THE FIRE AND OUR FADING DEMOCRACY


Like the residue of toxic ash from the Woolsey fire that is embedded in the soil of my Malibu, there are many aspects of that disaster that should haunt the singular seacoast village for the foreseeable future.

And if you witnessed the fire that destroyed some 800 homes, a fifth of the city and canyons beyond, it is certain that the thousands of persons directly affected will never forget, nor forgive, the failures of local government in the heat of the disaster, and their feigned excuses after.

Exactly what went wrong hopefully will be revealed in the promised  post disaster reviews: the lack of preparedness,, the faulty mandatory evacuation , foundering communications, the haphazard dispatch of fire fighting crews and apparatus, and the deficient support for those who stayed to save their homes and that of neighbors.

So many persons failed us, prime among them City Manager Reva Feldman and then mayor Rick Mullen. And though they may never have the courage to admit it, if there is any karma the failures should shadow them for the rest of their questionable careers.

But from my philosophical perspective,  a catbird seat on the point of  Pt. Dume, and as I write in The Local and select websites, the flagrant failures of government during and after the fire residents in Malibu are citing I feel reflect concerns on a far larger stage.

Indeed, they have political implications in communities almost everywhere, and are indicative here, regionally and nationally, of a breach of Jeffersonian democracy’s hallowed social contract between our public institutions and ordinary citizens, between those who govern, them, and the governed, us. It is serious, and troublesome.

The concern over the breach was raised coincidentally a few weeks ago by Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells in a select salon in Los Angeles hosted by the upstart Berggruen Institute and reported in its weekly World Post published in partnership with the Washington Post. 

Discussing his new book “Rupture: The Crisis of Liberal Democracy.” Castells is reported arguing that we are witnessing today across the West is not some normal turn of political cycles but a distinct fading of democracy and a historic rupture of institutional relationships. 

And he sees no new interconnection  that might supplant the old ways of representation, only fragments of the former mainstream parties and upstart populists vying for power through “ the exhausted mechanism of electoral contests in which ever fewer believe.”

“Where are the new institutions worthy of our trust?” declared the famous scholar of the networked society, as reported in The World Post. Instead, the article adds, he sees citizens acting autonomously through the use of new technologies, such as you are no doubt plugged into.

“They’re making use of the capacity for self-communication, deliberation and co-decision-making that is now at our disposal thanks to the ‘Internet Galaxy,’ and putting the enormous wealth of information and knowledge into practices to help manage our problems.”  He hopes, as I do in a poorly governed Malibu, despite what local apologists say.

Castells doubts that we will ever get to the possibility of consensus because the institutional link between the governing and governed is terminally severed, and that “Only the vast emotional transmission grid of social networks remains as the relevant public space.” 

And as we see in our bubble of Malibu, its print and broadcast media are fading, while sadly deferring to the status quo local government and the powers-that-be. Meanwhile, thankfully, we have the however compromised and indulgent social media; what you are reading now. And for that, I thank you.

LOVE THE HAMMER

You have to love the HAMMER MUSEUM, lending a cultural component to the commercial clutter of Westwood, and relatively convenient to my Malibu, that is if you time going there when traffic is relatively light on the PCH. Good luck.

The HAMMER and its diversions of special exhibits and programs also are free, open and inviting to all, as I contend all museums should be. In addition there is reasonable parking beneath, and a pleasant atrium eatery for a snack or a leisurely meal.

Modestly tucked under a non descript office building, not an arbitrary architectural conceit reflecting a director’s sorry edifice complex, the Hammer is a most egalitarian singular cultural establishment that has been under the creative Ann Philbin, its inspired director since 1999.

But as I write in The Local and on select websites, I must caution those who consider attending the Hammer to be most open minded, for as the museum declares, it “champions the art and artists who challenge us to see the world in a new light, to experience the unexpected, to ignite our imaginations , and inspire change,” Going beyond the personal, it adds:

“The Hammer understands that art not only has the power to trans[port us through aesthetic experiences but can also provide significant insight into some of the most pressing cultural, political and social questions of our time. We share the unique and invaluable perspectives that artists have on the world around us.” It is a view I embrace with prejudice.

That said, the Hammer’s opening exhibition for the new year is a comprehensive survey of Los Angeles-based artist Allen Ruppersberg, a pioneer of conceptual art. The show runs until May 12th. Since conceptual art is an artist pursuit for which the idea behind the work is more important than the finished art object, it can in my opinion be almost anything: memorabilia, everyday objects, found objects, happenings, performances, or simply the written word.

