TO REBUILD OR NOT

For those who lost homes in the Woolsey Fire and are contemplating whether to rebuild, there will be yet another workshop Sunday; this a public effort organized by the city.

As I write in The Local, one hopes that finally four months plus after the fire the bureaucrats have realized they are being paid to serve residents, extending themselves to overcome their obnoxious nit picking of explaining why you can’t do something rather than why you can.

There also will be a workshop Thursday, hosted, by the city for so-called professionals. They of course will tell anyone who will listen why for a price they can do something, anything actually, just not exactly how much it will cost. Do I see an insurance adjustor smirking somewhere?

This follows a workshop last Saturday organized by the private sector; a fishing trip of sorts with the usual suspect sincere architects and builders casting out lines, and also chumming. Nibbling were locals and the curious.

The workshops all fall under the banner of Rebuild Malibu, though it has been roughly estimated that at least half of the burntouts will not be rebuilding. Absent any city effort to house the victims in temporary and even permanent housing other than leaving it to individual fortitude, most will be saying their fond farewells to Malibu, if they haven’t done so already.

There is a sad if not tragic hollowing out of Malibu for most are long-term residents with deep roots in the community. Many also are seniors, with limited resources and neither the time nor patience to rebuild, while having to contend with the discouraging penny pinching insurance adjustors and rapacious realtors

.

Meanwhile, Rebuild seems to be everywhere, in full page paid advertising in the local throwaways and in constant press releases, promoting city services and offering “support and resources to residents impacted by the devastating Woolsey Fire, and promising to answer any and all related questions.”

Or at least deflect those questions, as City Hall does so nimbly having failed residents during the fire by not advocating and assisting the flummoxed first responders, mismanaging the mandatory evacuation, and closing down the emergency control center for 16 crucial hours so it can move to a safe Santa Monica, when it really did not have to.

And shamefully after, failing to insinuate itself as it should have in the fire fighting command chain, and then dismissing and actually hampering those who stayed behind to valiantly fight the fire and save their homes and their neighbors.

You might be able to forgive those at city hall who pleaded it was beyond their responsibility and that they were at best messengers, as our over paid and under achieving city manger Reva Feldman has declared. But if you at all care for Malibu, you can’t forget .

And as those who have had any managerial experience in either the pubic or private sectors can attest, when you take on a leadership role, you essentially forfeit the right to make excuses.

That is especially if you are a neophyte earning $300,000 plus a year, as our city manager has wrangled for herself, and have an entourage of aides at your beck and call.

Helping also at the time of crisis, is having a fawning fan of a mayor, such as the obsequious Rick Mullen, a fellow scam artist. What else can you label him after being recently exposed hitting up the strained fire department budget for $250,00 in overtime on top of $150,000 a year job. And he is yet to apologize.

One wonders if he was double dipping in those hours as a fire captain when also posing as mayor. This hopefully will be revealed in the studies now underway of what happened during the fires, as will be the actions and inactions of other. Hopefully. 3.24.19

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.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE IN MALIBU

A ray of sun broke through the political cloud hovering over the City Council this week, and however modest, it offered some warmth and hope from which conflicted Malibu residents should take comfort.

The glimmer also hinted at what could be a heartening shift to those who have faith, however failing, in democracy and transparency in local government. Other levels of government are another matter, and in this forum I’m hesitant to kick over that rock.  The situation is bad enough in Malibu with a bumbling bureaucracy, a history of self-serving councilpersons and a lethargic citizenry. 

But hope for change flickered at the end of a mostly tedious meeting in which among agenda items councilpersons dutifully reported how what they been doing on behalf of the city, an appeal was heard to amend a needed Point Dume preserve project to include better enforcement of a dusk to dawn parking ban there and, finally, a perfunctory review and affirmation of council subcommittee appointments.

It came as the Council took up the item to establish a disaster response and recovery ad hoc committee that had been proposed by Rick Mullen and Skylar Peak with themselves as co-chairs.  Not incidentally, both Mullen and Peak have been adamant in their deleterious defense to date of over-paid and over-her head City Manager Reva Feldman,

Most egregious, she has been sharply criticized for failing Malibu in the Woolsey fire, and is now the target of a petition calling for her dismissal that at last count had nearly 3,000 signatures.  Also brewing is a recall for Mullen, and possibly Peak.


