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.

Published by

hallkaplan

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.