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.

BEYOND THE PCH: THE ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Principally on websites here and there are my immodest provocative political and planning perspectives of Malibu, and sometimes beyond. But also are my arts and entertainment observed, previews and reviews of my abiding love of the cultural scene, in Los Angles and beyond.

These of course include the conventional, mainstream productions, featured at the Music Center downtown. Upcoming by the city’s venerable Center Theatre Group is “ Linda Vista,”  a new play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Tracy Letts, a post #MeToo adult tragic comedy about middle age life crisis.  It opens at the Taper January 16 and runs to Feb. 17, and promises to be an entertaining must see, and worth the drive from Malibu.

For something a little closer and challenging, upcoming at what I consider our local museum, the Getty. for one night only, Saturday the 12th, is artisdt, musician Lonnie Holley.

He will be performing his singular improvisational compositions inspired by his Southern roots, that blossomed into his drawing, painting, sculpture, photograph, stage presence and sound.  Expect the unexpected. It’s free, but you’ll needs tickets, so call ahead: getty.edu/360.

You might consider going early and making a day at the Getty, where there are several excellent exhibits at present.  Quite evocative is the haunting photographs of Sally Mann, which is on display until February 10. Explored is her native South, her family, and a landscape rich in history,

Also on display is a fascinating exhibit exploring the evolution of The Renaissance Nude.  When reviewing it when it opened, I hailed it as one of more engaging art histories in recent years. It runs until January 27.  

If you schedule seeing it on the 12th, and your timing is right and you’ve called ahead for tickets, there is a lecture at 4  PM  on how the nude was viewed in the Renaissance, enhancing religious devotion or desire.  This will give you a little time before the evening concert to catch a bite in the reasonably priced and comfortable self-service café, as I do.

And if you are into nudes, there is a conference at the Getty that next day, Sunday, the 13th, beginning at 10 AM running until 5 PM, of a gathering of scholars discussing  the various attitudes in different cultures to the art form. Entitled The Nude in the Pre-Modern World, 1400 -1700, it is open to all.  Clothing optional?  

And for something really different, is the renown actress Isabella Rossellini and her dog, Pan, in the heralded “Link Link Circus,” at the Broad Stage in very accessible Santa Monica.

Assisted by a puppeteer and animal handler, and incorporating home movies and animation, the unconventional production runs Jan. 25 through the 27th.

My alma mater The New York Times called the show “surrealist humor.”  That, and featuring a dog, makes it a must for me to see.  I suspect it will also for others, and suggest you might want to get tickets earlier.  No service dogs, please.

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.

THE TWO MALIBUS 12.8.18

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.

ELECTIONS, USA, MALIBU

I’m back in Malibu, on public radio 99.1 KBUU, and select websites, and to vote in this upcoming national election, which I feel the future of democracy is no less at stake, threatened as it is in this moment in history by greed and inhumanity.

And let us not forget the local elections, where in Malibu at stake is a fragile environment and storied lifestyle, threatened I feel by rapacious development, a fumbling city hall and a failing civic governance.

Personally, I’m happily back in our Cliffside cottage perched on Point Dume, after a whirlwind, wonderful, wedding in Philadelphia of my middle son, Josef to Bridget Carey Talone.

Some locals might remember Josef, in 2003, instead of delivering the traditional graduation speech as student body president of Malibu High, reciting a poem he had written, as a remembrance of coming of age in Malibu.

Josef has gone on to be a preeminent published poet, and his younger brother, Kyle, also a graduate of Malibu High, has become a preeminent scholar at Harvard, evidence of the potential of our local public schools.

Their success, and that of so many others Malibu public school graduates, are yet more reasons to vote for Measure M to fund the ambitious redevelopment of a hopefully soon-to-be independent Malibu district, and make our schools even better.

Without violating the FCC public radio rules, as a member of the news team at KBUU, I cannot endorse a candidate.