The first volley at the council meeting in opposition to Mullen and Peak came from resident Bruce Silverstein, a retired learned lawyer rising out of the audience, who cogently stated the appointment of two persons whose action in the disaster have been questioned, could compromise any review and community credence. 

This is a point I had made when the committee had been first proposed several weeks ago by an ignominious Mullen, who in addition to his flimflamming on council while mayor had been exposed on Page One of the L.A. Times of scamming the L.A. Fire Department of $250,000 in overtime in addition to his $150,000 salary. When will it ever stop?  When will we ever get an apology?

Mullen took a convoluted exception to Silverstein’s comments, citing his experience and that of sometime sidekick Skylar Peak, who appeared less than enthusiastic as Mullen droned on. However, as in the past, just when Mullen seemed to have swayed the council into submission, the recently elected and new mayor pro tem Karen Farrer politely demurred, and suggested a fresh view was needed. 

An independent Mikke Pierson added correctly that also at stake was the public confidence in City Hall, which at present is at a low point. And so it went, back and forth, until Mayor Jefferson Wagner stepped up and virtuously sided with Farrer and Pierson. They were subsequently designated to head the ad hoc committee. 

It will be a challenge whether the committee can complement the county’s inquiry announced by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and come up with a list of lessons learned that the city can implement.  But at least there is the promise that it will not be a steaming pile of excuses, “etc. etc. etc.” mumbled by Mullen.

Now exposed as the minority on council, and his veracity, and Fire Department record, questioned, there is hope in Malibu that Mullen will nobly resign, drop his dubious defense of the city manager, and that a revitalized council will have the votes and the gumption to fire a recalcitrant Reva.  That could nullify the vexing need for a recall. I hope so.

And soon the storms will pass, the sun will shine, new growth will green the now black and brown hills, and it again will be Spring in Malibu, a time of renewal.

Excuse me, but now that I am no longer constrained as I was at KBUU, and am no longer volunteering my 60 plus years of journalistic experience there, however its need, I feel freer on social media to indulge myself. The pay is the same.

MALIBU CITY COUNCIL DISAPPOINTS

Hope for a needed assessment of what went wrong as the Woolsey fire ravaged Malibu, who among the responsible frankly screwed up, turned to skepticism and then sadly disappointment at the last City Council meeting.

The hope was in response to the City Council considering establishing a Disaster Response and Recovery Task Force, to complement a “comprehensive review” of the County’s effort announced by Supervisor Sheila Kuhl.

I presume the Fire and Police departments will participate and possibly also will have their internal review.  But given the brotherhood of first responders, and from my experience as an investigative reporter for The New York Times and having once served on a politically infused federal task force, one has to be wary of a whitewash.  Thus my initial hope was flavored with a scintilla of skepticism.

 Then my skepticism turned to sad disappointment as I listened to unrepentant councilperson and scamming former Mayor Rick Mullen detail the focus of the task force; and then further soured with rising nausea when the Council unanimously anointed him and pusillanimous Skylar Peak to take the lead in forming the task force.

Mullen’s role in particular as a fire captain and Mayor has to be questioned in light of a Page One L.A. Times investigation that revealed him billing taxpayers some $250,000 in overtime in addition to his $150,000 plus salary, an obvious ploy no matter how legal to pad his anticipated pension.

 There is a question that some of those hours Mullen was also acting as mayor, and collecting expenses from the city. He has yet to explain or apologize for his actions, but rather continues preaching as a Malibu councilperson.  Has he no shame?

 No doubt in the wings like a puppet master will be another well compensated public employee, wily City Manager Reva Feldman. Many Malibuites consider her and Emergency Service Manager Susan Duenas culpable in failing to anticipate the fire, the chaos of the mandatory evacuation, not forcefully advocating for more first responders at the height of the fire, and generally crumbling in the aftermath.

 A petition is being circulated calling for their firing or resignations. https://www.change.org/decision-makers/mayor-of-malibu

That this trifecta will in effect presume to direct what ostensibly should include a forensic inquiry of their actions in the Woolsey disaster is a sham. Talk about putting the foxes in the hen house.

The council’s action has drawn much ire, and no matter how excused by a compromised enfeeble local media, there are strong requests that the Council reconsider its action, and indeed there are calls being made for Mullen and Peak to resign or be recalled.  If they do, they could save themselves, and the city, a lot of embarrassment.

