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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Stage Was Set for the Cast of Malibu City Council Candidates

• Support for the Local Arts Segued into Questions about General Community-wide Concerns

                             BY BILL KOENEKER

Members of the Malibu Stage Company sponsored a city council candidates’ forum last Wednesday. All seven candidates for three seats on the city council in the April 10 election took part.
The council hopefuls were each given four minutes to talk about themselves and then a series of the same four questions given in advance were asked of each candidate. The questions were answered in the order of the seating arrangement of the candidates.
Councilmember John Sibert, who is seeking to retain his seat on the council, introduced himself by saying he considers himself working with the same focus as a scientist does. “I look at the facts. I deal with the facts. Science is important. I bring a certain set of skills. I am asking for one more term; that is all you can get,” he said.
Sibert explained he earned a PhD in chemistry and served as a professor and administrator at Yale, Caltech and the California State university system and has managed technology foundations and research institutes.
Former council member Missy Zeitsoff, whose background is in teaching and education, discussed how she served on the first city council and helped get the municipality up and running. “It was quite a ride. It was exciting. We fought off the big sewer system,” she said.
After explaining she was planning on running a “different kind of campaign,” taking no campaign money and forgoing mailers, signs and other traditional campaign methods, Zeitsoff cited her top issues.
“I am against the lagoon project in its current state. I am against the [Civic Center] sewering system. We don’t need a big sewer. We can do enforcement of septics and small package plants,” she added.
Zeitsoff also expressed concern for the city’s financial well-being including the undesignated general fund reserve. “The reserve is going down,” she said.
Planning Commissioner Joan House, who previously served on the city council for two terms, told the audience she helped write the city’s General Plan as a member of the General Plan Task Force.
House said she is a retired teacher, who served in the Peace Corps in Africa and worked on a Navajo reservation.
She said some of her top priorities are to protect the rural aspects of Malibu, hold down commercial development and create a Malibu school district.
On the State Park’s plan for lagoon restoration, House said, “I do not know if funding is being spent in the right way.”
She described the proposed study of the lagoon documents for council consideration a good start. She said the proposed removal of the bridges is “terrible.”
Commenting on wastewater issues, she said septic systems do work and it is important Malibu work with the agencies. “But there is more than one solution,” she noted.
Hamish Patterson, a self-described surfer and skateboarder new to civic life, said he has been “like most everybody else just kind of looking out at the horizon,” but then noticed some big projects coming down the pike.
“The city doesn’t work. The city staff is out of control. There needs to be [a way] to put the staff in check. The city staff meets with developers and is selling us out,” he said.
He explained he noticed all of this after he got involved in the relocation of the skate park. “I’m just a citizen, a surfer, a skater and carpenter and we should make the city [web] live streaming to see what’s happening. I can’t believe the city is mingling with developers,” he said.
Candidate Andy Lyon introduced himself by saying he is a third generation Malibuite, whose grandfather sold homes in the Colony.
“I delivered the Evening Outlook in the Colony. I delivered prescriptions. I was a bartender at Alice’s Restaurant. My parents moved away. I was ditched in Malibu. I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.
Lyon said it is the proposed restoration plans at Malibu Lagoon that “got me to do this.”
He emphasized that he thought it was not just the lagoon issue that will impact residents. “This whole town is about to explode,” he added.
Council hopeful Hans Laetz said he was a news manager for KTLA and is a journalist who became involved in environmental law.
He said his most recent work is in holding Southern California Edison accountable for the power poles that started the Canyon Fire.
“I will meet with the lawyers for negotiating a $99-million settlement. They keep saying the money should go into the general fund, but I want it for study of the poles in the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains,” he said.
Frontrunner in collecting campaign funds for the first reporting period, Skylar Peak told the nearly 60 attendees he was born and raised in Malibu. His grandparents arrived in the fifties. He took over the family business after his father passed away and he has been a promoter of music events for several years.
“I can be a person to find a balance with the needs of the residents. None of these decisions are black and white,” he said. He said some of his big ticket issues are public safety, wastewater and financial management.
The first question the candidates had to answer had to do with public safety and what council hopefuls thought would be helpful within the budget. They were given a minute to answer.
Sibert said the most important would be to find additional funding. “PCH is our biggest problem,” he said, adding seeking more grants is top priority.
Zeitsoff said a minute was not enough time for Malibu’s number one problem. She said the California Highway Patrol is back, but they should be patrolling more often. “We deferred road maintenance. That is terrible,” she said. Passing a diversification ordinance for local services would have the effect of lessening travel for shoppers leading to greater public safety, according to Zeitsoff.