Though as a commentator I can lend some perspective, noting that leading the valiant effort to establish an independent school district has been Craig Foster and Karen Farrer.

They are both on the ballot Tuesday: Craig for reelection to the school board and Karen for the city council.

As for the council, sadly evident is the need for committed, conscientious members, willing and able to exercise leadership, and not defer to special interest, or what has become a bloated city bureaucracy headed by city manager, Reva Feldman.

From the perspective of someone who has done penance on forensic management audits, and has had a ringside seat at the circus that is government, unfortunately the less than transparent Feldman has become our de facto mayor, by default or deception.

But perhaps we should not be too harsh on her, in recognition that Malibu is a city where many residents demanding services have seldom heard the word “no,” or that a few councilpersons literally and figuratively phone in their jobs.

Or that she has had to act in the absence of a Mayor, who actually sleeps on a full time plus questionable plus overtime job, on a padded public payroll, double dipping out of first responder budgets. Not incidentally, the monies diverted for overtime could have been used elsewhere for needed increased surveillance on the dreaded PCH.

Now that is something the candidates, and council, should talk about, if they had the gumption.

11.3.18

MALIBU STRONG! SMART?

Malibu  strong, yes. But Malibu smart? That is still very much in question. As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, that will depend on what the new City Council and the everyday staff will or is even capable of doing.

And that will require the Council aggressively pursuing what exactly went wrong in the Woolsey wildfire, and how the City might learn from it and somehow return to normal, chastened but smarter for the experience, better prepared for the next disaster, sure to come.  Just as the County has promised to do.

More specifically, the City must answer the challenge of how the rebuilding of homes be expedited through a reasonable fast track permit process, and also how its bureaucracy might be reconstructed and rededicated to better serve, and protect, its residents, consistent with Malibu’s worthy mission statement.

Questions, questions, questions, the answers to which I contend should be pursued independent of the city manager, city attorney and their consultants, for they indeed might be part of the problem, and possibly might subvert the review .

Some of those answers hopefully will be provided by the venerable Malibu Township Council, which will be reviewing emails and all city records pertaining to the fire disaster, specifically involving City Manager Reva Feldman, Mayor Rick Mullen, and City Attorney Christi Hogin.  Good luck to them.

Arguably, even before the fateful fire, City Hall did not particularly serve well the needs and desires of residents, though it has served itself well by pampering a vainglorious council while fattening and compensating colleagues.

And it sadly did even worse, plausibly failed, during the devastating fire, and in the chaotic aftermath, while obnoxiously congratulating itself at every opportunity for what I don’t know. For placating the public, perhaps.

To be sure, terrible mistakes were made by all levels of  government: the dubious deployment of fire fighting assets, the mismanagement of the evacuation, the bungled blockades, and the lack of communications.. 

However embarrassing, our first responders have kept excuses to a minimum, and when pressed as they were notably by KBUU have faced up to the criticism. Reviews have been promised, with the anticipation lessons will be learned and changes made, including the disciplining of those culpable.

But not our City Hall, where a seemingly overwhelmed city manager and a supercilious mayor have not been very responsive or transparent. One also could say dense. 

How else to explain that in the wake of the fire and the immediate need to address the pressing problems of the burnouts and the rebuilding process, they weighted the last  City Council agenda with an interminable tribute to departing councilpersons, Laura Rosenthal and Lou LaMonte.

But finally the parade of petty politicians making saccharine remarks and the self congratulations ended, and the two recently elected councilpersons, Karen Farrer and Mikke Pierson, took their seats.

Both in their brief remarks and those of newly anointed Mayor Jefferson Wagner professed their love of the city and pledged themselves to its rebirth. The words echoed what has been heard in the many recent post disaster forums, Malibu strong.

 But theirvoices were fresh and welcome, and sincere, certainly in contrast to those onthe past council. No doubt how strong, and most importantly, how smart, will betested in the coming meetings.  For our sake, we wish them the best. 

12.15.18