Meanwhile, it should be noted, that the Malibu Town Council has launched its own review of the city’s response to the fire, and has requested all city records pertaining to the disaster involving Feldman, Mullen and Duenas.

The fires thankfully have been dampened, but the political aftermath certainly is smoldering.

HAPPY NEW YEAR ..NOT

Not if your house was burnout, want to rebuild, and have to hurdle a steeple chase of insurance ditches, plan check hedges and construction water jumps, and nail down some financing  in a roller coaster economy.

Not if you bore witness to house after house of friends and neighbors burst into flames while firefighters were no where to be found,  or if a few were located a safe distance away lounging by  their idle trucks said to be waiting orders from an unidentified dispatcher in another county. 

Not if your house miraculously actually didn’t burn, but you could not get back to it, to bring water and feed to the chickens or those who stayed, because of road barriers manned by officious law enforcement personnel  (now there is a redundancy) who had shit in their ears and had some vague arbitrary orders to bar all except the media.   

Not if you are concerned about the fire next time, and there is going to be a fire next time, and you have to rely on the confusion of communications from a not-to-be-ever trusted again City Hall of overpaid and underachieving bureaucrats.

And actually not if you happen to be one of those in City Hall blessed by the puppet master city manager, but has been exposed as inept  and now facing the possibility of, heaven forbid, some hard nosed oversight and loss of the cushiony job.

Or not, if you are councilmen Rick Mullen and Skylar Peak. Despite sitting smug and distracted on the dais, smiled upon a dwindling few sycophants, they are the subjects of an angry recall.  Hey guys, you must know you screwed up, big time.

Yes, New Years is normally a traditional time of expressions of hope, statements of fresh resolve, and confidences of better days ahead for ourselves, neighbors, community, country, and the world, to be topped off with a toast.

But not in Malibu, the toast, if there is one, is bitter.  The world and country aside, where incidentally, we are being held hostage and under constant threat by heretical politicians, tragically beyond rationality, some would say crazed, at odds with the environment and humanity.

There is not much else we as emancipated individuals actually can do about that, except have a toast and be sure to vote in what hopefully will be free elections in 2020 and if so inclined, possibly pray, for impeachment, and a return to normalcy.

But we really can do more on the local scene, where our Malibu is still reeling from the worst fire in its history that was sadly exacerbated by failures on all levels of government.

Here we have a petition to oust a recalcitrant Reva, prompt her to resign or be fired, and also shame Rick and Skylar into resigning, or face a recall.  The reality of Malibu today is that only with a change of leadership can reforms truly be instituted, and we can begin mending our city. 

I’d toast that.

ing.  new year has to be better,

No for many it is .

Not not if  live in eastern Malibu and realy northing , but now is oveis the nex because of foliage is the next area to be burned, and gherfe is no landscape plan in to clear the land of pines, palms and eucolyys trees, torches really, becaude of a clueless city hall.

relly, don’t expect too much to change as long as city manager reva fledman and her entourage, are still behind closed doors steerking at the computers , proming the payroll and clacutaing their retirement packages. and spewing out press releases .

not if still on city council are rick mullen and skular peak,  wno ai.led.

 so I fear it not going to happy nrw year. 

Happy New Year?  Normally a traditional time of expressions of hope, statements of fresh resolve, and confidences of better days ahead for ourselves, neighbors, community, country, and the world, topped with a toast.

The toast I fear comes in the face of the world and country under constant threat and held hostage by heretical politicians, tragically beyond rationality, some would say crazed, at odds with the environment and humanity.

There is not much else we as emancipated individuals can do, except have that toast and be sure to vote in hopefully what will be free elections and also, if so inclined, possibly pray, for impeachment, a resignation and a return to normalcy.

 So much for the current state of our country, and no less than the future of democracy, and, in the spirit of the season, good will to all. 

nd hiwm front, fdibgnations  and firing, recall, 

Though a few home grown nihilists would disagree, I feel there is actually more hope being able to effect needed change in our Malibu, though now still reeling from the worst fire in its history that was sadly exacerbated by failures on all levels of government.

