Like nothing ever before in the history of Malibu, the furious Woolsey Fire not only torched nearly a thousand homes, but also the landscape, laying it blackened and bare. Tragic.

But from a political perspective, the fire also laid bare the conceit of government, notably the embarrassing failures of the first responders, the bumbling County and State bureaucracies and most exasperating, our local bureaucracy.

And that is no matter what the reviews of the various official governmental responses to the fire will eventually conclude, be they convoluted explanations or bland fabrications, as the guilty connive to cover their asses and the compromised media parrot the press releases.

There is of course the bureaucratic bungling during the fire; not advocating for the city, closing the emergency control center, the lack of communications, and the blocking supplies to those who stayed. These have become a sorrowful litany in the social media and wherever residents gather.

But beyond not being transparent and truthful and apologize for its failures, City Hall under the heavy thumb of Reva Feldman continues to be disingenuous. This includes making back door deals with the SCE and special interests while handing off heavy lifting to lap dog consultants.

By the way, one has to ask whether it was a coincidence that Feldman took a poorly timed “vacation” in the wake of the fire to go to Paris, and then shortly after somehow a beach front fashion show was approved for Paradise Cove despite serious environmental concerns?

However, most mendacious has been the mismanagement of the rebuild program, according to burnout victims wanting desperately to rebuild and return to Malibu before their insurance ends and the construction costs get out of hand. Not wanting to incur any retaliation from a churlish City Hall, they understandably traded candor for anonymity.

They report that there have been with a few exceptions a hardening of the bureaucratic arteries , enough so if  not to give heart attacks, then to prompt fits of frustration and depression.  So much for the city pledges to be sympathetic and supportive.

To this person of some city planning experience that included processing major construction projects  in a tough New York City,  our modest small town of Malibu is woefully  mismanaged, even with the aid of consultants. Be it inexperience or attitude, they are just not up to the task of advocating for beleaguered residents and expediting plans.

Just forget all that ”robust” self advertising and self congratulations out of City Hall.  Just look at the burned out lots in western Malibu.

So out of respect and sympathy for the victims of the Woolsey fire, I have to be forthright, since an irresolute City Council regretfully is not.

 Sadly for various reasons I feel the however well intentioned the council majority, it is fumbling away its governance of Malibu to a wily city manager.

Being subverted no less is the heretofore functioning city manager form of government. This is prompting cries however strident  for political reform that includes an elected full time mayor  and a councilmanic reorganization. That obviously should be studied and needs to be debated.

Meanwhile, the rebuild effort must be reformed, post haste, and that starts with the Council getting its act together, providing the responsible oversight necessary, do its job, and fire Reva Feldman.



“Stop the presses!” “Rewind the tape!” “Get out the edit knives!” Catherine the Great of Russia had her Potemkin Villages; de facto Mayor Reva Feldman is going to have her Malibu.

 The draft report of what was to be “a meaningful and independent review of the city’s performance in managing the response to the Woolsey fire “-to quote the Council’s original approval of the $50,000 study-is to get a rewashing by none other than the city manager’s office.

To allow some information “that could be updated or clarified “ is the phrase she hissed to an irresolute City Council.  Quietly acquiescing also was the review team of Management Partners. It obviously knows who signs the checks, as does a sadly compromised local media.

Reva claims the City’s emergency operations center was never closed; we also had a liaison at the shifting fire command center, and, perhaps most importantly, its payroll information was protected. These were some of the items Feldman wants to “correct.”. And that besides her staff working tirelessly, though on what remains is a question since the City also claims it had no authority to do much of anything. 

Bad enough that City Hall screwed up the evacuation, failed to advocate for fire equipment, or aid the people who stayed, and is now fumbling a dilatory rebuild effort while shamelessly congratulating itself and continuing to contract away most services to lap dog consultants.

So much for a reasonable expectation of service and established ethical norms promised under the council manager form of government. Not having effective checks and balances, and a discerning media hurts.

If you like me witnessed the fire that destroyed nearly a thousand homes in the city and canyons beyond, it is certain we will never forget, nor forgive the failures of the first responders and local government in the heat of the fire and after., and their feigned excuses.

But from my philosophical perspective, as I have written in the past, the flagrant failures are a reflection of concerns on a far larger stage.

Indeed, I feel they have political implications in communities almost everywhere, and are indicative of a breach of Jeffersonian democracy’s hallowed social contract between our public institutions and ordinary citizens, between the governing and the governed.

RIP Malibu as a self government.


The burning question for those who suffered the sorry bureaucratic bungling in the disastrous Woolsey Fire is:

What the hell City Hall can do to protect Malibu and, really, is it capable of doing so?

That question and many others should be raised in the upcoming City Council hearing when the long awaited report on the City’s response to the fire is scheduled to be aired in a presentation by the consultant team of Management Partners.

The report politely noted the City’s abject fumbling before, during and after the fire, in the chaotic evacuation, the shutting down of the Emergency Operations Center and in the confused communications that left the community stranded.

Questions of nitpicking and finger pointing protocol aside, the City screwed up, and continues to do so in the rebuild effort.

The report makes 53 recommendations to repair and improve the City’s emergency policies and programs, in anticipation of yet another disaster, be it a fire or earthquake.  It is, I feel, a reasonable start to the City beginning to respond to the local need for safety.

But frankly it is NOT going to happen, and the City will continue to wallow, as long as the local bloated bureaucracy is being manipulated by a wily city manager who was tested by the Woolsey Fire and found wanting.  Talk about a fox in the hen house.

Immodestly, a 54th recommendation is needed:

The establishment of an oversight committee, an emergency task force if you will, to begin to cleanup, reorient and revitalize City Hall, and take back Malibu for its residents.

What will the Council do? Will it asset itself? Stay tuned.



Malibu’s coddled city government failed its residents before, during and after the Woolsey Fire is the sad summary of a discerning reading of a welcomed independent review of the municipal response to the disaster.

The report is respectfully presented in professionally polite language that might assuage the apologists of the overpriced and under achieving City Hall, but its conclusions are clear: the fire found local government effectually powerless in the chain of command, unprepared to assist residents in the escalating crisis, and the city manager scattered.

 The report by Management Partners, a consultancy of experienced public servants, makes 53 mostly reasoned recommendations that I feel will need some tweaking and a little wishful thinking, a rededication of CERT and an obvious reorganization of Malibu as a councilmanic construct.

But most critical for anything to be hopefully initiated I feel a 54th recommendation is needed; immodestly no less than a clean sweep of City Hall beginning with the departure of the city manager, Reva Feldman, who at the least should have served the city as well as she served herself.

 The report should be a wakeup call for Council at its next meeting, Aug. 12th. At least it should be.