Hot time in the city


    Arnold G. York/Publisher

    A few nights ago, Karen and I saw “Summer of Sam,” Spike Lee’s movie about the blazing hot summer in the 1970s when a loony who called himself “Son of Sam” went around New York killing people. If you’ve ever been in New York in August when the thermometer tops 100 and the humidity is so bad your clothing sticks to your body, you begin to understand how claustrophobic it gets. The patience, the tempers, even the judgment evaporate as it gets hotter.

    Normally, summertime in Malibu is pretty mellow. People go to the beach and try and put confrontation on the back burner. But this summer, if you hang around city hall, something is different and it’s beginning to look a little bit like the setting for a movie. Maybe it’s the unseasonably hot weather, maybe we’re just all getting on one another’s nerves. I don’t know, but everyone seems to be battling everyone else.

    The council has continued to degenerate into continuous snipping. There was a time when that meant the three snipped at the two and vice versa. Now it seems to have expanded, and even Hasse and Keller are going at each other. The point of contention at Monday’s meeting was whether or not the staff would give its opinion before public comment or after public comment. Keller wanted to change the order, and the others objected. They squabbled and finally took a vote. Keller lost 4-1, which is beginning to look a little like what happened to him the last time he was mayor and he took to constantly arguing with his colleagues. Invariably, many of those were also 4-1 votes.

    Then, our state Sen. Tom Hayden, who is getting termed out, decided to run for the Assembly seat now held by Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl, who is also termed out. Normally, a politician running for a new seat bends over backwards to make constituents happy. Well, not Tom Hayden. In his inimitable fashion, he fired off a letter to Gov. Gray Davis, making it clear that he was strongly opposed to the city keeping its baseball fields on Bluffs Park. In fact, he wants them off when the city’s lease expires in 2002. That letter, coming from the chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, carries clout. No one will ever accuse Hayden of pandering to us. Perhaps someone may finally decide to run against him in the Democratic primary.

    We’ve also got a running battle going with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which, I have a strong suspicion, believes that Malibu may be a major polluter of Malibu Creek and Lagoon. They want us to do some very expensive, detailed studies, and we’re very nervous that they’ve already made up their minds. We fear that they don’t think our septics work very well and that they may be looking at things like “packages plants” or even, perish the thought, “sewers.” The Legislature had a bill this year, AB 885, which would have mandated septic system standards, perhaps standards that some of us couldn’t meet, but it got sidetracked in the state Senate after passing the Assembly. However, everybody figures the bill will come back again next year, and it’s just a matter of time before some standards are imposed.

    The fix of the ballfields on Bluffs Park somehow got really messed up. The city treasurer did an analysis for the city and wrote a blistering report about everything that went wrong. It sounded like a checkoff list of what not to do when contracting a job. The council and staff were contrite, almost embarrassed, about it, but somehow still in disarray. Recently, someone — perhaps the city, perhaps the contractor — off-loaded a large amount of silica sand at the ballfields for field repairs. Unfortunately, no one thought to notify the teams, or put tape around the area, or cover it with a tarp, and some young kids were seen playing in what is apparently some very dangerous stuff. The sand is very fine, sticks to the skin, can be breathed into the lungs and most definitely is not for a sandbox.

    And then, to top it off, someone wants to put an overlay on parts of the 310 area code, and people are ready to kill, and the summer’s only just begun.

    It promises to be a real New York-style summer.