, including our City Hall. And this despite their self congratulations

voi es afre loud andcc lear.

ohn and all: there is a pervasive tone deafness , small mindedness running the city and now with the fire we see the result that has unmasked how badly managed Malibu is . We have a feckless government and in some ways it is also corrupt . I mean ask yourself he following question folks : why does one need an expediter to get a building permit ? Isn’t that a sign that payoffs give you advantage and shouldn’t any citizen be able to navigate the permit process themselves effectively ? Doesn’t needing an expeditior favor the very wealthy which leads to huge homes etc ? John probably underands this better than me but it is just a question worth asking and reflecting on in terms of what have we become ? This is not the issue that I am personally most concerned with however . I am concerned with having a safe and tranquil place to live that is managed well and fairly whether one has the time to attend meetings to ensure this or not . In other words a government that has the backs of its citizens . We do not have that today . It’s time for big change. I say recall the city council less Mikke and Karen as they deserve a chance , fire Reva and look at dramatic ways to change the city so it functions properly or reverse cityhood and start from scratch ! Thank you all for listening and for your fair and heart felt comments, yes including Julian ! Regards ,

 i

MALIBU STRONG, SMART ? 12.15.18

Very much on display at the recent City Council meeting was what I would describe as the two cities of Malibu, one angrily testifying with justification what they witnessed in the wildfire of last month, the other vainly absolving itself.

As I comment on radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, my two city theory is at the core of the mismanaged fire, and more generally at the disappointment and discontent with the city administration and the strident calls for the dismal of the city manager, Reva Feldman, and her top staff.

It is the city manager that in effect acts as a de facto mayor, at the helm of a bureaucratic construct that is the dominant city, its rank and file experiencing their domain in the glare of computer screens, their responsibilities spelt out in bureaucratic babble.

As for our hapless mayor, Rick Mullen, you had to rail at him at the meeting looking bored while oozing insincerity. Whatever he said had to be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism, in light of the LA Times story revealing that he had padded his overtime snoozing away at the fire station to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars last year.  He leaves as mayor this Monday, not soon enough. What an embarrassment.

The other city I would describe as a resident conceit, be they a homeowner or renter, for the most part pleased to be living in arguably one of the world’s most agreeable climates, 21 miles of scenic beauty, not withstanding escalated real estate prices, the bane of the PCH, and frustration with local government.

For most of the last quarter of the century since Malibu was incorporated, the conflict between the two cities has been considered minimal; with residents periodically protesting development with limited success. And if even aware of alleged problems of cronyism and mismanagement, most residents deferred to the city manager form of government. 

As exposed in the fire, there are real problems in the limits of local government, as there are problems in governments everywhere at every level, as skeptics note in defense of their disinterest in any political accountability.

 So much for the concept of home rule and Jeffersonian Democracy. There is a lot of talk in Malibu these days for reforms, but few people appear ready to spend the time necessary to make government work.

However, this might have changed. Listening to residents in the wake of the fires, I believe, the inherent conflict of the two cities has been brought to the front burner, and to a boil, that fateful Friday of November 9th .

It is then when the unchecked fire roared into Malibu, destroying in its capricious path hundreds of homes thought in the past to be safe.

So, while saddened residents are sifting through the ashes of their homes, I contend it’s time for the incoming council to sift through the city’s service contracts with administrators and consultants, as part of a needed review of the debacle.

And hopefully it will do so with the aid of a little Hoover Commission and independent interest groups, such as the L.A. Emergency Preparedness Foundation. Let’s really find out who was responsible, and who was irresponsible, who pretended to serve our city but in harsh reality just served themselves, before we lynch anyone. I hate lynch mobs.

MALIBU REELING AND ROILING 12.1.18

BACK HOME AT LAST, AND OBSERVING WITH SORROWFUL EYES AND AN ACHING HEART MY RAVAGED MALIBU, IN THE WAKE OF A DISASTROUS WILDFIRE THAT RAGED THROUGH ITS SCATTERED, SYLVAN NEIGHBORHOODS, DRIVEN BY MERCILESS SANTA ANA WINDS, TO TURN AT PRESENT AN ESTIMATED NEARLY 500 HOMES AND STILL COUNTING INTO CRUMBLED AND TWISTED BLACKENED HEAPS AND TOXIC ASH.

MY CLIFFSIDE HOME OF NEARLY A QUARTER OF A CENTURY WAS MIRACULOUSLY SPARED, SAVE A HEAVY DUSTING OF THAT ASH AND A FEW MISPLACED EMBERS, AS WAS MY NEARBY NEIGHBORS ON POINT DUNE, THANKS IN PART TO CAPRICIOUS WINDS AND LOCAL RAG TAG TEAMS OF SMOLDER STOMPERS.