Some silly, some studied, be they self portraits or scenes of others, the exhibit is like wandering through Ruppersberg’s cluttered studio, unkempt house, and junk filled garage. He explains: “I am definitely a custodian of obscure and disappearing things of all sorts.” Revealing, fascinating, yet also tedious. Perhaps that is the purpose.

More conceptual art of other artists also can be viewed at the Hammer in an concurrent exhibit entitled “Dirty Protests.” They are among a selection from the museum’s collection and recent acquisitions of paintings, sculpture, drawings and multi-media installations of 30 artists, established and emerging. It runs until May 19th.

If you have the stamina, there are several other exhibits at the Hammer. Included in one labeled “Tshababalala Self,” is a project entitled “Bodega Run, which “examines the neighborhood convenience store as both a gathering place for community and a microcosm of how current economic and political issues are impacting people’s lives.” Think of several coffee houses in Malibu. Or the one in the museum’s atrium.

Also at the Hammer there are some upcoming scheduled programs of interest: documentaries, talks with Q and A. Check events and times on
INFO@HAMMER.UCLA.EDU

SHAKING UP CITY HALL: ITS PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL

I am being asked why so hard on the city manager, urging her ouster, and also disparaging her entourage, labeling them overpaid and under achieving, and together trashing them for their failures during and after the disastrous Woolsey Fire?

And let’s not forget my utter disappointment in the questionable performance of our first responders in the horrific hours of the fire. But that may be in part because of my contempt for our former mayor and fire captain Rick Mullen ‘s feeding at the pubic trough, albeit legally, padding his pay and overtime to $400,000 plus a year, and not even apologizing for it. His lack of shame does not augur well for Malibu.

How many more needed firefighters could have been hired in the slop of overtime he and others have consumed? We were told a recent pubic meeting the department was short some 500 to fight the fires, down from 1200 of a few years ago.

Still, this hasn’t seemed to bother some amiable Malibu locals, who suggest we look beyond Mullen’s machinations and also Skylar Peaks’s poor attendance record on City Council, where it has been observed even if present he is absent.  And Reva is just blandly duplicitous. 

As much as I try, I just can’t forget or forgive what I consider their foundering in face of the fire, and their false excuses. And as I write in The Local https://www.facebook.com/thelocalmalibu/ and other select websites, neither I believe should the city, if it really expects to rebuild for its persevering burnt out citizens. 

Being so judgmental I guess comes with my abiding calling over the years as a cultural critic, beginning as the Queens Teens columnist for the Long Island Daily Press in 1952, continuing periodically to the present, combating my dotage at large for various venues. It unabashedly prompts indulgent memories, and questions: 

Can it be that somehow the youthful years of boring hours of what I thought then was nonsensical recitations from the unforgiving Old Testament teachings actually took seed in my being, and now sub consciously shape my judgments?

 Perhaps blame it on that I am a born and ill bred New Yorker, and despite enjoying the last 40 years in L.A. and more than half in relatively mellow Malibu, I have little patience with feigned niceties or blatant bull shit. 

Or maybe it is because my skepticism was honed first as a police then metropolitan reporter 60 or so years ago when city newsrooms were for me classrooms, crowded because no one ever wanted to go home; work was actually too much fun, the off-the-record stories too captivating.

My graduate school happily was a then rough hewn New York Times, more Front Page than Society page, remembered in the late 50s and 60s to be clouded with choking cigarette and cigar smoke, and smelling of cheap liquor coming from the pints hidden in plain paper bags in easy reach below cluttered desks. 

Alcoholism I hazily recall was the bane of the august Times, as sex was for its neighbor and then competitor Herald Tribune. Later as an editor of a New York Post under a raucous Rupert in the late 70s I sadly remember it was drugs and divorce.

And then there was the cacophony of the constant ringing phones and echoes of garrulous laughter. It could be deafening, and indeed may be why I am now hearing impaired. Riding clattering subways half my life also certainly did not help.

The skepticism actually served me well years later when I became immersed in planning and development, principally in the wilds of New York City, and in later years in the brambles of Los Angeles. They were experiences I consider in retrospect to be a form of penance for which I arguably paid for my greed that in part prompted my move to Malibu.

