A ray of sun broke through the political cloud hovering over the City Council this week, and however modest, it offered some warmth and hope from which conflicted Malibu residents should take comfort.
The glimmer also hinted at what could be a heartening shift to those who have faith, however failing, in democracy and transparency in local government. Other levels of government are another matter, and in this forum I’m hesitant to kick over that rock. The situation is bad enough in Malibu with a bumbling bureaucracy, a history of self-serving councilpersons and a lethargic citizenry.
But hope for change flickered at the end of a mostly tedious meeting in which among agenda items councilpersons dutifully reported how what they been doing on behalf of the city, an appeal was heard to amend a needed Point Dume preserve project to include better enforcement of a dusk to dawn parking ban there and, finally, a perfunctory review and affirmation of council subcommittee appointments.
It came as the Council took up the item to establish a disaster response and recovery ad hoc committee that had been proposed by Rick Mullen and Skylar Peak with themselves as co-chairs. Not incidentally, both Mullen and Peak have been adamant in their deleterious defense to date of over-paid and over-her head City Manager Reva Feldman,
Most egregious, she has been sharply criticized for failing Malibu in the Woolsey fire, and is now the target of a petition calling for her dismissal that at last count had nearly 3,000 signatures. Also brewing is a recall for Mullen, and possibly Peak.
The first volley at the council meeting in opposition to Mullen and Peak came from resident Bruce Silverstein, a retired learned lawyer rising out of the audience, who cogently stated the appointment of two persons whose action in the disaster have been questioned, could compromise any review and community credence.
This is a point I had made when the committee had been first proposed several weeks ago by an ignominious Mullen, who in addition to his flimflamming on council while mayor had been exposed on Page One of the L.A. Times of scamming the L.A. Fire Department of $250,000 in overtime in addition to his $150,000 salary. When will it ever stop? When will we ever get an apology?
Mullen took a convoluted exception to Silverstein’s comments, citing his experience and that of sometime sidekick Skylar Peak, who appeared less than enthusiastic as Mullen droned on. However, as in the past, just when Mullen seemed to have swayed the council into submission, the recently elected and new mayor pro tem Karen Farrer politely demurred, and suggested a fresh view was needed.
An independent Mikke Pierson added correctly that also at stake was the public confidence in City Hall, which at present is at a low point. And so it went, back and forth, until Mayor Jefferson Wagner stepped up and virtuously sided with Farrer and Pierson. They were subsequently designated to head the ad hoc committee.
It will be a challenge whether the committee can complement the county’s inquiry announced by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and come up with a list of lessons learned that the city can implement. But at least there is the promise that it will not be a steaming pile of excuses, “etc. etc. etc.” mumbled by Mullen.
Now exposed as the minority on council, and his veracity, and Fire Department record, questioned, there is hope in Malibu that Mullen will nobly resign, drop his dubious defense of the city manager, and that a revitalized council will have the votes and the gumption to fire a recalcitrant Reva. That could nullify the vexing need for a recall. I hope so.
And soon the storms will pass, the sun will shine, new growth will green the now black and brown hills, and it again will be Spring in Malibu, a time of renewal.
Excuse me, but now that I am no longer constrained as I was at KBUU, and am no longer volunteering my 60 plus years of journalistic experience there, however its need, I feel freer on social media to indulge myself. The pay is the same.