 DEFYING THE MANDATORY EVACUATIONS TO STAY BEHIND TO FIGHT THE FIRES ON THE POINT AND ELSEWHERE WITH GARDEN HOSES AND WATER BUCKETS TO SAVE WHAT HOUSES THEY COULD, ARE THE TRUE HEROES OF WHAT WAS MALIBU’S WORST FIRE EVER.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD RELIEF CENTER WAS WELCOMING RESPITE.

WHILE THE TIP OF THE POINT WAS SPARED, NOT SO LUCKY WERE HOMES A FEW BLOCKS AWAY, DESPITE THE PENINSULA BEING CONSIDERED RELATIVELY SAFE, WITH A RESIDENT FIRE HOUSE AND A CONCEIT THAT THE PAMPERED PROPERTIES THERE WERE JUST TOO PRICEY NOT TO BE PROTECTED.  SO MUCH FOR MALIBU MYTHS AND REALTOR REASSURANCES.

WORSE WAS THE DEVASTATION OF WESTERN MALIBU AND SEVERAL OF THE CANYON COMMUNITIES, THAT INCLUDE TRANCAS, DECKER, KANAN AND LATIGO, WHICH I TOURED CHECKING ON THE HOMES OF FRIENDS, UNABLE TO RETURN TO THEIR PROPERTIES IN THE HELLISH FIRST WEEK OF MANDATORY EVACUATIONS, AND UNABLE TO FILTER THE FRAGMENTS OF INFORMATION AND RUMORS TRICKLING FROM A HOST OF QUESTIONABLE SOURCES, PRINCIPALLY TV AND THE INTERNET.

HOWEVER, CACOPHONIC AND UNFILTERED AS THE SOCIAL MEDIA WAS, NEXT DOOR, AND VARIOUS FACEBOOK SITES, SUCH AS FRIENDS OF MALIBU, WERE WELCOME IF UNVETTED SOURCES THAT YOU HAD TO READ CAREFULLY AND CONSIDER WHO WAS DOING THE WRITING.  WELL INTENTION AS SOME WERE, MOST WERE UNFORTUNATELY UNSUBSTANTIATED AND UNRELIABLE.

TO BE SURE, HAVING SOMEONE WHO IS AN IT AND AN EDITOR IN THE HOUSEHOLD WAS HELPFUL, AND ROOSTING IN LOCALES THAT HAD WIFI. 

FRANKLY THOUGH, ONE HAD TO TOUR THE NEIGHBORHOODS TO SEE THE DESTRUCTION, TALK TO THOSE WHO FELT THE HEAT OF THE FIRES, AND HEAR THEIR  WOES, FEVERISH FRUSTRATION AND PALATABLE ANGER AT WHAT THEY WITNESSED WAS THE CONFUSION AND FUMBLING OF THE POWERS-THAT-BE.

 THAT INCLUDED FIRST RESPONDERS  AND, IN PARTICULAR, THE CITY OF MALIBU.

RESIDENTS CHARGED WITH PALATABLE ANGER THAT THE FIRE SADLY EXPOSED AN OVERPAID AND UNDER ACHIEVING CITY ADMINISTRATION THAT WAS ALL BUT IRRELEVANT, FROM FAILING TO EXPEDITIOUSLY ACTIVATE ITS CERT VOLUNTEERS, TO NOT PROVIDING A TIMELY, EASILY ACCESSIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION. THEY ADDED THAT NOT HELPING WAS THE CITY’S TOUTED EMERGENCY WEBSITE THAT REGURGITATED SHERIFF AND COUNTY ITEMS HOURS AND DAYS LATE, WHILE ISSUING PRESS RELEASES OF CLICHÉD CONCERNS OF CITY OFFICIALS. 

PARTICULARLY DISMAYING WAS ALSO THE CITY’S MISMANAGEMENT OF ITS MANDATORY EVACUATION DIRECTIVE THAT APPARENTLY WAS NOT PHASED OR COORDINATED WITH FIRST RESPONDERS AND NEIGHBORING MUNICIPALITIES.