 Also on occasion in those formative years I was enlisted to partake in several select New York State and federal investigations, I am not prone to discuss. However, to be sure those experiences certainly made me alert to abuses I view in the governance of my present Malibu.

Yes, for the last several decades, and hopefully the next few, I am contentedly settled in a comfortable Malibu, where in addition to my specimen succulents and cacti landscaping, hopefully my urgings for a reformed City Hall will take root.

2.14.19

CULTURAL CUTTING EDGES ON THE WESTSIDE

Jumping from cutting edge to cutting edge beyond the beach on the Westside these seemingly endless rainy days; last weekend it was the UCLA’s Center for the Performing Arts in Westwood and this weekend the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills

And in doing so, one must jump with caution, for cutting edges can be both sharp and dull, challenging the senses, and on stage the theatrical norms, as I observe in The Local and select social media websites.

So, if last weekend’s production of “Mouthpiece” at Royce Hall was an offbeat production of the spoken word, requiring listening carefully to the rush of feminist dialogue, this weekend’s dance concert at the Wallis requires close attention to the body movements and accompanying music.

In keeping with its commitment to “create, present and celebrate unique performing arts events, “ and to tap talent  from “around the globe,” on stage at the Wallis this Friday and Saturday night will be the dance company Ate9, which has deep roots in Israel.  Live music will be provided by percussionist Glenn Kotche..

Under the always inventive direction of choreographer Danielle Agami, the company will be performing the world premier of a work labeled “Blind Lady, “ which should give you some hints of the dance drama to be played out on stage.  Agami will of course star, to live music as usual for her performances provided by the percussionist Glenn Kotche.

Interestingly, also on the program is the company’s acclaimed piece “Calling Glenn,” which alludes to the percussionist, who accompanies the piece and no doubt will be a presence. It should be fun, and I’m looking forward to the performance.

As for its pursuit of distinctive musical performances, next  weekend, Saturday, the 23rd,  at the Wallis will be the chamber orchestra  Kaleidoscope. As its mode, the orchestra’s 40 or so musicians will play without  a conductor a program of  Beethoven and Prokofiev, featuring pianist Irene Kim.

And in keeping with the Wallis commitment to the new, also on the program is a work for strings by the Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw. She has been praised for taping songs for political and interpersonal relevance, to quote a line from a New York Times review. 

If you love expecting the unexpected in the performing arts, you have to love the Wallis, in Beverly Hills. 

And for me making an evening there all the more pleasing, is that the Wallis is housed in an imaginatively repurposed formerly Beverly Hills Post Office, an iconic landmark built in 1933, and on the National Register of Historic Places.

2.13.19

MALIBU’S LOSS OF INNOCENCE

When the Woolsey Fire ravaged a significant slice of Malibu, it also laid bare the city’s collective innocence, exposing a failed leadership and a flawed first response, and is now faced with the daunting challenge to rebuild while also preparing for the next inevitable disaster.

The innocence was frankly ingenuous, having become crusted over the years by Malibu’s desirable, seaside location, increasingly prohibitive real estate prices, bad planning and a privileged population of presumed entitlements, inexorably edging out persevering residents.

 As I observe in The Local, (https://www.facebook.com/thelocalmalibu/ it is a thin crust, labeled by its imperfect leadership as 21 miles of scenic beauty, cheered by avaricious realtors, rapacious high end retailers, and a supercilious entertainment industry, its fattened elite rolling dice on a monopoly board cluttered with trophy houses. Even the car named after it is spurious.

 Now a fractured, fire ravaged municipality, one wonders what it will take for Malibu to come to the sad awakening that it has been poorly served by selfsatisfied bureaucrats who presumably are sworn to protect us? 

 Whether the latest exploit of City Manager Reva Feldman going to Paris for a two-week vacation as a devastated Malibu stumbles trying to launch a rebuild is just another indication of her dereliction of duties, to be forgiven by a fledgling City Council, and a naïve, status quo conscious citizenry?

 Or whether the ill timed vacation will be that additional insult, that final straw that broke the camel’s back, to prompt a reasoned recall for her resignation. This coming as it does after the city’s lack of preparedness for the fire, its mishandling of the mandatory evacuation, and its witless failure to assist besieged residents during the height of the tragedy and after.

