From the Publisher: Around the Town

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Arnold G. York

The first set of El Niño winter storms rolled in last week and then rolled out with minimum local damage, and the prediction of heavier rains this week didn’t happen. But let’s not celebrate quite yet because it’s going to be a long, wet winter — the only questions are when? and how wet? Meanwhile, the roofers, who will all probably be able to retire after this El Niño, are crawling around our roof trying to find the leaks.

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There is a grand opening scheduled for Las Flores Creek Park — or at least the commodes in the park and also the bridge over the creek, which kind of goes from nowhere to nowhere. We may have to rethink where we put our public works dollars because the plain fact is that we don’t have the population to justify some of these expenditures. The final product looks nice but, sadly, is woefully underused.

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There has been a lawsuit going for several years over the proposed lights in the parking lots around Malibu High School. There is roughly 75 million-plus dollars from a bond, Measure BB, that we passed several years ago, which will go to build and renovate structures at the high school once the lawsuit is settled, and some of the litigants are saying that a settlement may be close — very close — which would be very good news.

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In another lawsuit — this time in Federal court — America Unites for Kids (formerly called Malibu Unites), which was founded by Jennifer deNicola, is suing the school district. In a recent hearing for sanctions, the Federal judge hearing the case came down pretty hard on the plaintiffs, America Unites, and issued several sanctions against them. Apparently, they had taken samples of the caulking from the Malibu High School campus buildings, which contain PCBs, for testing and maybe even disobeyed some court orders. Reading the opinion, it was clear that the judge was seriously miffed and, although as a sanction, he could have kicked the case in its entirety, he chose not to. Still, it’s never a good idea to cross a Federal District Court judge, who has almost godlike powers. What appears to be an issue is whether a classroom that passes air and a swipe tests (apparently meaning there are no PCBs in the air or on the surfaces) is good enough. The school district argues it meets the EPA and California standards, so that’s good enough. Plaintiffs argue that good enough is not really a health standard but just a rule of convenience, and there are really risks that remain in the buildings. Both sides, of course, have their own scientists backing their arguments. I will admit that I have not always agreed with America Unites, but I will say that I admire their courage. It’s not easy to go up against the education establishment, which more often than not appears to have the other bureaucracies on its side, and also face down a Federal judge and stick to your belief that we can do better while others are saying you’re just a bunch of fanatics and it’s all just fine.

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Two tragedies have struck Pepperdine University very recently when two of their undergraduates died — one in an auto accident while home on a visit in Florida and the other in their foreign program in Ecuador in what appears to be a fall, although the final report is not yet in. I can’t think of anything more tragic than to have to bury a child, and as a parent, we all know that you have to let go and let them take some risks so they can find their own way, but it’s never easy.

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The Malibu Golf Course, located high in the hills above Malibu, which golfers tell me was a wonderful course to play, has been shuttered for many months while the partners try to work out a restructuring to keep it alive. The partners include Dick Fuld, former head of Lehman Brothers, which folded in bankruptcy in the great recession. The developers, who bought the original golf club property for $32.8 million, intended to update the club, restaurant and other facilities, but ran aground in the 2008-09 recession. With one bankruptcy in 2009 and another in 2011, they apparently couldn’t cover the $50 million owed to U.S. Bank and it’s all up for sale with a court date shortly.

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On the brighter side, Pepperdine University has an Andy Warhol exhibit opening in the Weisman Museum and I understand it is not to be missed. We live in a strange time when an entire golf club might be worth $50 million or less at a fire sale and yet one painting by a dead artist may sell for an equal or much larger amount of dollars.