Council's Reorganization Meeting Overshadowed by Fight over Mayor Pro Tem
• Nomination for Top Vote Getter in 2012 Election Blocked by Majority Vote Initiated by Outgoing Mayor Laura Rosenthal
BY BILL KOENEKER
It is called the reorganization meeting when the Malibu City Council meet and the mayoral gavel changes hands, this time with outgoing mayor Laura Rosenthal handing over the symbolic title to incoming mayor Lou La Monte.
However, there was much more than symbolism when a majority of the council blocked Councilmember Skylar Peak's presumptive taking of the oath of office for mayor pro tem.
Councilmember John Sibert served as mayor before Rosenthal, and Councilmember Joan House was elected at the same time as Peak, who was the top vote getter.
The impetus for blocking Peak became apparent when a political operative of what many local politicos call the Sharon Barovsky camp, Lloyd Ahern, told the council during public comment that he believed Peak should not be nominated at this time.
He said the ongoing sheriff's investigation of Peak and his alleged public behavior should preclude him for serving as mayor pro tem.
Then another Barovsky ally, former Councilmember Ken Kearsley, came forward and said he agreed with Ahern. "This office is about respect and dignity," he added.
Once La Monte had taken the mayoral gavel, he called for nominations for mayor pro tem. Peak nominated himself.
Rosenthal said she wanted to nominate Sibert for a five-month term.
However, Sibert turned down the nomination saying, "I'm not sure that is appropriate. I cannot accept that. We went through this process before. The largest vote getter is next in line. I see no reason to change this. This was a vote of the people. If he had not nominated himself, I would have [nominated him]."
Rosenthal responded, "I have to disagree with a couple of things. I have thought long and hard and tried to come up with a compromise. This would be the first time somebody, except myself, would be serving in less than the nine and half months. There is so much to learn. There is precedent. Skylar has been on the council for only four months. I supported you, I still support you," she said.
Rosenthal started to say, "As a doctor of psychology," when catcalls from the audience briefly silenced her.
"There is an active police investigation. If we just waited five more months, get those things behind you. What I am thinking is best for the city. We need to be taken seriously," she said.
La Monte then announced he wanted to nominate Councilmember Joan House, who said the meeting was turning into a "most interesting" one.
"I don't want to be in this place. What is best for the city. I accept the nomination only if we could reorganize. I have no fixed plan to be mayor pro tem. But Malibu has to have an image. We have to have steadiness. Every country knows Malibu. I conferred with no one. I prefer [the term of] mayor for one year," House added. "We need to start talking in paragraphs rather than sentences."
When asked to comment, Peak said, "It is utterly ridiculous to reorganize what has been done before."
La Monte concluded by saying he did not know what to believe about the TV news coverage and conflicting stories about Peak. "We don't want a Cudahy or Bell. It is a distraction to the city. We are about good schools and good people," he added.
When it came time to vote on the nominations House voted for herself, Peak voted for himself, Sibert voted for Peak, and Rosenthal and La Monte both voted for House.
Some in the audience immediately erupted into calls of "Shame" and "Shame on you."
Then it was the rest of the public's turn to speak, with Barovsky commenting on the proceedings, "I compliment you for tonight. It really was difficult. It is never perfect. You did the honest thing. Whether right or wrong remains to be seen. Laura, you have conducted some of the best meetings," she said, adding the voters do not elect a mayor. "You are elected to the council. The voters spoke to elect a council member."
Former council candidate Hamish Patterson said the council belittled Peak with their actions.
Patterson then launched into a critique of Rosenthal's trip to China when she was mayor. "Why are we pandering to the Chinese? The city is not going to placate to the Chinese. China has a terrible human rights record. The mayor was going on about the Chinese this and that. China is not the Malibu way of life. What is this thing about China?"
Another former council candidate Andy Lyon said Rosenthal as mayor did little "to fix the disaster in the lagoon. Laura, you did not do anything." Lyon asked whey there was even a reorganization meeting. "Why do we even have a mayor-go-round. Let's have a real mayor."
Lyon asked whey there was even a reorganization meeting. "Why do we even have a mayor-go-round. Let's have a real mayor."
Lyon chided the council for placing so much emphasis on allegations made against Peak.
"What is it guilty before being proven innocent? Maybe that is how they do it in China," he added.
Monday night's reorganization was not that dissimilar to when both former Councilmember Andy Stern, who was reelected, and newly elected Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich both expected to serve as mayor.
It appeared a nasty fight was ahead of the council at that reorganization meeting when it seemed that Stern's camp and Conley Ulich's supporters were prepared to battle it out at the meeting.
However, Barovsky at the eleventh hour came up with a plan that involved the mayor serving for nine and half months, instead of a year and allowing Conley Ulich to serve that first abbreviated term with Stern to follow.
All parties in the packed council chambers agreed to the terms and a potential political crisis was averted.
Both sides were apparently happy and the power moves appeared elegant and statesmanlike as opposed to Monday night.
When Rosenthal took office, a little more than nine months ago, she spoke briefly about her goals and priorities during her term.
She did the same Monday night.
The outgoing mayor said safety on the highway was still one of her top priorities. Rosenthal also mentioned the arts, which was accomplished by the creation of the Cultural Arts Commission.
"I worked very hard to improve the image and to be taken seriously," she said. "I discovered my passion for public service."
La Monte also addressed his plans for his mayoral term, saying the safety on PCH is still on the top of his list.
"I want to keep this city as safe as humanly possible."
"We will continue to go to Sacramento. We want to keep the Highway Patrol on PCH. We want to control parking [on PCH] like at Paradise Cove.
"We want to partner with other cities. There are 62 other cities in the same battle with the Regional Water Quality Control Board over natural sources [of total dissolved solids in water bodies]."
"Nobody but the city is responsible to meet those standards. We want to team up with other cities for the drug rehab problem. They don't pay attention to laws," he said.
La Monte vowed to keep the movement alive for forming a Malibu school district and wants to help in retiring commercial land in the Civic Center area and find a managed opening at the lagoon.
"I want to have an old style town hall meeting where everyone is treated with respect," he concluded.
"It is a very short journey from swearing in the mayor to swearing at the mayor."