 All of these debacles and their disastrous consequences can be laid at the feet of Feldman, who actually at first had the temerity of praising her staff and herself for their efforts during the fire, and conspiring with then Mayor Rick Mullen to blandly bull shit a sorry undiscerning media of half baked journalists (though immodestly not us). 

 But when Feldman was exposed as actually abandoning City Hall and the Emergency Operations Center there during the 16 hours when the fire was ravaging western Malibu and Point Dune, she pleaded she was just following the mandatory evacuation and really had no authority over the questioned response of the Fire and Sheriff’s departments. More bull shit.

 Yes, her puppets will cite the state laws and codes concerning a declared state of emergency that limit the authority of a city manager and all local government officials.  And no doubt this will be echoed in the flow of excuses mouthed by officialdom in the upcoming repetitive reviews of the Woolsey Fire.

 But whatever regulations there are, in the immediacy of a disaster local governments are not excluded from the manifest chain of command, indeed are a much needed link in the communications that flows up and down the chain in combating the fires. 

 The harsh fact is that during the critical hours of the Woolsey fire Feldman failed the city; wasn’t even a self described “messenger” for which she incidentally is paid $300,000 a year, despite her lack of proven supervisory experience. She was challenged by the fire, and was found wanting.

 As for the appeal not to be divisive, and the contention that Feldman as the city manager is vital to the rebuild effort, that is simply answered by her going on a Paris vacation at a parlous time.

 She is really superfluous, and being a bean counter personified tends to bog down the already ponderous bureaucratic process, focusing on why things can’t be done rather how they can be done, There are staff beyond her entourage known to be competent, if not dispirited by her closed door, closed mouth mismanagement.

 Meanwhile, the rebuild effort does not have the luxury of time that the reviews most likely will take, nor the pending recall needed to replace the muddled Mullen and the pathetic Peak with councilpersons who would vote for Feldman’s ouster. if this was the private sector, she would have been shown the door long ago.

 Of course, if it has been listening to the anguish of its constituencies, this present Council could vote to remove her, now.   She could also resign, and save the city a lot of angst, and herself further embarrassment.

SOME CULTURAL DIVERSIONS BEYOND PCH

A new format for my arts and entertainment reviews, no more listeners on a limited local radio station, and many more readers on the rising and relevant THE LOCAL (https://www.facebook.com/thelocalmalibu/)  and select websites.  

And just in time, for a promising 2019 cultural scene, even if  expected to be more challenging to attend venues, especially  downtown and across L.A. because of the inexorable traffic, which seems to be getting worse and worse, or is it me in my dotage getting more and more impatient.    

You just have to be more selective choosing attractions and more cautious timing to get to them, and I as a guide will have to consider in my recommendations what is more accessible to an increasingly isolated Malibu. I do hate the PCH, with the 10 and 101 not far behind.

 But I will not let that dampen my aesthetic instinct to search out the more off beat, for that is what I find most exciting about Los Angeles. It arts and entertainment scene is very much on the cutting edge. 

With that in mind, upcoming this weekend downtown at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel is Gala, a very different and open appreciation of dance starring a diversity of professional and amateurs, including some challenged.  Everything that I have heard and read about this imaginative production by Jerome Bel promises to be an uplifting evening. One night only, Saturday.

This is a co production of the Ford Theatres with UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. Based in Royce Hall on campus, the Center almost always can be expected to offer something challenging and contemporary.

 That certainly can be described by the upcoming production of  MOUTHPIECE,  which advance notices contend melds music, dance and humor with just a bathtub for scenery to relate the experience of being a woman.“  Blurbs from feminist declare it “impossible to describe and truly unforgettable.”

A stronger recommendation for me is that the production took flight as one of hits of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I consider as a critic a mother lode of imaginative theatre. It was originally conceived in the also ever inventive Quote Unquote Collective, a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary performance company that actively engages with urgent social and political themes

It will be at Royce Hall Rehearsal Hall, for five nights, Wednesday Feb  6 through Sunday, the 10th, certain at 8PM.

Also promising something different, in this case very modern dance, is the Ate 9 Company’s world premiere, entitled Blind Lady.   It will be at the also innovative Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in its Bram Goldsmith Theatre, in Beverly Hills. February 15-16,.

With live music by percussionist Glenn Kotche and choreographed by Artistic Director Danielle Agami, if this is anything like the past productions of theirs I have been blessed to see, Blind Lady is sure to engage, and be memorable.

