• Are Times A-Changing in Malibu? •
BY ANNE SOBLE
In most Malibu municipal elections past, unsuccessful candidates tended to fade into the background to lick their wounds unless a council member of similar political views appointed them to a city commission or committee.
This year something different may be happening. So far, at least three of the lowest vote-getters are not only not going away, they are visible everywhere, speaking out, and urging others to get politically involved. They say they are eager to see the formation of an umbrella organization that might become powerful enough to counterbalance the well-funded special interests that regard City Hall as their private playground.
If the council members learned anything from the recent election, it should be that there are a lot of unhappy residents in Malibu. They can ignore this, or they can take notice. The council members might consider some of these new activists for city appointive posts to guarantee that there are people around who are not afraid to say when the emperor has no clothes.
The new activists are demanding answers to their questions. Their concerns run the gamut, such as the mayor's annual State-of-the-City speech, traditionally sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce that is now headed by a development expediter who tells the press to use the Freedom of Information Act when they seek updates on his projects and advocates for developments opposed by many local residents.
The Chamber, a big business lobby and local political action group, is using Malibu City Hall for free to host a $40 a head breakfast fundraiser this week, featuring the mayor as a draw.
Apart from wondering what attendees are served at a $40 breakfast, this begs the question of whether this event creates a perception that the Chamber has major influence in the city. When asked if it does have this influence, Mayor Laura Rosenthal said, "No, it does not."
Regarding the propriety of a fundraiser tied to her speech, Rosenthal said, "I too had concerns that the State of the City should be seen by the whole community since the Chamber luncheon is only lightly attended and is not free."
She added, "Actually, I was trying to change the event to an evening event at City Hall with the speeches and refreshments afterwards but it was not possible to do this year due to a timing issue. I am hoping that the next mayor and the Chamber can agree on an evening event." However, this response ignores whether the Chamber should even be hosting the event.
Members of the public at large who would prefer to skip the $40 breakfast tab can hear the same speech next week for free at Malibu City Hall on Wednesday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. during the city council budget workshop.
The mayor also noted that an incorrect impression is given by the Chamber on the role of the assistant city manager in the organization. She said the ACM is "a non-voting honorary liaison and the Chamber website incorrectly shows her and several others as executive board members," also noting the ACM "has not participated in a board meeting for many months."
Last week, another local activist asked City Manager Jim Thorsen "to provide immediately" the total cost for the Malibu 2012 "survey" some residents have received. She wants specific names and contact information for those who wrote the survey, received it, will tabulate the raw data, have access to the raw data and numerous other methodological clarifications.
The "survey" is actually an elective or volunteer questionnaire that might in theory receive only a small number of replies. To date, those overseeing this city-funded project have not indicated how its format can achieve demographic and geographic balance because it is not a statistical random sample.
Others speaking out, especially seniors and other social groups, want additional public quarters that are nicer than the Multi-Purpose and Zuma rooms and intend to clamor for improvements.
Citizens concerned about public safety, Malibu Lagoon, sewering, commercial overdevelopment and other matters in the news in recent months were at the Monday night city council meeting and said, from this point on, they are going to be everywhere at City Hall with well-charged cell phones to record and take photos.
In George Orwell's seminal book "1984," those in power controlled every facet of people's lives. In a book about 2012, what if the reverse happened and with it came greater government transparency and responsiveness? Imagine Malibu as the poster child for the democratic process?