PCH FOR MANY LEAVING EARLY ON THAT FATEFUL FRIDAY IT WAS A FOUR AND FIVE HOUR FRUSTRATION GETTING TO SANTA MONICA, WHICH NOT INCIDENTALLY IN A GESTURE OF ILL WILL CLOSED THE STREET ENTRANCES INTO ITS DOWNTOWN. THE SITUATION DID GET BETTER FOR THOSE FLEEING MALIBU LATER IN THE AFTERNOON, WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCE ALL LANES WERE OPEN EAST, BUT NOT REALLY, UNLESS YOU CHANCED THE CENTER LANES, AS WE DID LEADING A CARAVAN.

RETURNING THE NEXT DAY THANKS TO PRESS CREDENTIALS I HAVE HAD SINCE MY DAYS WITH THE NYTIMES 60 YEARS AGO, THE DEVASTATION WAS BLEAK AND DEPRESSING. TO BE SURE, THE FIRST RESPONDERS WERE OUT IN FORCE, HAVING STRAGGLED IN FROM FIGHTING FIRES ELSEWHERE AND STANDING GUARD AT PEPPERDINE, BUT FOR MANY HOMEOWNERS IT WAS TOO LATE.

THE RUINS THAT WILL BE WITH US A LONG TIME SHOULD BE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE TRAGEDY AND A SPUR TO AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF WHAT WENT WRONG, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE, AND WHAT LESSONS HAVE WE LEARNED TO CONTEND WITH THE FIRE NEXT TIME, FOR AS ALONG AS WE REBUILD AS THE CLIMATE CHANGE INEXORABLY CONTINUES, THERE SURELY WILL BE A NEXT TIME.

BACK HOME 11.24

BACK HOME AT LAST, AND OBSERVING WITH SORROWFUL EYES AND AN ACHING HEART MY RAVAGED MALIBU, IN THE WAKE OF A DISASTROUS WILDFIRE THAT RAGED THROUGH ITS SCATTERED, SYLVAN NEIGHBORHOODS, DRIVEN BY MERCILESS SANTA ANA WINDS, TO TURN AT PRESENT AN ESTIMATED NEARLY 500 HOMES AND STILL COUNTING INTO CRUMBLED AND TWISTED BLACKENED HEAPS AND TOXIC ASH.

MY CLIFFSIDE HOME OF NEARLY A QUARTER OF A CENTURY WAS MIRACULOUSLY SPARED, SAVE A HEAVY DUSTING OF THAT ASH AND A FEW MISPLACED EMBERS, AS WAS MY NEARBY NEIGHBORS ON POINT DUNE, THANKS IN PART TO CAPRICIOUS WINDS AND LOCAL RAG TAG TEAMS OF SMOLDER STOMPERS.

 DEFYING THE MANDATORY EVACUATIONS TO STAY BEHIND TO FIGHT THE FIRES ON THE POINT AND ELSEWHERE WITH GARDEN HOSES AND WATER BUCKETS TO SAVE WHAT HOUSES THEY COULD, ARE THE TRUE HEROES OF WHAT WAS MALIBU’S WORST FIRE EVER.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD RELIEF CENTER WAS WELCOMING RESPITE.

WHILE THE TIP OF THE POINT WAS SPARED, NOT SO LUCKY WERE HOMES A FEW BLOCKS AWAY, DESPITE THE PENINSULA BEING CONSIDERED RELATIVELY SAFE, WITH A RESIDENT FIRE HOUSE AND A CONCEIT THAT THE PAMPERED PROPERTIES THERE WERE JUST TOO PRICEY NOT TO BE PROTECTED.  SO MUCH FOR MALIBU MYTHS AND REALTOR REASSURANCES.

WORSE WAS THE DEVASTATION OF WESTERN MALIBU AND SEVERAL OF THE CANYON COMMUNITIES, THAT INCLUDE TRANCAS, DECKER, KANAN AND LATIGO, WHICH I TOURED CHECKING ON THE HOMES OF FRIENDS, UNABLE TO RETURN TO THEIR PROPERTIES IN THE HELLISH FIRST WEEK OF MANDATORY EVACUATIONS, AND UNABLE TO FILTER THE FRAGMENTS OF INFORMATION AND RUMORS TRICKLING FROM A HOST OF QUESTIONABLE SOURCES, PRINCIPALLY TV AND THE INTERNET.