And it’s nice to get away from my ailing Malibu, if only for an evening.

2.1.19

MALIBU’S MOMENT OF TRUTH; RESIGNATION OR RECALL

Let there be no mistake about a recall for my ailing Malibu. It would be wrenching, for a city already fractured by a dwindling citizenry displaced by a disastrous fire, persevering disconcerted residents, thankful their homes were spared though many were scarred, and a disconnected second home population.

Though without reluctance I signed the recall petition, as I willingly did the immediate and frankly more pressing petition demanding the resignations or firing of City Manager Reva Feldman and Emergency Service Manager Susan Duenas.

As I blog in The Local (https://www.facebook.com/thelocalmalibu/)

personally I hope the vote could be avoided, and Rick Mullen and Skylar Peak serve out their remaining terms of less two years; no doubt Rick running up his outrageous overtime to pad his pension as a fire captain, and a smiling Skylar enjoying early retirement in his scattered, surfside domiciles.

That, of course, could happen, as has been stated repeatedly by the Malibu strong, determined petition bearers. All it would take to avoid the probable pain of the recall is if the Council would ask for Reva’s resignation. Maybe also throw in an exiting gift, even a letter of recommendation, as a bean counter personified, while showing her the door.  She could always blame her departure to a maladroit Malibu, as other cities are wont to hear.  

 Certainly you think it would be preferable to the ignominy of being summarily fired, with a public recitation of her dereliction of duties as well as her vanities. That would make great grist for the popular and professional media, at least from my perspective as someone who has plowed those rocky but fertilized fields. 

But then there has to be the reluctance by Reva to give up her $300,000 plus salary and benefits that has made her one of the highest paid city managers in the nation, and not incidentally also for one of the smallest cities. It really is impressive how with limited academic credentials and less senior supervisory experience beyond bean counting, she had wrangled such a coveted managerial position. 

But maybe you don’t want to know how, but I suspect it is nothing more nefarious than being employed in a city with a succession of neophyte councils that have preferred to spend money on self-aggrandizing vanities rather than needed administrative oversight.

No one needs the distraction and aggravation of a looming vote, let alone the ugly signage and floods of mail reminding us of how our City Hall embarrassed and failed us in the Woolsey firestorm and after. Then there is the managerial adage of “A people hire A people, while B people hire C people.”  Malibu sadly is adrift in a sea of “Cs.”

Whether they ever admit it and apologize or not, Malibu’s City Hall and a woeful fire department perhaps might be forgiven by the more kindly of us. But for most residents who lived through the fires their failures will never be forgotten.  

And we don’t need what I’m sure will be b.s. bureaucratic investigations or reviews to tell us they did fail, “yes, but.”  To be sure, a very pronounced “but.” Though the reports might make for coveted souvenirs for many, for a few I’m sure they will be cathartic.

But expect no one responsible to be cited, no civil servant or serpent named and resignation requested. Perhaps a “lessons learned” would be helpful, with specific mandates and budget allocations. Maybe the budget funds the fire department personnel, such as our former mayor Mullen, have been scamming, albeit legally, can be diverted.

Also personally we really don’t need more of our evening or weekends usurped for open meetings with the usual suspects looking nonplussed at the head table, mouthing excuses and their sycophants nodding like bobble head dolls, scowling at those candidly venting.

Yes, all this can be avoided and we can get on with the arduous task of rebuilding Malibu and aiding however we can its burnt out victims. 

Reva of course can do the right thing, and resign, for which she would be thanked.  No more booing, please.

 But if not, the Council could fire her, by a 3 to 2 vote, by councilpersons I hope would not need to be reminded that they were elected to office, not anointed with divine rights, and have constituencies that want Reva gone, the sooner the better. The petition should be read to all who would listen.

It’s time for that moment of truth, difficult as it is. Time for each councilperson to be held accountable, yes, Rick and Skylar, too, as well as Jefferson, Mikke and Karen: a divisive, diverting recall, or a simple, if sad, request for a resignation?

2.1.19

LIFE AS A WOMAN ON STAGE AT UCLA

Here is something for the weekend at UCLA’s Royce Rehearsal Hall that a woman might find recognizable and riveting, and a man mystifying and perplexing.

But there is no question that both genders will find the theatrical offering of “Mouthpiece” a challenge, which if anything is the hallmark of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, a  fount of the imaginative avant-garde in the ever expanding Los Angeles cultural scene,.

