Learn the facts

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I have to take issue with several points made in Homaira Shifa’s coverage of the City Council candidates forum at Malibu Stage Company [“Candidates take aim at past councils, March 15, 2012]. I was there and came away with a very different impression.

Yes, past City Councils appeared to be the target-but that was actually true only for some of the candidates. And Hamish Patterson may have received the most reaction and applause, but then that’s easy to do when you pack the house with your buddies.

If Mr. Patterson truly wants to be “an open government kind of guy,” maybe he should start by finding out what’s really happening at City Hall instead of reckless flinging wild accusations. I, for one, do know at least some of what’s going on-and no, it does not make my head spin.

From the city-wide fight against the LNG project to our neighborhood’s efforts to get municipal water, from various arts-related programs to everything we’re doing on the Telecommunications Commission, I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of people at City Hall, as well as every one of our City Councils for the past eight years. To a person, I’ve found each one of them to be extremely hard-working, dedicated individuals who truly care about Malibu and improving the quality of life for those of us who live here. They always answer their phones and respond to their emails, and they always do their best to address whatever issue is brought to their attention. More to the point: I have never once seen any sign of a hidden conspiracy to collude with developers and destroy our town-but if there ever is such a cabal, city manager Jim Thorsen has at least promised to teach me the secret handshake.

Of course, maybe if Mr. Patterson had actually tried working with some of these people, he’d come to know that. But then, it’s always a lot easier just to sit on the sidelines and take potshots instead. Mr. Patterson may complain loudly that we’ve been a city for 20 years and he “can’t believe we don’t already have an arts task force.” But had he paid the least amount of attention to what really does happen at City Hall, if he’d spent just a few moments reading the local papers, he wouldn’t have ended up insulting the five members of that very Arts Task Force who were sitting in the audience.

It’s really irritating to spend the better part of a year helping the city develop a unified arts program, and then come across a candidate who is completely ignorant of all our hard work. It’s also irritating to hear council candidates complain that we “have to expose” how our tax dollars are being spent. If those candidates had just spent a few moments to go online to review the City budget, they’d realize that all of the information is already there. Then again, maybe it doesn’t get people as riled up when you take the time to study the facts and then tell the truth.

It’s one thing to be the class clown, so that you can really get the audience going (especially if so many of them are your buds). But class clowns will never be taken seriously when they have to sit down with high-level officials from the outside agencies which have a real impact on Malibu-agencies such as Caltrans, Edison, SMMC and the Coastal Commission (just to name a few). No matter how passionate our convictions, we can’t force these agencies to act the way we want. That takes real skill, experience, a willingness to listen and the ability to see things from all sides. Sadly, that is obviously lacking in some of those running in this year’s election.

Scott Tallal