Council elects not to elect mayor


In a rebuff to City Councilman Tom Hasse’s efforts to dramatically alter the local election system, the council Monday rejected a ballot measure proposed by Hasse that would have granted voters the right to choose the city’s mayor. The council’s rejection comes on the heels of a decision earlier this month to place a Hasse-sponsored term-limits measure on the April ballot.

Currently, the mayoral position rotates among the council members. A largely ceremonial position, Malibu mayors preside over council meetings but do not hold the veto power. They also represent the city at other levels of government.

Hasse has said previously he proposed a separate election for mayor to avoid confusion over the current rotation system used by the council. He has also said being mayor requires a different set of skills than those of a council member alone.

But a majority of the council argued such a change to the local political system was not appropriate for Malibu.

Mayor Carolyn Van Horn ran down a list of cities that do not directly elect their mayors, including Agoura, Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica, and she said she wanted to know why they did not.

“I think there’s a good reason why they don’t,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Harry Barovksy suggested he was concerned such a system would not be fair to voters or to candidates. He hypothesized an election where a candidate lost the mayoral race by one vote. Under the new system, that candidate would be denied a seat on the council even though voters had supported the candidate in large numbers. “I won’t support it,” said Barovsky.

Councilman Walt Keller said after the meeting that because the mayor is a ceremonial position, a separate election was not worth all the trouble.

The motion to prepare a measure for the ballot failed on a 3-2 vote, with Councilwoman Joan House joining Hasse in support of the proposal.

In other matters, the council unanimously rejected a request by the Malibu Bay Company to install a traffic signal at the PCH entrance to the Malibu Colony Plaza. The Bay Company said it hoped the new signal would ease congestion at PCH and Webb Way, plus make it safer for cars exiting the plaza onto PCH.

But the council voiced a variety of concerns in voting down the request, including the adequacy of room for cars heading east to stop safely. They also expressed an unwillingness to place another signal in that strip of PCH, which one local resident called Ventura Boulevard-by-the-sea.