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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seven Candidates Tackle Malibu Lagoon and Other Issues

2012 Malibu City Council Campaign—Part Three

All of the Malibu City Council candidates on the April 10 ballot were asked to respond to a questionnaire from the Malibu Surfside News.
The third series of questions and answers are published in this week’s issue, and the rest of the questions will be published in the April 5 issue.
The questionnaire is an effort to provide prospective voters with an opportunity to compare all of the candidates’ responses simultaneously.
The responses appear in alphabetical order for easy cross reference. Aspiring city council members were asked to be succinct, but were not restricted to a set word limit.

QUESTIONS

How would you rate local government transparency? Ability to communicate? What would you change?

JOAN HOUSE: Federal & state laws govern transparency. Communication is the key to successful government. Both are operating now.

HANS LAETZ: I very much resent all the locked doors and ‘employees only’ areas. City Hall belongs to us, and we should be able to walk down a hallway without escort, as if we are interlopers. The public should be able to read official city emails to and from developers—right now those emails are ordered to be deleted by the city attorney. The city council and commission process is broken. Public comment is not analyzed before decisions are made. Commissions hide behind Roberts Rule of Order, which is a great way to handle high school debate teams but a lousy way to listen to residents, answer their questions, and allow them to have sufficient input. I have an entire position paper on my web page explaining how I would fix a deaf City Hall.

ANDY LYON: Not great. Everything that goes on there should be accessible to the public with the available technology. Anytime there is a meeting with any staff it should be in a room that can be monitored and watched by the public. Not everyone is able to take off work to attend these daytime meetings but should be able to watch live. I would love to also see a skype access to council meetings so that the public can comment from home.
HAMISH PATTERSON: Opaque! They communicate just enough with the public to placate it and have the appearance of interaction. They work for us and technology is cheap, the first thing that can be done to include the public is to allow public comments via Skype or similar platforms, second wire the entire city hall with cameras and sound, and stream all that occurs there live, so that anybody, at anytime, anywhere can see and hear what is occurring in their city hall. The public has the right to know who their staff is meeting with and what they are meeting about. A live streaming city hall is the future; it is time to remove the barriers between the public and its hired staff.

SKYLAR PEAK: Local government transparency can be improved and more importantly communication must be improved. I think some residents are frustrated they cannot find information easily online. Many questions have complex answers and some are not always presented in laymen’s terms. The Freedom of Information Act helps. However, I want city government to be more proactive in informing residents about issues of importance and for people to continue to feel welcomed to their city hall as they are now. We need more people to participate in the process.

JOHN SIBERT: Transparency is very important in local government, as it is closest to the citizenry. There is a continuing tug-of-war between transparency and individuals’ privacy as well as the need to negotiate contracts and inter-governmental disputes. I try to err on the side of transparency.

MISSY ZEITSOFF: I sense an attempt to eliminate public input and citizen decision-making whenever there is an option to do so. The fact that public channels are not broadcasting very important public meetings is one example. The city commissions have little power, and are limited in the ability to put items on their own agenda. The efforts to communicate, educate and invite for participation and observation, are limited by the staff. I am worried that the decision-makers, the council, don’t receive adequate or accurate information from staff departments.

What should the city’s position be on the Malibu Lagoon construction project? Do you favor the project, why? If you don’t, what action should be taken by opponents?

HOUSE: I am waiting until a qualified scientist, agreed on by both sides, makes a recommendation on the project. State Parks would have been better served had they communicated with the community about the project to begin with. Even though it is State Parks’ land and State Parks’ money and the City has no say, I am very upset that they plan to remove the bridge which permits people to be totally engaged in the lagoon environment.

LAETZ: I do not favor the State Parks project because it was imposed on us, without the city council stepping up to protect the valid concerns of the minority of wildlife advocates, surfers and nearby residents. We never had a hearing or a study here to see if this was as bad as the opponents feel.
But the opponents had their day before the Bay Commission, State Parks board, the Coastal Commission and the governor. They had all of their arguments examined in court before a judge whom they picked. They lost every single one of their legal, scientific and factual arguments, every single one of them. They have an appeal filed, but construction will start before it is heard, and a stay does not look likely this time. The minority lost. The rest of us in Malibu cannot afford the political capital or the legal expense to once again make our city look like a bunch of whiney, emotional losers on the wrong side of the facts, science and law. We are stuck with it because the city council bailed out on its role four years ago.
The Trancas fiasco is a textbook case how NOT to handle an entitlement. City staff, the planning commission, and the council bent over backwards to give the developer every single variance, waiver and exception he asked for. It fell to a private citizen (me) acting alone to demand that such rudimentary functions as lagoon preservation and PCH widening for a turn lane, bike lane and pedestrian path be added.

LYON: I am beyond opposed to the project. It is a huge waste of taxpayer bond money and employs the same theories as the first attempt at this nearly 30 years ago only on a bigger scale. Now that it is finally looking natural there they want to rip it up again. I don’t like the fact that the sewer’s main problem is dispersing water and the lagoon project will allow it to hold more water and that there are too many common denominator players involved. The city should oppose this project even though as they say it isn’t their project. I am so tired of the ‘it’s out of our hands’ answer…. As mayor of Malibu you have clout …USE IT!
Stand up to these guys. What is the point of being a city if we are going to get walked over?

