Hope for a needed assessment of what went wrong as the Woolsey fire ravaged Malibu, who among the responsible frankly screwed up, turned to skepticism and then sadly disappointment at the last City Council meeting.

The hope was in response to the City Council considering establishing a Disaster Response and Recovery Task Force, to complement a “comprehensive review” of the County’s effort announced by Supervisor Sheila Kuhl.

I presume the Fire and Police departments will participate and possibly also will have their internal review.  But given the brotherhood of first responders, and from my experience as an investigative reporter for The New York Times and having once served on a politically infused federal task force, one has to be wary of a whitewash.  Thus my initial hope was flavored with a scintilla of skepticism.

 Then my skepticism turned to sad disappointment as I listened to unrepentant councilperson and scamming former Mayor Rick Mullen detail the focus of the task force; and then further soured with rising nausea when the Council unanimously anointed him and pusillanimous Skylar Peak to take the lead in forming the task force.

Mullen’s role in particular as a fire captain and Mayor has to be questioned in light of a Page One L.A. Times investigation that revealed him billing taxpayers some $250,000 in overtime in addition to his $150,000 plus salary, an obvious ploy no matter how legal to pad his anticipated pension.

 There is a question that some of those hours Mullen was also acting as mayor, and collecting expenses from the city. He has yet to explain or apologize for his actions, but rather continues preaching as a Malibu councilperson.  Has he no shame?

 No doubt in the wings like a puppet master will be another well compensated public employee, wily City Manager Reva Feldman. Many Malibuites consider her and Emergency Service Manager Susan Duenas culpable in failing to anticipate the fire, the chaos of the mandatory evacuation, not forcefully advocating for more first responders at the height of the fire, and generally crumbling in the aftermath.

 A petition is being circulated calling for their firing or resignations.

That this trifecta will in effect presume to direct what ostensibly should include a forensic inquiry of their actions in the Woolsey disaster is a sham. Talk about putting the foxes in the hen house.

The council’s action has drawn much ire, and no matter how excused by a compromised enfeeble local media, there are strong requests that the Council reconsider its action, and indeed there are calls being made for Mullen and Peak to resign or be recalled.  If they do, they could save themselves, and the city, a lot of embarrassment.

Meanwhile, it should be noted, that the Malibu Town Council has launched its own review of the city’s response to the fire, and has requested all city records pertaining to the disaster involving Feldman, Mullen and Duenas.

The fires thankfully have been dampened, but the political aftermath certainly is smoldering.

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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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