The production by the Center in association with Toronto’s Quote Unquote Collective  indeed was a challenge, certainly for me, a male veteran combat correspondent in the war of the sexes that has been raging since the beginning of time, and it seems as of late to be more intense, more confessional and in your face.

Therefore this review for The Local and select websites is offered with a dash of salted caution, and peppered with prejudice, and should be taken knowing that the perspective is that of my gender, which frankly has had decidedly conflicted feelings about females,

At times this has made it particularly hard for men to fathom what women are saying or meaning.  Not surprisingly as displayed in the of the play,  it has been scientifically proven that they think differently than men.

But you have to love them, or die trying.  If the circumstances are right, honorable and honest, they really can become true, sharing companions and forever engaging, for life. So you better try to pay attention to them.

If so, the madcap yet compelling “Mouthpiece” can be revealing and instructive, even if you like me cannot identify with the principal character named Cassandra. She is played in brilliant and brash tandem by two actresses, Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, who also are both credited as the plays authors. .

They are Cassandra’s conscious and sub-conscious in constant dialogue with each other, as life long female friends and family are apt to be, with one interrupting the other, talking in harmony, and disharmony., bodies writhing , limbs akimbo, hands fluttering, and faces contorted.

We find Cassandra entwined in a large Victorian bath tub, which also serves as the action progresses as a coffin,  at first inarticulate and suffering much angst on learning that her mother has just died, and she must make the funeral arrangements and also give the eulogy.

In rambling dialogue the mother is painfully revealed as both a compliant and a strong woman, representing womankind, and Cassandra the dutiful, yet a resentful and rebelling daughter who clearly loved and respected her mother. ,

Lots of conflict there, and lots of dialogue, about the mother, to be sure, but also quite personally confessional,  perhaps to a fault as wave after wave of words wash out over the audience . Divulged in bursts is the full range of a female’s life experiences, from birth to dressing up and dating, to contending with men in a man’s world, and death. ,

Being a male, and the occasional target of derision in the play, at best I only could presume the emotions uniquely borne of a woman’s body and mind, and the compelling relationship to a mother, female to female.  But bearing witness to the lives exposed in ”Mouthpiece” was  fascinating, and exhausting, an immersive theatrical evening.  

Friday, Saturday and Sunday,,8 PM, on the UCLA campus.

FIRE SPECIALIST HIRE OR A SMOKE SCREEN

FIRE To coordinate the disparate efforts that tragically failed the city in the Woolsey fire, Malibu’s bungling bureaucracy wants to hire a specialist in fire safety and emergency preparedness. The item goes before the City Council next Monday.  

The disaster prone city desperately needs mid-level, knowledgeable, personnel to serve and advocate for its residents. However, remaining at City’s Hall is City Manager Reva Feldman and her flailing, overpaid, underachieving entourage.

From my perspective as a venerable skeptic, and observe in Malibu’s ever-candid welcoming forum, The Local, City Hall has entered what I label the third stage of dubious governance: building a buffer zone.

Some would call it a wall, a smoke screen, an attempt to cover their ass, or distance themselves as far as possible from the problems they are being paid the big bucks to confront, and make excuses why they can’t.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need a disaster specialist.  We most certainly do, to be sure, several.

 But we don’t need a top-heavy administration that has sadly demonstrated that  they first and foremost serve themselves rather than the public, and as of yet to apologize for its inaction and sorry excuses for failing Malibu miserably in the fire.

Having had a ringside seat and also have actually performed in the public circus, let me lend some perspective: grieving we are told comes in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are as well similar stages in a bureaucracy suffering a hardening of administrative arteries, as does Malibu.

The first stage also is denial of doing anything wrong, in particular in the case of Malibu anticipating the fire and acting when it was at its most fearsome. Indeed, our city leaders actually had the temerity to congratulate themselves on the great job they had done, as claimed at the infamous meeting in Santa Monica after the fire hosted by Feldman. There even displayed a hypocritical flow of crocodile tears.

When that didn’t generate any sympathy, our city leaders moved into the second stage of bureaucratic exoneration: admitting there were failures. But quickly added that the city was not responsible for most anything, and was just acting as it should in an emergency, according to State regulations: yield all prerogatives to the fire and sheriff agencies, in effect excuse itself from the chain of command and not advocate for the city, or, god forbid, they might become ineligible for response related costs.

