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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Council Prepares for Reorganization Meeting

• City’s Youngest Council Member Slated to Be Mayor Pro Tem

BY BILL KOENEKER

It is called the reorganization meeting when the Malibu City Council meets next week and the mayoral gavel changes hands this time with outgoing Mayor Laura Rosenthal handing over the symbolic office to incoming Mayor Lou La Monte.
It is believed that Councilmember Skylar Peak is the presumptive nominee for Mayor Pro Tem since 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.
However, when Peak was asked if he expected to be nominated and elected to the post, he said, “I expect to, unless Mayor Laura Rosenthal tries to block it.”
When the mayor was asked what her expectations are, she said, “I don’t know, we will have to see.”
That would not be 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, Councilmember Sharon Barovsky at the eleventh hour came up with a plan that involved the mayor serving for nine 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.
When Rosenthal took office nine months ago, she spoke briefly about her goals and priorities during her term.
The mayor said safety is one of her top priorities. Rosenthal also mentioned the arts, which prompted  the creation of the Cultural Arts Commission.
The incoming mayor said that during her term she wanted to be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the installation of lights at the Malibu High School football field.
She got close but litigation and a split of the community in western Malibu dashed hopes of that happening on her shift.
Rosenthal quipped she was asking for forgiveness in advance for her errors and reminded those in council chambers that an “error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”
That appeared to foreshadow what transpired at the previous reorganization meeting, and dogged the rest of her term over what became known simply as the lagoon issue.
In a complete departure from the conventional reorganization meeting, the public comment portion of the session, usually a chance for family and friends to congratulate incoming officials was turned upside down and taken over by a standing-room-only crowd of critics, surfers and environmentalists who took Rosenthal and the rest of the city council to task for its position on the proposed Malibu Lagoon restoration plan.
With astonishing growth and a powerful voice, the crowd, which snowballed politically, attended subsequent meetings on a regular basis and followed Rosenthal and the rest of the council until nearly the end of her term. No one had seen anything like it before during Malibu’s short political history, or in council chambers.
The ongoing lagoon debate, sometimes very unruly at times, was fueled by outgoing Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who insisted the council should take a position opposing restoration plans, which the council ultimately did.
“We’ve had a surfer mayor, we have had a science mayor, we don’t want to see a secretive mayor,” one speaker said at that reorganization session.
There were other speakers who took up their own issues to the point it prompted one longtime council member to wonder, “When did the mayoral change become a venue for self-promotion?”
In a touch of political irony, the outgoing mayor talked about how Malibu had a “raucous youth over the past years,” but had grown up.
Conley Ulich said Rosenthal was the sixth female mayor of Malibu.
The council member said there was a tradition that started when Barovsky was mayor. “It is the mayoral bling,” said Conley Ulich as she passed over to Rosenthal a shiny metallic object, saying she was going to keep up the tradition.
It is not known what Rosenthal plans to do with the “mayoral bling. ” Stay tuned.

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