Whose agenda is it, anyway?


    I do not know what City Communications Policy you wrote about last week in your editorial, but it was not the one I authored and the City Council unanimously adopted on May 24.

    Contrary to your editorial, the policy I authored does not “gag” anyone. In fact, regarding news media inquiries, it merely memorializes the current practice that has been in operation for over two years. As the city’s chief administrative officer, the city manager may delegate responding to news media inquiries to his staff or contractors, which he has done throughout his two-year tenure. The policy does not require, as your editorial suggested, that department directors (e.g. the public works director, the planning director, etc.) must run to the city manager for permission to respond each time they get a call from the news media. It is a standing delegation of authority that has worked well for over two years. The City Council recognized that fact and formally adopted it as city policy. I have never heard you object to this policy prior to my putting it down on paper two weeks ago.

    As for city commissions, committees and advisory boards, the policy directs staff to refer news media inquiries about advisory body business received at City Hall to the chair of the advisory body that is the subject of the inquiry. It does not “gag” the news media from calling other commissioners or “gag” other commissioners from talking to the news media. Again, this policy formally memorializes the current practice.

    As to the City Council “personally” seeking to control information flow to the media — in this town? Get real. The communications policy merely reflects the division of labor in Malibu’s city government (policy making: City Council; policy recommending: city staff and advisory bodies; policy implementation: city staff, contractors and consultants) and directs the staff to direct news media inquiries to the appropriate party. It doesn’t direct the news media to do a thing. Last time I checked, the news media were not a part of the city government.

    Finally, five more misstatements of fact contained in your editorial need to be corrected. First, the city manager, not the City Council, determines the placement of items on our agenda based on the Council’s Rules of Procedure and Decorum. (I rewrote that resolution last year, too, so you may want to quickly glance at it and distort it beyond all recognition in your next editorial. On second thought, why should you actually start reading city reports, now? Facts just seem to get in the way of your agenda.) Second, the city clerk, not the City Council, makes the copies of council materials available for the public and the press (i.e., any sinister conspiracy to deprive Arnold York of City Council agenda materials goes far beyond the five council members and could be, in fact, a plot involving everyone at City Hall. But honestly, Arnold, you should stop bashing our decent, hardworking city staff. Not everyone is really out to get you). Fourth, a policy (as opposed to an ordinance) does not come back for a second reading. And fifth, your accusation that I slipped my four colleagues a “mickey” to secure their support for this policy is beyond bizarre. It took me two days to find out that “mickey” wasn’t a who but a what — ’30s lingo for a fuzzy-headed drug. This fact would explain your last few editorials, of course.

    Oliver Stone sends his best.

    Tom Hasse

    city councilmember