Carbon residents taxed to underground utilities

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A city council member stormed from city chambers Tuesday after disagreeing with the council’s approval for Carbon Beach residents to be taxed so they can underground their utilities. The decision also dismayed several residents.

During its first public review of the proposed budget for the 2007-08 Fiscal Year, the council approved the results of an election by Carbon Beach homeowners to issue up to $5 million in bonds to pay for the undergrounding of its utilities. The election was controversial because, despite the 21 to 8 vote in favor of the bonds being issued and the residents having to pay up to $10,000 per year for the next 30 years to pay off the bonds, not all the property owners were eligible to vote. Only those who were registered in Malibu could vote in this election, and those who have homes in other cities were not necessarily registered here.

Two longtime residents said it would be a struggle for them to pay off the bonds, and challenged the fairness of an election where not everybody affected by it has a say.

“I feel us old-timers are going to be pushed out due to excessive and unnecessary assessments, which, speaking for myself, I simply cannot afford,” said homeowner Andrea Ross.

Brian Forbath, the city’s bond attorney, said there was nothing the council could do because it was only supposed to certify the election. Unless it believed fraud had been committed, it must approve the results. He said had the council believed it was an unfair process, it should not have told the homeowners group it could not begin the process to underground the utilities prior to the holding of the election.

However, several council members said they believed the process was unfair, and questioned the necessity of undergrounding the utilities. In the end, all but Conley Ulich acknowledged their hands were tied. Conley Ulich left the room in protest just before the vote was taken.

“This, I think, is a real travesty of justice,” she said prior to leaving the room. “And I think we’ve disenfranchised a lot of people. And I don’t think it’s fair at all.”

Slight alterations made

to budget

Earlier discussions involved in the proposed $18.9 million General Fund portion of the budget included the approval to purchase a $15,000 thermal imaging device for firefighters and other emergency personnel. The piece of equipment, which will be kept at the Point Dume fire station, picks up heat signals, allowing the emergency personnel to find people and fire hot spots. Malibu already has one thermal imaging device in the city, but fire officials said having a second one would be useful.

During the review, Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Conley Ulich questioned how the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s cost had increased by $436,000 while the city received no new services. City finance head Reva Feldman said the increase, which other contract cities were also having to incur, was covering various administrative costs, such as salary increases. She added that the $5.4 million total bill for the city was an estimate, and could end up being lower.

Conley Ulich also said she disagreed with spending $15,000 to put Planning Commission meetings on the city’s Web site. She said she would first like it to be determined how many people go to the site to watch City Council meetings, which began to be Web cast last year. Her colleagues said they believed a decent number of people watched the council meetings on the Internet. City Manager Jim Thorsen said more people usually attend Planning Commission meetings than City Council sessions, so he expected the feature would be used by a good number of people.

Councilmember Ken Kearsley was unable to get support for his request that $13,050 go toward the printing of “Malibu- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” a publication made by Malibu Coastal Vision, a long-range planning group created by resident Rich Davis and hailed by Kearsley. The lengthy document detailed the group’s findings based on several years of meetings and interviews with the community. Barovsky said she could not support the funding, because the publication, which can be found on the group’s Web site, has many mistakes in her opinion. Councilmember Andy Stern agreed with Barovsky.

“We have spent so much money on this, and I don’t know if I’ll support spending more money,” he said.

Conley Ulich proposed the city work with Diesel, A Bookstore so the document, if improved, could be turned into a coffee table book that people would want to purchase, and thus be a revenue source for the city.