Candidates take aim at past councils

Government transparency, local arts and public safety big issues at last week’s City Council candidate forum at the Malibu Stage Company.

By Homaira Shifa / Special to The Malibu Times

Past city councils appeared to be the target last week as council candidates took the stage at the Malibu Stage Company’s candidate forum, the second candidate forum of election season.

The seven candidates were given four questions upon arrival and had only a few minutes to prepare answers. After getting four minutes to introduce themselves, the candidates were asked about public safety, the importance of local arts and what community issues they had been involved in before running for the council.

Council candidate Hamish Patterson took every opportunity to question the efforts and actions of past city members and staff. He received the most reaction and applause from an audience of about 100 people.

Calling himself “an open government kind of guy,” Patterson said his main goal is to open all closed-door city meetings by streaming every city meeting live on the Internet.

“I’ve had enough. Our city council is selling us out year after year,” Patterson said. “If you knew what was going on in there it would make your head spin.”

But John Sibert, the only incumbent running, and former councilmember Joan House perhaps unsurprisingly expressed support for past city councils. For instance, neither Sibert nor House came out for or against the controversial Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project, both agreeing that additional scientific evaluation and assessment of the project is needed. The current City Council has also yet to take an official stance on the project.

“I have a background in science and I look at things through facts,” Sibert said.

Missy Zeitsoff, who served on the first City Council, took issue with the current council’s handling of view protection issues. Zeitsoff criticized the council for only passing a view preservation ordinance, and said that if elected she would push for a view restoration ordinance.

Journalist/lawyer Hans Laetz used his time to talk about his top priorities rather than criticizing the council. Laetz has been involved with the state investigation into Southern California Edison and four cell phone companies accused of causing the 2007 canyon fire by overloading power poles that snapped in high wind. Laetz filed as a citizen intervenor with the case to stay abreast of the legal developments.

“The reason I got involved in this is because my town got burned,” Laetz said.

Since the forum took place at the Malibu Stage Company, each of the candidates was asked if they would support a local arts task force, as well as for their views on the importance of arts. Each of the candidates supported one, although Patterson got in a dig at the current council.

“I can’t believe we don’t already have an arts task force,” Patterson said. “An arts task force is on the city council agenda,” Sibert said. “Half a million dollars is allocated towards the arts.”

Skylar Peak said the presence of so many artists in Malibu made the idea of an arts task force and greater funding for the arts in general an easy decision.

“The talent here is astounding,” Peak. “I want Malibu to be like Los Angeles County, where one percent of the budget is allocated towards arts.”

Talk then turned to public safety in Malibu, a discussion that took place against the backdrop of the 2010 death of 8th-grader Emily Shane, who was killed when she was struck by a suicidal motorist while walking along Pacific Coast Highway. Each of the candidates praised A Safer PCH, an advocacy group created after Shane’s death to rally support and generate ideas for making Malibu’s main street a safer thoroughfare for residents.

Realtor/surfer Andy Lyon said the Shane case demonstrated that 911 was not responsive enough, because it was “unacceptable that someone can drive from Topanga to Heathercliff and not get stopped.” Multiple motorists called 911 in the minutes before Shane was struck by a car driven by then-26-year-old Sina Khankhanian, the man charged in her death, to report his erratic driving, but Khankhanian was not stopped by authorities in time.

The City of Malibu spends more than $6 million per year on a contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to provide police services.

“If we are paying for the sheriffs then we should have a say as to what they are doing,” Lyon said, adding that he disagreed with the recent habit of placing empty Sheriff’s cars along Pacific Coast Highway as decoys.

The last day to register to vote is March 26. Election day is April 10.

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