The Race Is On: Candidates Tackle Issues in First Public Forum
• Voters Get Opportunity to Compare the Eight Who Are Actively Campaigning for Council Seats
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
Eight out of the 10 city council hopefuls showed up last week at the first candidates forum, which was jointly sponsored by the Malibu Chamber of Commerce and the Malibu Association of Realtors, Kofi and Jan Swift were no shows.
Moderators from each group asked a series of questions of interest to the business and real estate communities.
The auditorium at HRL Labs was filled to capacity as onlookers listened to the candidates first talk about themselves and then answer questions.
Candidates were first asked their position on the Civic Center septic prohibition ordered by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Speaking first, Ed Gillespie said it was another example of the problems faced by Malibu due to an outside agency. “They are forcing us to address dirty water in the bay. We need to explore options. The water is still dirty. We have to do something about our water. Could we tie into Las Virgenes Municipal Water District? We need to look at options. I don’t know,” he said.
Harold Greene explained there is no prohibition, it is still in process. “The bottom line, there is stuff going into the ocean making people sick. Yes. But where is it coming from? My conclusion is the [RWQCB] decision is wrong. It is based on old science. What the city is proposing along with Legacy Park will help. The city should continue to fight and litigate the state board,” he said.
Matthew Katz said that septics work and there is proof of that, much of it found in Europe. “The problem is upstream. Legacy Park should be a wastewater plant,” he said.
Lou La Monte said there are efforts underway to try to clean the pollution of Surfrider Beach. “The city’s plan is more viable. The RWQCD’s is a bad idea. What could happen to us happened in Los Osos. The city’s plan can be done responsibly and would resolve the problems,” he said.
John Mazza recalled the city submitted its plan to the regional board late after the comment period. “The business owners want a plant. Let’s try to negotiate the houses out of the moratorium. We just cannot afford to say it is the sea gulls,” he said, referring to city testimony at the regional board meeting.
Laura Rosenthal said she does not support the ban. “I hope the state board will send it back. I support a smaller area. Some areas do not flow into the lagoon. I am excited about building a smaller facility utilizing recycled water,” she said.
Mike Sidley said something needs to be done about wastewater and noted the $56 million price tag is not viable or affordable. He said there are legitimate issues. “We need to deal with a comprehensive solution city-wide,” he said.
Steve Scheinkman said the ban puts a cloud over Malibu. “All of the people in front of me should go collectively before the board and tell them we are serious about cleaning up Malibu. I can’t tell you how this is going to be done. We need to look at the details,” he said.
The council hopefuls were also asked what they would do to improve the relationships between the city and the California Coastal Commission and other agencies that exert a strong influence on Malibu.
Lou La Monte said the real problem is that those agencies do not listen to Malibu. He also said Malibu does not speak with one voice. “We have become a series of tribes. We are talking with different voices. They divide and conquer. We need one voice, a unified voice,” he said.
Matthew Katz said he agreed with La Monte and acknowledged the Coastal Commission has a certain power.
“I don’t know if we can get rid of the Coastal Commission. We have to prove we can govern as a group or family. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Coastal Commission believe we are difficult. That we are considered elitists,” he added.
Harold Greene said he would consider a strategy much like he does as a trial lawyer. “We need a consensus to compromise. There are some issues that we can’t resolve now because there is a lack of consensus,” he added. Right now, he said, the citizens are driven by emotional issues, such as the overnight camping and the fire risk. “Putting camping at the Bluffs Park is easier, safer and less risky. We are trying to reach consensus,” he said.
Ed Gillespie said citizens were at the mercy of the coastal panel and the Conservancy. Gillespie said he promised to put together a meeting with Attorney General Jerry Brown, who plans to run for governor, for a town hall meeting to hash out the problems Malibu has with other state agencies.
Gillespie said such political strategy could show the heads of the state agencies that Malibu’s viewpoints are valid. “They treat us like total fools. Let’s show them we are not,” he said.
Mike Sidley answered that voters have to first recognize that those agencies and panels have jurisdiction. “We don’t act like a 20-year-old city. We act like we are five years old. We tell them our way or the highway. They have lost trust in us. We need to develop that trust and confidence. We are governed by the Coastal Act. We are stuck with the Clean Water Act,” he said.
Steve Scheinkman said it is important to understand those agencies, but at the same time he said there should be no compromise concerning public safety issues and children. “We have a $20 million budget and legal expenses are a million per year. We need to find a responsible approach,” he said.
John Mazza spoke about the past fight with the Coastal Commission that turned into a de facto building moratorium while municipal officials legally fought over the Local Coastal Program. “There are consequences to battling,” he said, but added there are some items, such as public safety that cannot be compromised.
Laura Rosenthal said it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. She also talked about utilizing a cooperative spirit to get things done. “We need to be an adult,” she said.
The candidates were then asked what legislative steps they would take to improve the business climate of Malibu.
Katz said he was against the city getting into the real estate business. “We don’t need Rodeo Drive. Go back to the old Malibu,” he said, adding he would like to see Malibu become the healing arts center for the planet.
La Monte said to improve the business climate, there needs to be businesses that serve the residents. He said he thought the hot dog stand at the Malibu Lumber Yard probably makes more profit than all of the rest of the other stores in the shopping center.
Gillespie said businesses need to be attractive to the locals. “How do you do that? I am not sure. The tourists are not spending money. How can you force the landlords to lower rents? Some kind of incentive program for landlords?” he said.
Greene talked about either creating or bringing more “world class” events to Malibu and gave examples of existing programs such as Chumash Day, the Arts Festival and suggested possibly putting on a Hot Rod show.
Scheinkman said it is important to look at the needs of the residents and what can be supplied. “What do residents need? What do they want?” he said, adding that at the same time it is important to keep Malibu’s identity in focus. “We are not a suburban community. We are a rural community. It is important to keep that identity,” he added.
Rosenthal said she applies what she calls the residents’ litmus test. “What would be the effect on residents? Traffic? Is it fiscally sound?” she said. “I want to be able to buy a screwdriver. I want to be able to shop for my family.”
Rosenthal talked about possible tax abatements. And that maybe development agreements could be designed with kinds of businesses rather than other kinds of public amenities.
She said the city-owned Lumber Yard center has not really worked as a place to put local businesses.
Mazza explained that, as a planning commissioner, he pushed for a specific plan. “It will happen when I get elected,” he said, adding the biggest burden for residents is traffic. He also said there must be something for the tourists to do after they visit the beach. He gave as an example the list of 100 secret places of Malibu, currently a promotion of the Malibu Chamber, noting that visitors could go to his surfing museum.
Mazza said right now space for retail outlets is not the problem but high rents. “We need to make permitting easier. Cut the red tape. We are in very rough economic times. We need to promote tourism,” he added.
Scheinkman said there has to be an even playing field and charged that the deferred loan to the developers of the Lumber Yard was not fair. “There is a disconnect. The rents are high, the city has to show sometimes the highest price does not make the highest profit,” he said.
Sidley said the city could create enterprise zones as a way to subsidize the rents for local businesses. He said there are other things that a city could do to boost the local economy. “You also need to change the mind set of people. They have to use goods and services [offered locally],” he added.