow return to normal, chastened but smarter for the experience, better prepared for the next disaster, sure to come.  Just as the County has promised to do.

More specifically, the City must answer the challenge of how the rebuilding of homes be expedited through a reasonable fast track permit process, and also how its bureaucracy might be reconstructed and rededicated to better serve, and protect, its residents, consistent with Malibu’s worthy mission statement.

Questions, questions, questions, the answers to which I contend should be pursued independent of the city manager, city attorney and their consultants, for they indeed might be part of the problem, and possibly might subvert the review .

Some of those answers hopefully will be provided by the venerable Malibu Township Council, which will be reviewing emails and all city records pertaining to the fire disaster, specifically involving City Manager Reva Feldman, Mayor Rick Mullen, and City Attorney Christi Hogin.  Good luck to them.

Arguably, even before the fateful fire, City Hall did not particularly serve well the needs and desires of residents, though it has served itself well by pampering a vainglorious council while fattening and compensating colleagues.

And it sadly did even worse, plausibly failed, during the devastating fire, and in the chaotic aftermath, while obnoxiously congratulating itself at every opportunity for what I don’t know. For placating the public, perhaps.

To be sure, terrible mistakes were made by all levels of  government: the dubious deployment of fire fighting assets, the mismanagement of the evacuation, the bungled blockades, and the lack of communications.. 

However embarrassing, our first responders have kept excuses to a minimum, and when pressed as they were notably by KBUU have faced up to the criticism. Reviews have been promised, with the anticipation lessons will be learned and changes made, including the disciplining of those culpable.

But not our City Hall, where a seemingly overwhelmed city manager and a supercilious mayor have not been very responsive or transparent. One also could say dense. 

How else to explain that in the wake of the fire and the immediate need to address the pressing problems of the burnouts and the rebuilding process, they weighted the last  City Council agenda with an interminable tribute to departing councilpersons, Laura Rosenthal and Lou LaMonte.

But finally the parade of petty politicians making saccharine remarks and the self congratulations ended, and the two recently elected councilpersons, Karen Farrer and Mikke Pierson, took their seats.

Both in their brief remarks and those of newly anointed Mayor Jefferson Wagner professed their love of the city and pledged themselves to its rebirth. The words echoed what has been heard in the many recent post disaster forums, Malibu strong.

 But theirvoices were fresh and welcome, and sincere, certainly in contrast to those onthe past council. No doubt how strong, and most importantly, how smart, will betested in the coming meetings.  For our sake, we wish them the best. 


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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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