Once more into the mud


    The next City Council election isn’t going to be held until April 2000, but the campaigns are already being launched, and some are coming out with guns blazing. Remarkably, the so-called “slow growth” group that has held control of the City Council for several elections now seems to be splintering again and going through another one of its periodic purges. There is a long history of these purges, and it’s always for the same reason. Someone, usually a former ally of Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn, gets expelled or quits the alliance because they get tired of being pushed around. Neither Walt nor Carolyn have what you would describe as a light touch. They tend to try and scare or bludgeon their supporters into submission and some obviously balk.

    The latest casualty is Tom Hasse, who is now barely on speaking terms with his old allies Walt and Carolyn. Tom’s crime was that he wanted to find some ballfields and to work out some solution for the future of the Malibu Civic Center (read Chili Cook-off site and environs), and agreed to be part of an ad hoc City Council committee that was actually negotiating with the Malibu Bay Company. Walt and Carolyn were opposed, and they tried to lean on Tom. Now, I certainly have had my disagreements with Tom in the past, but I could have told them Tom Hasse wasn’t about to roll over and sit up just because they wanted him to. You would think they would learn from their past mistakes.

    As you may remember, John Harlow, that great thorn in Walt and Carolyn’s side, was actually nominated to the council by Walt when Larry Wan resigned in 1992. They tried dictating to John, and he balked, and suddenly he became the “developers’ pet and avidly pro-growth.” He was thereafter the top vote getter in the 1994 election.

    Then Carolyn kicked Les Moss, a long-term friend and supporter, off the Planning Commission for not rolling and voting the way Carolyn wanted him to on some issue. Recently, Sherman Baylin, another longtime Van Horn supporter, balked at endorsing them in the next election and was subjected to the same deeply personal attack and charges of being a traitor. The attacks against Hasse, and others, of course, all come in the same fashion. Last week, there was a letter to the editor in the Malibu Surfside News written by Norma Levy, a commission appointee of either Walt or Carolyn, I forget which, attacking Hasse. Levy, the wife of Andy Stern, who is a member of the Planning Commission and who is reputed to have his own City Council ambitions, seems to be throwing the first grenade of the 2002 council election in which they’ll try to purge Hasse. Let me just quote one line from the Levy attack letter: “Did Tom forget that his 29 vote victory was completely financed by the Malibu environmentalist ‘slow growth’ movement?” Tom obviously didn’t read the small print, which apparently says: We bought you, we paid for you and we own you.

    Frankly, no individual worth anything is going to accept that, except perhaps for a few very ambitious, amoral characters. It’s precisely the reason Joan House has split off from them and is running as an independent. She was part of that slate in 1996, and, in fact, was the top vote getter in that election. It’s also the reason Ken Kearsley, also a card-carrying “slow growther,” has split off and is running independently.

    Look for a very dirty campaign with House and Kearsley and others suddenly all being attacked and accused of being developers’ darlings.

    It has all the earmarks of a very nasty family fight, and it really revolves around a very simple premise. In the real world, reasonable men and woman can differ, and they meet to try and work out their differences, which, in Malibu, means to try and balance environmental concerns with concerns for the children and new families and the need for city services. But, in the world of Walt and Carolyn, reasonable people can never differ because there is only one reasonable way, and that’s why, once again, this old, familiar drama is being played out.