PATTERSON: The Lagoon project is ill conceived, poorly planned, and environmentally unsound in principle as well as the theoretical execution. There are too many unknowns and our own city has said as much, and if they do not know what is going on with the lagoon project, who does? The lagoon project is just a stepping-stone to sewer development, and various entities filling their bank accounts. The fact that this project will occur in June and last five months, which is the busiest, most congested time of year in Malibu, should raise alarm bells.
The lagoon project is a terrible idea and if it is allowed to precede this community will be forever impacted in a negative way. The project is a scam and we as a community need to wake up to the players involved and realize they have neither Malibu nor the lagoon’s best interests at heart, it is all about money, money which should be invested in fixing the perpetually leaking Tapia water treatment plant. Save the lagoon, save Malibu, bulldoze the lagoon, bulldoze Malibu, it is that simple.

PEAK: The proposed Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project has too many questions surrounding it for me to support it in its current state. Opponents should offer a better feasible solution than the proposed project and not go after well intentioned agencies like Heal the Bay that have done so many positive things to help clean up the watershed and oceans between Point Dume and Palos Verdes.

SIBERT: There has been so much misinformation promulgated about this project and so many mutually exclusive scientific statements made that I requested that the city hire an independent reviewer to review all of the published studies and claims on both sides of the issue and return to the council and citizens, before the election, with a summary that separates fact from fiction. A number of potential reviewers have been submitted to the city manager, but to date, all have been rejected by one side or the other. We may be very close to an acceptable candidate, but time is running out. At the time I originally saw this project, all the evidence was on the side of the project. On reviewing the final plans, a number of serious questions have arisen and will be addressed in a firm third letter to State Parks from the city regarding the impact of this project. As a scientist, I believe in making decisions based on facts and, when I get new facts, I reassess my position. I believe that responsible decisions should be made on the basis of verifiable evidence, not tendentious tracts and anecdotes.
ZEITSOFF: June 1st is approaching for the start of the Lagoon Destruction. The 7+ million dollar project is going to destroy wildlife, cause traffic, dust, interruption of tourism and business profits. The city should join the lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission, on appeal. The city should consider a lawsuit against the Ca. State Parks, leader of the project. Why is it that we are sued by so many, but we never use the options of mediation or litigation when our city is threatened?

Do you think there is a need for special legislation, such as a diversification ordinance, to promote the well-being of small, independent, locally owned businesses? Who would oversee any such program if implemented?

HOUSE: This is an intriguing idea that I support looking into. Government should tread lightly when it gets involved in regulating the private sector. We must study this carefully lest we face disastrous unintended consequences.

LAETZ: No. City government is not supposed to grant special favors to one class of commercial citizens over another. But our city has already stormed into the marketplace, by going into the high-end retail business at the Lumberyard. This has forced up rents (although the recession has been a moderating factor). Malibu needs to take small, measured steps to ensure that its residents can get the commercial services we need. That’s what the diversification ordinance would do, and I am proud to support this small zoning matter. Like every city, Malibu already broadly regulates what type of businesses locate here. I think the commercial landowners have been unduly defensive as Preserve Malibu seeks small concessions. Our zoning officials already handle programs like this.

LYON: I am in support of what Preserve Malibu has put together and would hope that they would have a committee to help oversee along with the council.

PATTERSON: Let us focus on occupying the commercial spaces we have. The issue of mom and pop retail versus chain stores is a trick to get the community tacitly supporting more commercial development. The real problem is that mom and pop retailers are being forced to compete with chain-store retailers and their deep pockets, which have the ability to subsidize their retail outlets in Malibu. Malibu is not a retail-shopping destination, never has, and hopefully never will be; our infrastructure cannot handle it, as the PCH and the canyons are all choke points that prevent any retail entity that does not cater directly to the community from being financially feasible without subsidies from outside sources. It is a sad state of affairs that a community cannot support the retail stores that serve its needs because a few well financed property owners are using Malibu’s name to lease retail space simply so that chain store retailers can use Malibu’s cache in their marketing campaigns.

PEAK: Yes. Yes.

SIBERT: I believe that we need to do what we can to sustain community- serving businesses. That certainly should include a citizen-driven buy local campaign. This issue of potential diversification regulation or ordinance has united a large number of Malibu citizens. I hope that will be the nucleus for such a grass-roots effort. It may be important to produce a diversification ordinance, which could be enforced administratively or by the planning commission. However, that comes before the council on March 26, and I will listen to the arguments from both sides. It would be inappropriate for me take a position prior to that public hearing.

ZEITSOFF: I will support a diversification ordinance to balance local business, both service and retail, with some chain commercial. I would explore the possibility of a new — Independent Business— Chamber of Commerce. I would consider the creation of a Commerce and Finance Oversight City Commission. And, I am interested in the possibility of an Economic Element for our General Plan.

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