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.