A conversation with Bruce Silverstein

Malibu City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein brings rigorous analysis to the council, but explains others may not be accustomed to his way of decision making. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

Silverstein never sensed any tension between Feldman while she was the City Manager

When Bruce Lee Silverstein entered the city council in 2020, he felt welcomed by the people who elected him; however, unwelcomed by those who were opposed to him.

“It was a very hostile environment actually at the beginning, but I understand that’s part of politics these days,” Silverstein said. “All of the people that you’re working for, you’re lucky if a little bit more than a majority of them like what you’re doing; that’s the way things have come in this country; and I never thought about that before, because as a lawyer for 35 years, for the most part, my clients were always very happy with my work.”

After the Woolsey Fire in 2018, Silverstein became involved with the community and supported various causes before running on City Council in 2020.

Silverstein said he never had any intention or desire to run for a political position.

“I’ve really learned a lot in the year that I’ve been on council. I’ve never been a student of politics—It just happened. It’s a whole different world that I’m accustomed to. So every day is a learning experience,” Silverstein said. “It would be very difficult to pick one thing that I’ve learned over anything else, other than what I just said; it’s that you can’t please everyone. So you just have to do what you believe is right and recognize that there’s going to be a lot of people, not only those that’ll be pleased with what you did, but there’s going to be a lot of people that are very angry with what you did, and you just have to accept that.”

Silverstein graduated Cum Laude from Villanova Law School, where he graduated among the top 10 students in the Class of 1986 and was a member and Editor of the Law Review, earned membership in the Order of the Coif, and was identified as one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States by Law Dragon in 2009. 

Silverstein said Mikkee Pierson, who was the mayor at the time, said something which he had never thought of before. 

“When his term was over, he made a comment, which was very insightful, he [Pierson] said, this is the first job he’d ever had, where there’s no way you can please everyone—he’s right,” Silverstein said. “If you try to please all of the constituents in the city, you’re not doing a good job because you have to be doing what’s right, and not necessarily just what some people want.”

With over 30 years of knowledge and experience in law, Silverstein said he brings rigorous analysis to the council, but explains others may not be accustomed to his way of decision making.

“A lot of things that, in my view, have historically been done on a more touchy-feely basis, and because of that, a lot of people get a little bristled at, ‘why are we getting this detailed and looking at things this way? It doesn’t feel right,’ but that’s exactly why I ran,” Silverstein stated. “There has not been a lawyer on this council for a decade, and I think they got accustomed to doing things in an informal manner. It’s formal in the sense that it’s got to be voted on and discussed in public, but the rigorous legal analysis has been missing, in my opinion, and this has particularly been evident in land-use decisions. So I just think that was missing from the council.”

When the investigation report into allegations of harassment made by former City Manager Reva Feldman against Silverstein was released, Silverstein said it was important for the public to see the allegations that he was accused of were refuted.

“People have different views, and that’s fine; people can have different views, but I got accused of wrongdoing, which I knew I hadn’t done; that’s part of the course in politics and in other areas, so it didn’t surprise me,” Silverstein said. “It wasn’t a good feeling to have that happening [to me], and the result that I didn’t do anything illegal didn’t surprise me either, because I knew that from the start.”

Silverstein said he never sensed any tension between Feldman while she was the City Manager. 

“She never said anything to me to that effect, our interactions were fairly limited, and they were at a professional level,” Silverstein said. “We got along fine, and as she said in the report, I only treated her politely, which I think is accurate. Some people believed I was too harsh in the way that I went about my business, but I knew where the boundaries were and what I could and couldn’t do, and some people are just not accustomed to that.”

In regards to making decisions on city projects and proposals, Silverstein said although he may not agree with the idea, he knows when to agree with his council members to move forward. 

“If there’s already a majority, there’s no point in rocking the boat, continuing to press for something that I know is not going to happen, unless it’s critically important, in which case here you need to make a public stand,” Silverstein said. “But as a lawyer, there’d be no reason to concede the other side, either you win, or you lose your case, and that’s the end of it.”

“People need to see it. It’s not going to change anyone’s mind. People who were my supporters said, ‘Look, ‘Bruce acted unprofessionally, and we can go on our merry way,’ but I think it’s good that it’s in the light now,” Silverstein said. “I do think it’s the end of a chapter, and let’s move on and write a new, better chapter. I would hope that the other city council members would take the same approach, and we can get along with doing business.”

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Silverstein was elected to serve as Mayor Pro Tem again, although he was up to take the position as the city mayor.