 It was a bean counter’s escape hatch that our number one bean counter personified, Reva, jumped through. As for the mumbling Mayor Mullen during that critical time, he supposedly was fighting fires, and directing the defense of his home, and not coincidently having his family disobey the mandatory evacuation orders he was urging others to follow. That is when he was not giving interviews.

Standing out in an email during that time to Reva I viewed under a Freedom Of Information request, Rick didn’t ask how the city was fairing, but how he looked on television as mayor. Reva responded with an emoji of hands clapping.

This classic shibboleth of “I was only following order,” did get a few thumbs up from the usual local maladroit minions of servile realtors, would-be lawyers and inexpert journalists. But obviously more was needed to get City Hall off the hook, for as observed in a recent blog; the city has changed, and is mad as hell.

So it was onto stage three of bureaucratic stratagem: create a buffer.  According to organizational theory, this makes it possible for those actually responsible to get out of the line of fire. In the Army this meant throwing people at the problem, to overwhelm whomever, or for the flunkies to perhaps come up with another tactic. Be heroes. Whatever, as long as the responsibility was handed off, and others could be blamed for any screw-ups. You just kept your head down.

In sum, we do need committed, plugged in personnel to facilitate our emergency efforts. What we don’t need is another layer of bureaucracy in a City Hall already fat with bean counters and paper shufflers.  We primarily need to both rebuild the homes lost, and rebuild City Hall to serve us, in the next disaster sure to come. 

The city is still in grief over the failed system that frankly became entrenched in decades past through the city’s collective apathy and cult of amiability that, because of greed and mismanagement, have subverted our mission statement. In more blunt terms, we as a city have been sadly scammed and hustled, by ourselves and others. Malibu strong, but not necessarily smart.

Yes, let’s hire the personnel needed to make us safe, and politely ask those who whether they want to admit their failures or not, to resign, and for that we would thank them and wish them luck.  Maybe give them a Dolphin Award as they went out the door. But if they don’t, they should suffer the ignominy of being fired.

That’s being tough, I know. But the times call for it, certainly if you have been affected by the fire.  It incidentally also could negate the need for an expensive and most likely divisive recall. 

NO APOLOGIES, JUST MORE EXCUSES

The prime harsh truth that emerged from the Town Hall meeting Saturday reviewing the Woolsey Fire fiasco was that City Manager Reva Feldman must go if Malibu ever expects to successfully rebuild and prepare for the next disaster.

 Also that the L.A. County Fire Department, if possible for a doleful bureaucracy, will have to review and seriously repair its chain of command so its forces in the field are deployed to full effect in response to the actual fires they are confronting and not to confused and conflicting orders.

 As I observe for THE LOCAL and select websites, the meeting for the most part was polite, and surprising given the raw nerves and bruised sensibilities of a packed audience many of whom were victims of the disaster that destroyed 700 plus homes, as well having to endure the calamity of the mandatory evacuation. 

 Understandable therefore was the audible groan punctured by snickers that was heard when Fire Chief Osby intimated the evacuation was a success, and the full throated booing when a contrite Reva snapped, “I wasn’t responsible for starting the fire and I wasn’t responsible for putting it out.”  

 Other than the impulsive jeering of Feldman and for the most part the bored response to the already aired excuses by Osby and his big brass trio, the meeting was a pure Kafkaesque display of a nightmarish bureaucracy.

 Indulge my literary pretensions, but we are talking here of alienation, existential anxiety and absurdity. The only thing missing in this almost surrealistic situation with its backdrop of a landscape of burnt blackened ashes of homes is a gesture of guilt.

That no doubt might have calmed the increasingly angry crowd, to be sure also dotted with true believers of the bumbling bureaucracy who somehow can forgive the pathetic performances during the fire of Feldman, the scamming Rick Mullen, and sidekick Skylar Peak.

 Feldman’s failure to ‘fess up to her and her handpicked handmaidens failings just does not engender confidence that in the challenging rebuild effort she can emerge from behind closed doors and advocate and perhaps innovate on behalf of residents, consumed as she is with protecting her sinecure for which she is obviously unqualified.

Sorry for the disruption at first it might cause at City Hall, but from my studied perspective of governances, she really should resign. Sooner rather than later, and let our Malibu begin to heal.

1.27.19