• The Publisher’s Notebook •
Malibu City Council Dynamics
BY ANNE SOBLE
This week’s Malibu City Council meeting was an intriguing study in the role that communication plays in the political process. We were told that the minutes of the council meetings are not to be relied on, actually, “they don’t matter all that much [as] they are not a legal binding contract,” according to the city attorney.
As for the council members’ actions, it’s not what they say or do, but what they think that they are doing that matters, regardless of the appearance or the language that is employed in the decision-making process.
Watching members of the city council state their sense of the April meeting at which the mayor asked them for their permission to meet with Ken Starr, which they now say wasn’t necessary because it involves only her, but they granted it anyhow, offers some interesting insights into council and staff interpersonal dynamics.
If the mayor didn’t need their approval to act independently in exploring a paparazzi law in a non “formal” way not covered by government transparency laws, why didn’t staff or her colleagues tell her that? Or was all that snickering during the discussion prior to their consensus vote an indication of something more?
Perhaps the city attorney hit the proverbial nail on the head when she told her employers that “you get a little loosey-goosey” when deliberating municipal business.
Was the majority of the council members too dismissive of the importance of a possibility that First Amendment rights in Malibu could be curtailed by legal practitioners who buy into right-wing conspiracy theories of the world and want to limit and control the communication of ideas, thus enabling those now in power to clamp down on anyone who disagrees?
Or was it that some council members take such a narrow view of free speech rights that they could openly joke about the mayor’s project, ignoring the potential for First Amendment constraints in a community of arts professionals and others who thrive in a free and open environment? Only one council member has voiced concern that Starr is not a good fit for Malibu in this regard.
Perhaps council members should also be admonished for being loosey-goosey at press conferences, in emails and in other communications in which they use inaccurate terminology. On the paparazzi project, the words commission, committee and group were quoted repeatedly in local and national media reports describing what the council has now decreed does not exist.
Since the official minutes are not meant to be taken at face value and can be revised at will, months after the fact, citizens will have to rely primarily on videos of meetings to be certain what is taking place at City Hall. That is, until the videos start to show the gaps and pauses of editing, or simply disappear from the archives.
Maybe there’s something to all that conservative paranoia, after all.