Councilmembers Play Politics at the Podium; Show Stake in Election
• Supporters of Malibu Lumber Yard Bailout Defend the Action
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
Though there are no incumbents in the 10-person race for the two vacant seats on the city council, that has not stopped council hopefuls from offering their own critiques of the council performance during the past two years.
One of the main targets has been the Malibu Lumber Yard, which sits on city-owned land. Some candidates have opined that the shopping center is not working in terms of attracting local businesses.
Another quipped that the hot dog stand was the only outlet making a profit. One council hopeful said the city should not be in the real estate business. Others have talked about the $1.5 million bailout in more general terms.
However, at Monday night’s regular meeting. some council members fired back at the candidates’ statements about a certain aspect of the Lumber Yard deal.
“It is complete lies about the Malibu Lumber Yard,” said Councilmember Andy Stern, regarding statements made by some of the candidates about the interest free deferral of $1.5 million that the council approved for the shopping center’s developers.
Stern said the city continues to get the base rent of $925,000 and the money that was deferred came from rent above and beyond the base rent. “It will be paid back,” said Stern, who explained the hookup of the veterinary hospital to the shopping center’s wastewater treatment plant agreed upon by the developers made for an even exchange.
“That could cost the city one million dollars. It is completed. We are not deferring the base rent. They are lying,” he added.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said candidate Steve Scheinkman had said the city gave away a million dollars.
“It is confusing to the community to say the city flat out gave away $1.5 million. That is not true. We will have City Manager Jim Thorsen put something together,” she said.
Thorsen said the agreement is on the website and he could put something together in “simple terms.”
Although several candidates have offered their critique of the Lumber Yard, only Scheinkman was called out by name Monday night.
Scheinkman was not allowed to defend his statements when he tried to do so while speaking on another agenda item.
But he managed to tell the council, “I stand by my comments.”
The council hopeful was contacted after the meeting for comment. “I find it disconcerting that the city council still does not seem to understand why the $1.5 million amendment to the lumber yard lease was a poor business decision. Far more troubling however, is the council’s confirmation that their failure to perform proper due diligence on the new city hall has now burdened the city with another unplanned $3 million dollars in additional debt. That a council meeting confronting such serious financial problems can exhaust its time with name-calling rather than addressing these issues directly only underscores the need to elect council members with both the financial expertise to avoid these problems and a common sense of public decorum,” he wrote in an email reply.
Council members didn’t let up the criticism. Mayor Sharon Barovsky, calling the campaign the “silly season,” scoffed at some of the candidates and said, “What great business men they are,” referring to some of the candidates’ questions about the city’s continuing use of Certificates of Participation to finance more and more expenditures. The total amount of the COPs and their costs is nearing $65 million.
“I’m going to buy a building with a $17 million mortgage and not a dime of taxpayers’ money,” said Barovsky, apparently re-ferring to the new city hall acquisition.
Talking about another aspect of the Lumber Yard deal, the mayor said the developer put in $24 million of improvements in the city-owned building. “It will be paid for. That is also true for city hall at the end of 30 years,” she said.
Barovsky concluded by saying the council also retired the 19 acres that could have become a much larger shopping center under a different scenario. “Leave us out of it,” she said.