If you don’t behave you don’t get your allowance.


    Last Tuesday I wrote a column about our mayor Tom Hasse and mayor pro tem Joan House making the rounds in Sacramento. I predicted that if, as Sen. Burton said, we don’t get our political house in order and get our Local Coastal Plan passed and approved, there are some big money-hammers in Sacramento who will come crunching down on our heads. It didn’t take very long.

    The very next day, Wednesday, Sen. Burton introduced a bill into the State Senate, SB 406, that says he’s giving us a drop-dead date. His bill says that if we don’t get our Local Coastal Program adopted by the city of Malibu, submitted to the Coastal Commission and “effectively certified” (which is the bill language) by the commission by July 1, 2001, the State Controller (the gal in charge of passing out the bucks) is instructed to “withhold, to the extent permitted by the constitution, any subvention, payment, or appropriation to or for the benefit of the city of Malibu for any purpose.”

    The first thing that went through my mind was, “He can’t do that, can he? They can’t pass a special rule just to punish one city because they don’t like what we’re doing or not doing. Can they?”

    Actually, the more I thought about it the more I was sure the bill was probably unconstitutional. However, despite that, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem, and it’s a serious problem. It probably isn’t a legal problem, but what it certainly is, is a political problem. For one thing, the most important guy in the State Senate has decided to hold our feet to the fire and he’s not doing it alone. His principal co-author is Bob Hertzberg, who, as you may recall, is the Speaker and the number one guy in the Assembly. This means that two-thirds of the leadership of the State of California is definitely not in our corner, at least not on this issue.

    Now I don’t really think Burton and Hertzberg want to take away some of our money, which, by the way, according to our city manager Harry Peacock’s quick and dirty estimate, was about $1.5 million per year, and which, I suspect, will climb as they think about it.

    What they want to do is send a message and that message is, “No man is an island.” Nor either, I suspect, is any little city like ours. They have put the proverbial shot across our bow, but this time they’ve actually fired it through the superstructure and said, “Take heed.”

    What is driving this thrust is a little hard to say. With Sacramento virtually closed down for the holiday weekend, there wasn’t even anyone to call to try and find out, but they’ll be back and I’ll nose around.

    What we’re seeing is not particularly unique to our relationship with Sacramento. It applies to almost every area where the city of Malibu operates. For example, just recently, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge rendered a decision on the case involving a proposed development in west Malibu called Trancas Town. It’s a proposed project of 15 single-family homes and 52 town homes in west Malibu at Trancas Canyon Road and PCH. The city, together with the Trancas Property Owners Association, has been battling this development and a series of developers for almost 10 years. Their position over that period is pretty much that the only acceptable compromise is “nothing.”

    You can see where a judge might think we were a little rigid and unreasonable. Here’s what the judge said about us in his most recent opinion, and, I might add, this judge was formerly the head probate guy, so it’s safe to assume he’s not some wildly emotional guy whose mouth just runs loose. His comment when he ruled for the developer in Trancas Town project was, “I do think that the city of Malibu and the Property Owners Association, in a real sense, have just decided that they’re never going to let this happen and they’re acting like outlaws and renegades and I’ll use those words. They are bound and determined to never let this development go forth, no matter what the developer does, no matter what the Coastal Commission has agreed to, and it seems to me that is patently wrong.”

    Folks, as we used to say in my old neighborhood, we got a bad rep. Frankly, it’s well-earned and frequently well-deserved and it costs us–big time. We’ve got to take a good hard look at what we do, and ask ourselves the tough questions like–what have we got to do to fix this situation?

    It’s not that the answers are so tough, they’re not. It’s just that no answer can please everyone, and as we continue to try to keep all of our citizens happy we keep getting the city into trouble. Good leadership means that from time-to-time you have to have the nerve to say, “No, you can’t have whatever you want.”

    We all know it as parents, so why is it we have so much trouble saying ‘no’ in our public life?