Two in early race for city council

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Election Day is not for another six months, but already there are at least two candidates who have declared their intentions to run for a city council seat. School activist and Public Works Commissioner Laura Rosenthal announced this week she would run, and Planning Commissioner Ed Gillespie made his intention known two years ago. He confirmed this week he has not changed his mind.

Two seats will be up for grabs in the April 13 election. For the first time since Malibu’s first council election, there will be no incumbent in the race. Mayor Andy Stern and Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Barovsky are termed-out. Former council members who served the maximum two terms prior to the voter-approved term limits law going into effect in 2000 are eligible to run again.

Both Rosenthal, 54, and Gillespie, 62, had intended to participate in the 2008 campaign. They withdrew in the early stages, with Gillespie having to deal with his brother’s death and Rosenthal needing to make frequent trips with her college-bound son. Gillespie ran in 2006, finishing fifth of five candidates. At the time he was a newcomer to the political scene.

“I think I know a lot more now than I did before,” Gillespie said in a Monday interview. “And my heart is still in the same place. I want to make positive changes for Malibu.”

Gillespie noted public safety, Pacific Coast Highway traffic, fires and fiscal responsibility as his important issues. He was appointed to the Planning Commission in 2008 by Barovsky. Gillespie is active with the Chamber of Commerce. He was president in 2007.

Rosenthal wrote in an e-mail this week to The Malibu Times, “After many years of civic involvement and volunteering in our city and school district, and for various other organizations, I feel that this is the time for me to concentrate on issues that are impacting Malibu. I look forward to leading the city toward positive change for its residents and coastal environment.”

Rosenthal’s campaign will have its official kick-off on Nov. 1 at a party hosted by former Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board member Kathy Wisnicki. An unsuccessful candidate for City Council in 2008, Wisnicki will serve as Rosenthal’s campaign manager.

“Laura is the strongest choice for city council because she has a breadth of experience in areas that are most important to the city,” WIsnicki said in an interview on Monday. “She’s really knowledgeable on issues related to the needs of Malibu families and Malibu senior citizens. She’s gained incredible knowledge working on bond issues for the school district [and she is knowledgeable about] parks and recreation and water issues in the city.”

Wisnicki, who placed a close fourth for three seats in the 2008 race, said she would not run in 2010. She said “I’m in a different phase of my life right now and I’m concentrating on other things, family and career issues … I’m confident that Laura is going to do an outstanding job.”

Another 2008 candidate who will not run in 2010 is Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellem. She wrote in an e-mail to The Times that she would not have enough time to devote to the city council because of commitments to her businesses and animal rescue nonprofit. Also, she did not want to be restricted.

“I like picking my issues and not having to worry about what I say or do,” Tellem wrote. “Under the constraints of the city council, I would lose my activist standing, especially with overnight camping and related issues that are critically important here in Malibu.”

Jan Swift, briefly a city council candidate in 2006 until he was forced out when he did not collect enough valid signatures on his nomination papers, made a rare public appearance at Monday’s City Council meeting. Swift told The Times that he is considering a 2010 run.

Swift made headlines in 2007 when he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for evading an officer in a slow-speed car chase in Malibu. He has had numerous run-ins with the law since at least 1986, according to court records.

Potential candidates can begin pulling nomination papers from city hall on Dec. 21. They must return the papers with 20 valid signatures of Malibu registered voters by Jan. 15.

Olivia Damavandi contributed to this story.