Field of five for City Council race

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The last day to register to vote in the April 5 election is March 24.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Five of the eight people who pulled nomination papers for the April City Council election officially filed for the race prior to the 4:30 p.m. Friday deadline. Planning Commissioner John Sibert, Malibu Township Council President Jefferson Wagner, Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Conley Ulich, Susan Tellem and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board member Kathy Wisnicki all met the Friday deadline. Those who did not file were Ryan Embree, Ed Gillespie and Wade Major.

The candidate’s nomination papers, containing 400-word-maximum statements that will appear on the ballot and at least 20 signatures from registered Malibu voters, are awaiting signature verification from the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office.

The five candidates will be battling for three seats on the council.

Conley Ulich is the lone incumbent among the group. Mayor Jeff Jennings and Councilmember Ken Kearsley are termed-out, and not eligible to run.

Sibert, 70, has served on the city’s Planning Commission since 2002 (under Councilmember Joan House until 2004 and under Councilmember Sharon Barovsky since 2004). But his local political involvement goes back to the 1980s when he helped the fight against the county government’s proposed sewer system for Malibu. Holding a doctorate in chemistry, Sibert has spent much of his life working on environmental and other science issues in industry and academia.

“I believe my technical experience can help sort out the often-competing agendas between environmental concerns and sound development practices,” Sibert wrote in his ballot statement.

Wagner, 55, is taking his second shot at a council seat. He previously ran in 1992, finishing 11th out of 20. He has had run-ins with the current City Council, including in 2004 when he led a homeowners association’s successful lawsuit overturning a council development decision. Wagner is also one of two partners in charge of getting the Malibu Pier back into full operation, a task he admitted to The Malibu Times last month has been a struggle. A former actor, he now makes a living doing special effects work for films and as the owner of Zuma Jay’s surf shop. His name will actually appear on the ballot as “Jefferson ‘Zuma Jay’ Wagner.”

“Public safety and welfare for all Malibu residents is of utmost importance,” Wagner wrote in his statement. “I believe in protecting Malibu’s environment and in promoting Malibu’s small business community. We must improve educational and recreational opportunities for all of the city’s residents.”

Conley Ulich, 41, was elected to the council in 2004 after finishing third out of six candidates. When she first entered that race, she was a political unknown, having no previous city activism on her record. Since then, she has been a leading advocate on the council in the city’s fight against proposed liquefied natural gas facilities and in getting Malibu its fair share of library services. Conley Ulich has several times been a lone voice on an usually agreeable council, most recently being the only city leader in November to initially vote against the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s overnight camping proposal (although the rest of the council voted with her the next month).

“I want civility and professionalism in local government and have worked hard to ensure that our government is responsive and respectful of all Malibu residents,” Conley Ulich wrote in her statement. “If reelected, I will continue to act independently, offer innovative solutions to complex problems and do my best to make Malibu better for everyone.”

Tellem, 62, has lived in Malibu Park with her husband, Marshall Thompson, for 10 years. She and Thompson were two of the leaders in the recent fight against the conservancy’s overnight camping proposal. She has also appeared at other government meetings in opposition to large development projects.

“Malibu needs change,” Tellem wrote in her statement. “We must liberate the lock step City Council and bring diverse opinions and fresh ideas to reflect the will of Malibu residents.”

Wisnicki, 45, has been on the school board since 2004. If she were elected in April, she would need to step down from her seat on the school board. Wisnicki said last month that she believed with her education activism background, she could bring “a perspective that doesn’t exist” to the council. She has been involved in city politics before, most recently with the failed campaign for the passage of the Malibu Bay Co. Development Agreement in 2003.

“As a longtime community leader, as well as an elected official, I understand the diverse challenges of a city government,” Wisnicki wrote in her statement. “My extensive experience demonstrates my ability to find creative solutions and to carry out a plan of action.”

Of those who pulled their nomination papers but chose not to run, Gillespie, who announced after his council election defeat two years ago that he planned to run in 2008, said this week that the recent death of his brother and the issues involved with the aftermath made conducting a campaign too difficult. He plans to run in 2010.

Major wrote in a letter to The Malibu Times that he is not running because he believes Conley Ulich, Sibert and Wisnicki are qualified candidates. Embree, who endorsed Tellem and Wagner, said he was not running because his business and personal lives had recently become too busy to conduct a campaign this year. He plans to run in 2010.

Potential candidates can still enter the race as write-in candidates. The filing period for write-in candidates is from Feb. 11 to March 25.

Requests for absentee ballots may be made from March 10 to April 1. The last day to register to vote in the April 5 election is March 24.