In its information gathering efforts, Management Partners, the firm retained by Malibu to evaluate the responses to the Woolsey Fire by city manager Reva Feldman and the city government, asked that the interviews be confidential.
While acceding to the request concerning THEIR comments, I nevertheless replied that in the interest of transparency in public matters I felt free to reveal MY comments made in my extended interview.
As to the question that Management Partners having a conflict of interest as reported in The Local, employing as it does former city managers and underwriting their professional association in which city manager Feldman is active: I felt as an experienced journalist I would take the firm as its face value, and judge its effort by the anticipated report and recommendations.
Meanwhile, as I write in The Local and other select websites, there were no surprises in the interview, because actually the questions asked had been raised and answered in my commentaries since the disastrous fire of six months ago that remains a haunting memory for many.
Concerning history, I noted before the fire the city had been repeatedly urged by myself in print and others that emergency precautions be instituted in the wake of the deadly fires elsewhere in the State and the continuing hazardous conditions. But little was done, by a blithe, neophyte city manager harboring a defensive bunker mentality, which unfortunately persists.
Then when the fire roared into Malibu, the city not surprisingly proved woefully inept; its mandatory evacuation was a near disaster; it failed to advocate for the city in the county’s chain of command, and egregiously shut down its Emergency Control Center for 16 critical hours in the heat of the disaster. It also impeded and speciously reprimanded residents who stayed to fight the fire.
I repeated my opinion in the interview that at her bloated salary Feldman was not being paid to make excuses, and then further to not apologize for the city’s blatant failures, while incredulously publicly praising herself and staff.
I added that her fumbling has continued in the Woolsey aftermath; that the Rebuild effort is a muddle; that in its critical launch period she went to Paris on vacation, only to return to contrive for herself a dubious award as city manager of the year, and then request a raise. That’s chutzpah.
In concluding the interview, I was asked what three recommendations I would make to improve the city’s governance in the wake of the fire and in anticipation of the next disaster.
I answered that the first would be the restructuring of city government to create councilmanic districts to improve communications, encourage civic involvement and organize emergency services.
Second, I would reboot the city’s bureaucracy, to be more responsive to residents and efficient, scrutinize its consultant contracts, and consider establishing an oversight process and hiring an ombudsmen.
But I added that the city politic was depressed by the fire, divided and demographically skewed, and that it only would begin to heal itself when Reva Feldman resigned or was fired. That was my third recommendation.
I know that is a tough call, but there is cause, and let’s face it, the Woolsey fire disaster demands it, and no less than the future of Malibu depends on it.