City Council Reorganizes and It's Back to Business as Usual
• Top Vote-Getter Displays His Independence But Old Guard Expected to Try to Rein Him In
BY BILL KOENEKER
Well-wishers, former candidates and critics of the Malibu City Council filled the council chambers with a standing-room-only crowd on Monday to watch the convening of the twelfth council in the city's brief history.
Outgoing Councilmembers Jefferson Wagner and Pamela Conley Ulich relinquished their seats to newly elected members Skylar Peak and Joan House. Councilmember John Sibert retained his seat for a second term.
Before the ceremonial transfer of office took place, known formally as the reorganization meeting, council candidate Andy Lyon said the new council would be looking at a "new game in town."
Lyon said the people who were active during the campaign, some of them new to the political process, were not going away af ter the election.
"We are watching and holding people accountable," he said. Many in the audience were the same ones that filled up council chambers two weeks ago when the lagoon restoration project was on the agenda.
Amidst the cautionary warning and the praise of well-wishers, the incoming council members fresh from taking the oath of office talked about the future.
Peak, the top vote-getter and youngest council member in the city's history at 27, said it was Wagner and Conley Ulich who inspired him to run for office.
"I make a pledge to be your voice and put the interests of Malibu first. There is going to be a new step in the right direction," he said.
"I want to close with something from my father," Peak, said, and he choked up. The council chambers went silent as Peak tried to compose himself. "Let everybody speak, I will gather myself," he said.
House, who thanked her campaign workers and family, said she thought the goals and values of Malibu had not really changed since the city incorporated.
"We still care about the natural and cultural resources, the environment, and limiting commercial development in lawful ways. I pledge to honor the General Plan and vision statements that the 1992-1996 council wrote with the General Plan Task Force and passed unanimously," she said in prepared remarks.
"During my tenure, I plan to ask fellow council members to put a bond measure on the ballot to see if the community will support retiring commercially zoned property. I also wish to explore the possibility of our city establishing a program where community members can donate money to purchase commercial property as a charitable contribution," she added.
"For everyone, I plan to explore more shared use agreements with the school district to enhance recreational programs and to move forward with the remodel of the Michael Landon Center."
House also said she thought Malibu should strive to have in a reserve account one year's operating budget. "I will strongly support all endeavors to accomplish that goal," she said.
House concluded by saying it is her hope that her institutional memory, dedication, respect for philosophical differences and for the legal process will serve all segments of the community.
Sibert said, "It is time us to pull together because we face a myriad of issues. There is the issue of sewers and growth, clean water and public safety."
Earlier in the evening, praise went out to Conley Ulich, including from her husband and children.
David Ulich said his wife told him he never spoke at the city council meetings and he acknowledged that was true, he preferred to stay in the background. He joked how he has been known as Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich's husband for years.
"I spoke before the city council 20 years ago to build our house. Joan was on there and I believe you had the same city attorney," he said.
Ulich recalled how one day his wife came storming home "after some guy told her to not bother running for city council, that started the whole thing. She has served with honesty, integrity and creativity. She has made us proud."
Both of her children said she had done a good job.
Another young close friend, Dylan Strickland, said Malibu is proud to have Conley Ulich as a civic leader and will be sorry to see her retire.
"Don't worry too much about your future, I'm going to hire you as my campaign manager when I run for office. You are the legacy of Malibu," he concluded.
Other praise came from advocates. Marcia Han-scom said, "Pam. You rock. Be the change you wish to be. You are kind to people that disagree with you."
Her colleagues also pointed out her attributes.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he remembered eight years ago Conley Ulich talking about the need to improve the library. "Yesterday was a fitting end for the library. You are truly responsible for the library improvement. There is never a dull moment around here with you," he said.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said the library opening ceremony was "just perfect," and thanked Conley Ulich for those results.
Conley Ulich spoke briefly about her two terms in office and then concluded by showing a music video. She joked that La Monte was not in the production, because he was on the cutting room floor of the director's cut.
Wagner, who declined to run for a second term, said his time in office reminded him of college and had given him his greatest education.
"I came in as a freshman, served a couple of middle years and am leaving as a senior. Pam that makes you a doctorate," he joked.
"I'll be moving on, but I am not going anywhere. I have enjoyed this. Like the trails committee. I saw something from start to finish. I'm proud the map is in Sacramento with the California Coastal Commission," said.
"I'm here for my entire life. I'll still rattle the saber. Next time I'll be down there by the speaker [platform]."