Measure R proponent Rob Reiner announced Monday that he is willing to meet Malibu developer Steve Soboroff for a debate over the controversial ballot initiative.
“I look forward to a clear and honest discussion about the benefits of Measure R for the Malibu community,” Reiner said in a media statement. “Right now, 1.5 million square feet of new commercial development in the heart of Malibu promises increased traffic and the destruction of open spaces. When it comes to developments that will forever alter the unique character of Malibu, voters ought to have a say — and that’s exactly what Measure R guarantees.”
Campaign organizers said they are looking at the week of Oct. 20 for the potential debate. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, and absentee ballots are being mailed out this week.
When reached by telephone on Monday, Soboroff said he would likely accept the invitation but would want to team with former Malibu Mayor/current Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings for the debate, and Reiner could also “pick somebody to do it with him.”
“I think it’s disrespectful to Jeff Jennings to have a debate without him since he’s been offering, so I wouldn’t want to disrespect that,” Soboroff said.
Kevin Singer, a spokesperson for Measure R proponents, rejected the two-person format.
“Mr. Soboroff has put his name and money behind dozens of misleading and false mailers. He should be able to defend the claims he’s making without a buddy at his side. If he can’t do that, the voters of Malibu ought to ask why,” Singer said.
Soboroff, who has a project in the works to construct a Whole Foods and other amenities at a site in Malibu’s Civic Center, has been financially backing a campaign against Measure R.
Jennings had previously offered to represent the opposition in a potential debate. On Tuesday Jennings said he had no comment on Reiner’s offer to debate Soboroff, but that he remained willing to participate in a public debate if he’s invited.
Reiner and his wife Michele helped spearhead the effort to get Measure R on the November ballot by gathering more than 2,000 local petition signatures. Measure R is aimed at curbing chain store infiltration throughout Malibu by placing a 30 percent cap on the number of chain stores permitted to operate in town. “Essential” services such as groceries, banks and medical offices are excluded, among others. The proposal would also allow voters to head to the polls on commercial developments that measure over 20,000 square feet.
Opponents such as Soboroff and the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, however, believe square footage specifications written in the proposal could lead to loopholes for chain stores to remain in already existing shopping centers. They also argue putting all major developments up for a citywide vote could stall or nix projects that include building new facilities for Malibu Urgent Care or Malibu Twin Cinema.
A potential unnamed moderator and “well-established” journalist has already been contacted for the debate, which Reiner proposed to be an hourlong at a neutral location.
Reiner also appearing at Malibu Democratic Club event
Rob Reiner will hit the campaign trail next week on Wed., Oct. 15, when he is scheduled to participate in a forum hosted by the Malibu Democratic Club.
The free event is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Webster Elementary School cafetorium. Reiner will be taking questions on the Measure R proposal.
The Malibu Dems plan on offering more similar “issue-oriented programs” in the future, according to club President Ann Doneen.
“The Dem Club also will be helping residents to learn more about preserving our vanishing beaches, water conservation and our record drought,” among several topics, Doneen said.