House said she had a list with 34 items or recommendations for improving traffic on PCH. She cited other solutions, such as hiring another motorcycle officer and employing more empty squad cars.
Patterson indicated he believed PCH is deadly. He claimed the ASPCH has been doing a lot for safety on PCH.
“They are getting things done that the city council is not doing,” he said. Patterson derided the grant funding to be used for safe bikeways along PCH where one basically already exists.
Lyon, responding to House’s comments about empty squad cars as a deterrent, said, “A car with a dummy does not make me feel safe.”
Laetz said there are eight police agencies on PCH. “These guys can’t talk to each other. The public safety in this town is a mess.”
Peak said, as a part-time lifeguard he understands some of the issues. “The public is stupid,” he said, without elaboration. He lamented that a vehicle could travel from Topanga Canyon to Heathercliff with the driver acting recklessly, be reported and still not get caught.
“We receive 13 million visitors per year. We need [public safety] grants,” he said.
The next question dealt with how the candidates participated in public life in the past.
Sibert said he has been involved in the wastewater issues since the 80s. “I was on the planning commission for five years. I found the USGS [research] guy. He said.
Zeitsoff said she was on the Malibu Township Council and Save Our Coast and was active in forming the city and in creating the high school, as well as her stint on the city council.
House said she served during the formation of the city and was on the city council for two terms. “I am most proud of the shared use agreement with the high school swimming pool.”
Patterson said the first thing he got involved with was the proposed golf course in Corral Canyon, then later the skate park.
“I’ve helped kids get off drugs. We have a problem. We need to focus on it. It won’t go away,” he said.
Lyon said he was on one of the busses that went downtown in 1987 to protest the sewers. “Like most people I go away and then come back when something messes up my day. The lagoon issue. I brought this to the forefront. It is like trying to make a toilet flush backwards,” he said.
Laetz talked about he was involved in reporting on the fires in 2007. He said during disaster it is important that the fire department and the city have the most-up-to-date information.
Peak said he first got involved when he was in the eighth grade and his father took him and sandbags to Broad Beach to help out.
Peak also touted his work on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and as a benefactor for the local Boys and Girls Club.
The candidates were then asked two more questions together and were told they had a total of two minutes to do so.
The questions concerned whether they endorsed the city’s Arts Task Force sending in a report to the city council and, if they believed there should be a full-time arts commission. The second question asked if they would elaborate on the importance of the arts.
Sibert said the arts are an important aspect of life in Malibu. “The arts are an important part of what we do. A lot of people here are involved,” he said. “We should start in grade school and tie it into the schools. We have not done a good job. We need to do more for the arts, I don’t know where we will get the money,” he said.
Zeitsoff said the Arts Task Force is a good start. “Let’s upgrade it to a commission and have youths serve on it,” she said.
Zeitsoff said children are not being served to the fullest. “We are not enriching them to the extent we should,” she added. “This facility [Malibu Stage Company] is great. It is way smaller, but could be like [facilities] in Santa Barbara. We could also use City Hall.”
“I support the Arts Commission,” said House. “It is a good place to start.”
House said the arts reach the “heart and soul” of the individual, whether it is a book or a play.
Patterson said the city is 20 years old and just formed a task force. He said he did not think the city has been engaging nor has it brought in the children for promoting the arts.
Lyon said the town is full of artists.
“It is pretty shocking. The city hall was [originally] built for the performing arts, but [city officials] took it apart,” he said.
Laetz agreed it has been too long before the city established an arts commission.
He said another problem is the city staff micromanages some panels such as the public safety commission. He called for each commission to also consist of two city council members. “Malibu’s commission process is broken. An arts commission will do nothing, if it does not have direct connection to the city council,” he added.
Peak said he endorsed a proposed developer’s fee of one percent for the arts. “It would serve our community very well. The Bluffs Park is a good place for showings. I love music. The talent is here,” he said.
The question and answer session from the audience was opened briefly, but then closed.
The two questions asked gave Laetz and Sibert a very brief opportunity to answer.
The first question had to do with the Trancas market approvals. Laetz said the city’s planning commission and the city council approved numerous waivers to the General Plan. “I filed a lawsuit, but appealed to the Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission ruled there were 14 violations. I completely blocked the project. It cost the developer. I wanted the lagoon preserved, a right turn lane on PCH. Malibu did not require those improvements,” he said.
The other question was: “Since the 2007 fires, what have you done to commit to Malibu the protection of homes?”
Sibert said there have been several things done. “The city put together a warning system using a broadcast system for radios. “I am like House, who said it, ‘clear brush.’ The solution to our view issue: ban eucalyptus trees,” he quipped.

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