Malibu was poorly served and badly mismanaged,
according to my reading of three recently published public reviews of the
Woolsey fire, the sum of which I feel offer compelling grounds for the
dismissal of Reva Feldman as City Manager.
The County and City sponsored reviews
(subsequently subverted by Feldman) in couched bureaucratic babble that were
mostly modest exercises of one public hand washing another. Bureaucracies
and consultants do tend to serve eacb other’s interests.
The two reviews frankly were not especially
revealing nor constructively critical, other than declaring residents in
future disasters would be on their own. But both did offer a
compendium of utilitarian recommendations.
However reasonable the recommendations, given the
shortcomings of local public services that includes first responders, as well
as Malibu City Hall, it is harsh but realistic to expect most of the them,
unfortunately, will not be effectively implemented. And this no doubt despite
press releases to the contrary.
More candid and compelling is the third review
prepared by the independent (read non-governmental) L.A. Emergency Preparedness
Foundation. It cited what most involved and concerned persons have
known through bitter experiences, which is the County and the City
failed its residents, and subsequently disreputably eroded public trust.
The tragic and I feel unforgivable failures are
detailed in the report, www.
laepf.org/woolsey-fire , and more welcomed , readable and reliably,
reported on KBUU, www.radiomalibu.net. Read it and weep.
In summary, the report cited poor preparations,
particularly in light of the prior fires elsewhere in the State, as well as
lack of communications at all levels of government in confronting the fire and
keeping the public informed. Indeed, noted was the disrespectful treatment of
residents, particularly those who ignored the shambolic evacuation and not
incidentally valiantly saved many homes, despite being blockaded and
discouraged by a faithless Feldman.
Also noted was Malibu’s CERT volunteers not being
The community meeting at Santa Monica High of
residents who did evacuate was exposed in the report as a sham of self and
staff aggrandizements, orchestrated by Feldman, though not cited individually .
Meanwhile, in a further insult to Malibu
residents, those culpable have falsely tried to declare their innocence while
egregiously seeking congratulations. Even more shameless, the bean counter
Feldman is seeking a raise, with benefits, that would set her salary at
$300,000 plus, more than the Mayor of Los Angeles or our U.S. Senators.
Bluntly, that is a salary paid to a person to not
make excuses; not call on chummy consultants to do the heavy lifting or act as
cover, and not hire complaint staff to build a bureaucratic wall around
her office, whose prime purpose is to coddle and co-op a fledgling council and
peripherally serve residents.
Yes, as apologists state, the fire might have
been the worst ever. But it is an old military adage that any entity
worth its salt while hoping for the best, plans for the worst. And whatever the
plans, the chain of command, from top to bottom, be open and flexible once the
first contact is made with the enemy and a shot is fired. Feldman during the
fire was effectually M.I.A. a proverbial deer in the headlights, except for
public relations efforts.
And beyond her indefensible failures as City Manager
during the disaster, has been her muddled management in the year since. This
has included the city’s plodding rebuild efforts, the contradictory handling of
the Airbnb quandary, the questionable leasing of land in the Civic Center to
the SCE, the absolving of any responsibility for a dangerous PCH, and the
questionable use of consultants in the face of a bloated bureaucracy that
continues to be padded.
These are all indicative of incompetent
management, but if further grounds are needed for Feldman’s dismissal, they are
in the L.A. Foundation report, appropriately entitled “A Catalyst for Change.”
For the findings of the report to be
ignored by the Council, we sadly must then consider its members culpable, their
allegiances inexplicably tied to special interests and the City Manager, and
not to the residents who elected them.
an addendum, I feel qualified to make these observations
regarding the City’s and Feldman’s performance from the perspective of a long
and award winning career in journalism and urban planning and development. My
hope is that the City Council heeds what I am saying, as well as the chorus of
Malibu citizens who are outraged by Feldman’s continued employment.