Why did Measure K, the $15-million land acquisition bond measure, fail to get the necessary two-thirds vote last week?
“It’s pretty hard to get two-thirds of an electorate to vote on a tax increase,” said city Councilmember Ken Kearsley, a proponent of the bond.
Councilmember Tom Hasse, a belated but high-profile opponent said, “If this had been a real parks and recreation bond, and was specific, I would have supported it in a heartbeat.” But, he continued, “That’s not what this bond was. This was a ‘let’s get us $15 million dollars and we’ll see what we can do’ property tax increase.”
Mona Loo, chair of the steering committee made up of community activists that drew up the language for the measure, partly blamed the loss on their “very important” absentee ballot strategy.
“It went wrong because it wasn’t executed well,” Loo said. “It went out late and there were some snafus in the mail[ing] process.”
On election night last week, as the bond was going down to defeat, Councilwoman Sharon Barovsky laid the blame on Hasse, saying, “He defeated the bond and he should be ashamed.”
Barovsky was one of the strongest council voices in favor of the bond.
This week Hasse fired back, accusing Barovsky of masterminding the losing strategy of the activists behind the measure.
“Sharon can dodge and weave all she would like, but it’s been her strategy and her agents on the bond steering committee that guided Measure K to defeat,” Hasse charged.
Hasse declined to name the “agents” on the 12-member committee, but he faulted their strategy.
“Part of the problem with the bond proponents’ campaign was that, depending on who you talked to on the steering committee, you got a different answer,” Hasse said. “You talk to a couple of them, it was, ‘Oh, we’re going to use it mostly in the Civic Center.’ For what? ‘Oh, open space and a park’ … and you talk to another one, ‘No, we’re going use it to buy up land in Trancas.”
Opposition critics complained the measure was too vague, promising too many things-from playing fields to trails to open spaces. But Loo defended the all-inclusive language of the bond. “I think we could have in reality done some of all those things,” she said, “but we couldn’t have done all of it, and in order to pass a bond by 66 and two-thirds we purposely tried to appeal to as many people as we could.”
City Planning Commissioner Andrew Stern speculated that they might have been reaching too far. “In pursuit of perfection, they came out with nothing,” Stern said, paraphrasing a line often used by City Councilman Jeff Jennings during council discussions.
In a more contemplative vein this week, Barovsky said, “I think this community overwhelmingly wants to buy land for parks and for open space, and I don’t see parks as being mutually exclusive of open space. But I don’t think that message got across.” Another point-of-view came from Tom Fakehany, a leader of the Lily’s Cafe Steering Committee-which spearheaded the opposition and which Fakehany characterized as “a bunch of curmudgeons who drink coffee and decided that we have a united voice in this community.”
Fakehany said the Lily’s group actually expected to lose, “and that we would do so with a sense of humor. But we felt we should represent those people in the community that kept on calling us and saying, ‘We feel this way.’ This is the first time that any small group has stood up to the political machine in Malibu.”
Nearly everyone interviewed agreed on the need for Malibu to purchase land in order to control how it will be developed. And most said they would like to see another attempt at a bond issue. But at this juncture, they appeared to be far from a consensus on how the money should be spent.