How to speak councilese

The language of politics is frequently very dry. If you read the upcoming City Council agenda, there’s no way you could ever know what’s really going on under the surface. It’s only if you follow the game week in and week out, as I do, that you get so you can read between the lines. It also doesn’t hurt that the place leaks like a sieve. And that’s no accident. The reasons become apparent.

Item: Kim Collins, Department of Public Works, a longtime employee, left for a new and exciting career opportunity.

Translation: Smart, competent and out of here. The job market is loosening, and many on board with brains and experience are looking to bail out. Why? Because certain members of the council have absolutely no respect for the staff, what they do, their professionalism; in fact, they couldn’t care less. All they want is a staff that’s pliant and does whatever they want, questionable or not.

Also, a certain member of the City Council has had screaming matches with several staff and commission members, and, coincidentally, those on the receiving end always seem to be women.

Item: The Public Works Commission recommended to the council that it continue negotiations with the state and the county to establish an operating agreement for Malibu Pier, with the establishment of a sinking fund for pier repair and replacement.

Translation: Malibu’s consultant said don’t touch this thing. It’s a turkey. Let the state fix it and open it, and then, if they agree to maintain it, perhaps we should kick in the nearly $1 million we’re entitled to under the various bond acts from the past. The problem is, even after it is fixed, there simply isn’t enough rentable space to make it work financially unless we increase the size of the pier, and nobody wants to do that.

Item: The Public Works Commission is recommending changes to the Dial-a-Ride Program and that the entire program be put out for a new RFP.

Translation: The expense of this program is growing rapidly, almost out of control, and some people have been abusing the hell out it, using it as a personal cab service at public expense. Some supposedly don’t even live in the city.

Item: A council subcommittee is recommending a performance audit of the Bluffs Park renovation project and that all future capital projects be managed by the Public Works Department.

Translation: The Bluffs Park ball field repair and reconditioning has raised a storm of controversy. Some of the old-timers who did the field in the days past have been griping that the contractor didn’t know what he was doing, and that the city totally lost control of the management of the project, and that it came in over budget, and late, and delayed the opening of the ball season. It’s hard to know whether it’s just sour grapes or if the city was asleep at the switch. Perhaps the audit will find out.

Item: There is a recommendation that the city manager be given a 5 percent raise commencing on his anniversary date, March 24, 1999.

Translation: All this council baloney about hiring a $420-per-hour labor lawyer to review the contracts of their three executive employees — the city manager, the city treasurer and the city attorney — is really only directed at one person, and that’s City Attorney Christi Hogin. In fact, just in case you’re not quite sure Walt Keller, Carolyn Van Horn and Tom Hasse are behind this push to get rid of her, there is another little item on the agenda where Joan House is asking for a budget for the legal services to be rendered by Gibson Dunn and Crutcher for “labor relations.” What she and her ally, Harry Barovsky, want is a public explanation as to where this is going and why and how much it’s going to cost.

The truth is, Keller, Van Horn and Hasse have been trying to muscle Christi Hogin, in no small measure, I’m sure, because of her campaign investigation and also because she has been working closely with the state investigators, which, I suspect, they consider rank disloyalty. It suddenly appears to have dawned on them that not only might they end up getting the city sued but that they also could get sued personally, which is why they’re going for some very expensive legal help and may also be why they’re doing their damnedest to keep House and Barovsky out of the picture.

Item: There is a proposal to establish interim guidelines for the Malibu government access channel.

Translation: This is known in some circles as the Malibu propaganda channel.

Thank the lord the framers of the Constitution were smart enough to guarantee freedom of the press because if they hadn’t, and I needed a government license to operate, you can be sure this column would never have been written.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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