HOWEVER, CACOPHONIC AND UNFILTERED AS THE SOCIAL MEDIA WAS, NEXT DOOR, AND VARIOUS FACEBOOK SITES, SUCH AS FRIENDS OF MALIBU, WERE WELCOME IF UNVETTED SOURCES THAT YOU HAD TO READ CAREFULLY AND CONSIDER WHO WAS DOING THE WRITING.  WELL INTENTION AS SOME WERE, MOST WERE UNFORTUNATELY UNSUBSTANTIATED AND UNRELIABLE.

TO BE SURE, HAVING SOMEONE WHO IS AN IT AND AN EDITOR IN THE HOUSEHOLD WAS HELPFUL, AND ROOSTING IN LOCALES THAT HAD WIFI. 

FRANKLY THOUGH, ONE HAD TO TOUR THE NEIGHBORHOODS TO SEE THE DESTRUCTION, TALK TO THOSE WHO FELT THE HEAT OF THE FIRES, AND HEAR THEIR  WOES, FEVERISH FRUSTRATION AND PALATABLE ANGER AT WHAT THEY WITNESSED WAS THE CONFUSION AND FUMBLING OF THE POWERS-THAT-BE.

 THAT INCLUDED FIRST RESPONDERS  AND, IN PARTICULAR, THE CITY OF MALIBU.

RESIDENTS CHARGED WITH PALATABLE ANGER THAT THE FIRE SADLY EXPOSED AN OVERPAID AND UNDER ACHIEVING CITY ADMINISTRATION THAT WAS ALL BUT IRRELEVANT, FROM FAILING TO EXPEDITIOUSLY ACTIVATE ITS CERT VOLUNTEERS, TO NOT PROVIDING A TIMELY, EASILY ACCESSIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION. THEY ADDED THAT NOT HELPING WAS THE CITY’S TOUTED EMERGENCY WEBSITE THAT REGURGITATED SHERIFF AND COUNTY ITEMS HOURS AND DAYS LATE, WHILE ISSUING PRESS RELEASES OF CLICHÉD CONCERNS OF CITY OFFICIALS. 

PARTICULARLY DISMAYING WAS ALSO THE CITY’S MISMANAGEMENT OF ITS MANDATORY EVACUATION DIRECTIVE THAT APPARENTLY WAS NOT PHASED OR COORDINATED WITH FIRST RESPONDERS AND NEIGHBORING MUNICIPALITIES.

PCH FOR MANY LEAVING EARLY ON THAT FATEFUL FRIDAY IT WAS A FOUR AND FIVE HOUR FRUSTRATION GETTING TO SANTA MONICA, WHICH NOT INCIDENTALLY IN A GESTURE OF ILL WILL CLOSED THE STREET ENTRANCES INTO ITS DOWNTOWN. THE SITUATION DID GET BETTER FOR THOSE FLEEING MALIBU LATER IN THE AFTERNOON, WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCE ALL LANES WERE OPEN EAST, BUT NOT REALLY, UNLESS YOU CHANCED THE CENTER LANES, AS WE DID LEADING A CARAVAN.

RETURNING THE NEXT DAY THANKS TO PRESS CREDENTIALS I HAVE HAD SINCE MY DAYS WITH THE NYTIMES 60 YEARS AGO, THE DEVASTATION WAS BLEAK AND DEPRESSING. TO BE SURE, THE FIRST RESPONDERS WERE OUT IN FORCE, HAVING STRAGGLED IN FROM FIGHTING FIRES ELSEWHERE AND STANDING GUARD AT PEPPERDINE, BUT FOR MANY HOMEOWNERS IT WAS TOO LATE.

THE RUINS THAT WILL BE WITH US A LONG TIME SHOULD BE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE TRAGEDY AND A SPUR TO AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF WHAT WENT WRONG, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE, AND WHAT LESSONS HAVE WE LEARNED TO CONTEND WITH THE FIRE NEXT TIME, FOR AS ALONG AS WE REBUILD AS THE CLIMATE CHANGE INEXORABLY CONTINUES, THERE SURELY WILL BE A NEXT TIME.

FIVE VIE FOR MALIBU CITY COUNCIL

The fear that local elections might be lost when moved to coincide with the traditional state and national election day of the first Tuesday in November appears to be unfounded, at least from my down home and dog park perspectives.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, this may due to the fact that though this is not a presidential year, politics is very much on the public’s consciousness.

