• The Publisher’s Notebook •
Phantom Policymaking in Malibu
BY ANNE SOBLE
You gotta love some of the members of the Malibu City Council. Without them, political life in this community would be so humdrum. We might even have to spend time on substantive policy analysis, if issues such as development, resource protection and all of those dreary and difficult things that occupy cities where there’s an attempt to have a positive impact on the future ever came up. That we may now have some candidates for council seats who promise even more potential for this type of amusing diversion from political thinking means that an observer’s cup runneth over. There will never be a shortage of things that prompt one to say that they can’t believe what they hear or see, even as they watch the replay dozens of times with unrelenting incredulity. The latest policy brouhaha Malibu-style is council members who don’t seem to get that Los Angeles County has one of the finest firefighting forces in the world and the notion of volunteers in every neighborhood is not only unnecessary, but also potentially dangerous and the kind of financial liability this already eminently suable city does not need.
We‘re surprised there aren’t council members who willy-nilly want to do what we concertedly did for all of the MSN news crew, and advocate that the city buy everyone in town a yellow crew coat, a hard hat, regulation masks and bandannas, and put them on the fire line. But humor aside, this council mentality might not understand the difference between journalists who willingly assume risks to get news that can help with life-and-death decision-making and citizens who don’t want to dabble in do-it-yourself fire protection when top professionals are already on the job. Furthermore, it’s one thing to make the decision to stay and defend your own home and to assume the personal liability for doing so, but to expect volunteers to do this on a regular basis defies logic. Council members making this recommendation appear to have a Disneyfied view of wildfires. Some of nature’s infernos can be stopped quickly, and others can’t. That’s up to nature. To put neighbors in the position of having to answer to the forces of wind and heat is unconscionable.
If members of this city council really want to make a difference in firefighting capability, why aren’t they on the front line with the governor asking for more money for night-flying helicopters, better communications equipment, newer heat-resistant gear and more trucks and fixed-wing aircraft? Why aren’t they prodding the county board of supervisors for year-round SuperScooper presence? Council members could even get behind a special firefighting surcharge. Isn’t it worth extra dollars to fill in the gaps in local fire budgets? But why should council members deal with tough issues like these when they can grandstand? The call for a volunteer brigade is an emotional sham that takes energy away from ideas that could make a difference. Playing on emotions may be good for getting votes, but it makes for poor public policy.