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Dj vu all over again

I had a call this morning from former Malibuite Kerry Schmidt, who now lives deep in Louisiana and who called to fill me in on the situation concerning the Little League fields. Kerry was president of the Malibu Little League in 1981-1982, and he gave me the general outline of a two-year battle between the Malibu locals and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to find a home for the ballfields.

The battle took place simultaneously on two fronts. One was in the courtrooms of the Superior Court in Santa Monica before Judge Laurence Rittenband, long since passed away. The other was on the political front with the office of then-Gov. Jerry Brown and his chief aide, a young man named Gray Davis, who is still very much with us.

Apparently, the Malibu Little League was represented by another Malibuite — an attorney named Joel Castro, who# did it pro bono and who trimmed the state’s ears in the courtroom after the state got caught trying to pull a little hanky panky in the courtroom. I can tell you from experience, if you were going to get cute in the courtroom, Rittenband was definitely not the guy to get cute with. He was a tough, old-school judge.

I pulled out The Malibu Times from September and October 1981. As I said, it appears to be dj vu all over again.

First, there was the Little League and its advocates saying to the state, “Let’s get along. Let’s share the property.”

Then, there was a quote from Horace Jackson, then Chief Deputy Director of state Parks and Recreation, who told the L.A. Times, “We need all the land. They’re trespassing, and we’re going to evict them. That’s my position.” That land was the land down by what’s now the Lagoon, which then housed the ballfields. The state wanted to clear it for a parking lot.

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Then, there was Schmidt, saying to the state on behalf of the Little League, “After all, there are 76 acres there. We only need to continue to use our two until new fields can be located. I would hope that some compromise could be worked out.” Sort of the Rodney King defense.

Well, apparently, despite the Department of Parks and Recreation’s obvious reluctance, a compromise was finally worked out, but only after Davis, on behalf of Gov. Brown, and Schmidt, on behalf of the Malibu Little League, sat down in Schmidt’s living room and worked out a deal that allowed the ballfields to stay for a while and then ultimately move to Bluffs Park.

We’d like to hear from anyone else who remembers this old battle. Perhaps Parks and Recreation ought to think twice about this one, since apparently it was one of our governor’s early victories and he just may remember it fondly.

Here’s a heads up on the next City Council meeting. Buried deep in the agenda is a little item where the city wants to hire a labor lawyer from the very tony law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher at a measly $420 per hour to look into some labor law questions.

Now, there are only three people the council could be concerned with, since for all intents everyone else is civil service. They are

(a) the city manager, Harry Peacock, who apparently has an iron-clad contract and whose attitude could be best summed up as, “No problem. J#ust tell me when you want me to leave, and I’ll tell you where to send me my check for the rest of the contract period”; or

(b) the part-time city treasurer, who, as far as I know, hasn’t bounced any checks and they all seem to like; or

(c) the city attorney, Christi Hogin, who has just gone through her fifth job performance analysis since November and just coincidentally is conducting an investigation of alleged campaign violations in the last City Council election, and some of those people on the hot seat are also very close to some members of the council.

Perhaps they ought to ask Gibson, Dunn to send down one of their other specialists who can explain things like obstruction of justice, and punitive damages (which you can’t get against cities but you sure can against people), and harassment, and unlawful termination and all the new rules about hostile workplace, and that’s all just for openers.

Stay tuned. It’s going to get hot again.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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