No doubt this might be due to the contentiousness and confusion emanating from the White House daily dominating the news, and I add perhaps intentionally to distract the public from the critical issues of climate change and no less than the future of our democracy.

But perhaps because what is going on in Washington is so far beyond the pale, to one weaned on the credo of civility and civics, to be so outrageous to be almost unreal, the focus instead on the local political scene can be considered something akin to an escape.

Here in Malibu questions are being asked, impressions shared, the ubiquitous roadside signs are everywhere, and seemingly almost every night there is a forum or debate featuring the five candidates vying for the two spots on city council.

In accordance with FCC rules, as a member of the news team at KBUU I cannot endorse a candidate, though as a commentator can review the campaign. So does my trusted official disservice dog, a companionable Corgi, who answers to Bobby the bad and tends to bark when impatient. But so do I.

Make no mistake, this local election is critical to those who embrace the city’s mission statement that boldly declares “Malibu is committed to ensure the physical and biological integrity of its environment through the development of land use programs and decisions, to protect the public and private health, safety and general welfare.”

And as it proclaims to be such a “unique land and marine environment, and residential community,” Malibu urgently needs a tough experienced city council willing to make hard decisions and not incidentally exert leadership over what has sadly become a less than transparent, self serving bloated bureaucracy. Who do they work for, anyway?

With that in mind one must look hard at the candidates, in particular what has been their presence and experience in Malibu, presented here briefly, and in alphabetical order.

Olivia Damavendi: Was Mayor-for-the day not too long ago as a Malibu High student, and later City Hall publicist and Malibu Times reporter, though I don’t know if they’re recommendations.

Karen Farrer: Long time resident (40 years) as an activist parent and articulate advocate in many challenging leadership roles on behalf of independent and improved Malibu schools.

Jim Palmer: An involved local of many years, as a restaurateur and vintner, environmentalist, and public works commissioner.

Mikke Pierson: Life long resident with deep roots as a parent and community activist, notably six years on the planning commission, and in efforts to aid the homeless.

Lance Simmens: Three year resident, briefly president of the Adamson House Board, a self published author, and touting self described senior political posts in Washington and elsewhere.

Those are the choices. You decide, I’m still pondering,

 

PT. DUNE SCHOOL PLANS QUESTIONED

A seemingly sincere Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District and a cadre of its consultants descended on Pt. Dume several day ago for a public meeting to review a draft environmental impact report for its proposed ambitious realignment of Malibu schools.

A sparse audience of about 20 Point residents and parents heard that though the report raised some hackles, it was nevertheless needed to expedite the project that will combine the Pt. Dume and Cabrillo elementary schools on the Pt. Dume campus; in the first phase in temporary prefabs and a second stage in a new classroom building

As I comment on public radio 99.1, KBUU, and select websites, the audience had to be wary, given the Santa Monica dominated district board’s long history of short changing Malibu schools. And this despite the real estate rich seacoast city’s disproportionately subsiding the district’s budget to the tune of millions annually.

In summarizing the dense 700 page plus report of mostly boilerplate bureaucratic blather, the district contingent sought to minimize concerns. In particular, these included the traffic impact on local streets and the siting of a two story, 28 foot high, bulky classroom building fronting Grayfox street.

There also was an impassioned call immodestly by me wearing my proud Pt. Dume parent hat for the flexible design of a community school with a progressive curriculum, to serve adults and seniors as well as students, and lend the Point a prominent public presence.

The consultants tried to assure the gathering that the traffic generated by the school doubling its capacity to nearly 400 students can be managed by tweaking commuter patterns. Good luck to that.

As for the indicated siting of the permanent classrooms, district spoke persons said that was just a so-called place holder to expedite the approval process in the project’s first phase, and that the eventual design process in the project’s second phase would include broad public input. And good luck to that, too.

It also should be noted that designating a place holder is a violation of state planning laws, but the district stumbles on.

To be sure, there is little question that in principle that the Malibu school alignment project is needed, as is the pending passage of Measure M to fund it. Malibu schools are a half century old and outdated.

Certainly it will enhance the city’s image and desirability, and while most importantly serving its children and democracy’s paragon of pubic education. And as a bonus it can be expected to boost real estate prices.

It also should prompt the inevitable, and I feel imperative, school district divorce allowing Malibu to establish an independent district, hopefully without paying an exorbitant and unjust ransom.