Students try new form of ‘sitting in’

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The City Council has probably never looked younger or fitter than it did Friday. Still, debates were emphatic and positions were held as staunchly as always.

Youth-in-Government Day brought Malibu High School students from the government classes of teachers Adam Panish and Harry Keiley together with various city government officials. After meeting at City Hall individually with their assigned mentors, the students role played in a mock City Council meeting.

City Treasurer Pete Lippman hosted student Mike Seider in preparation for Seider’s presentation to the mock council. After recounting a brief history of the city, Lippman explained to Seider the responsibilities of a treasurer and city auditor.

“When people talk about investments, the first thing they talk about is yield,” Lippman said. “That’s third for us. First is safety, second is liquidity.”

Several conference rooms away, Planning Commissioners Ken Kearsley and Ed Lipnick were tussling with the political intransigence of students Angalika Oatway and Robin Baltrushes, while Drew Purvis was coaching Jules Neale on issues faced by Building & Safety.

Baltrushes and Oatway held fast to building “nothing” on the land known as the Chili Cook-Off site, at the corner of Webb Way and PCH. Purvis gently explained, “In a city, you can’t have zero commercial development.”

“Let’s say it’s your property. What would you do with it?” Lipnick continued. Requesting clarification, Baltrushes wondered, “Where would you have the Chili Cook-off?” Lipnick agreed to find another place for it and re-posed his question. Baltrushes acceded to only a park on the site.

Kearsley quizzed Oatway in preparation for her appearance before the mock council, and she snapped back with the correct answers.

“So, do you think you have an idea of what we do?” Kearsley asked Oatway. “Oh, yeah!” she enthused.

After the individual mentoring sessions, the students were bussed to the Michael Landon Center for the mock council session. Those students paired with council members sat with their mentors, along with students Jesse Erwin in the city clerk’s spot and Daniel Geren sitting in for the city manager.

The mock council members heard from those students role playing as various city personnel, posing questions and then voting on the proposed agenda items.

The council heard an appeal from a Planning Commission decision denying a request to build a larger-than-allowable home. After intense questioning by student Jordan Tabak, the mock council unanimously approved the commission’s decision.

A decision on a cable franchise permit agreement was not so easily reached by the mock council. After a 2-to-2 roll call vote, student Chihara Aoki seemed torn at having to break the tie. Her mentor, Mayor Carolyn Van Horn, quickly noted, “That’s what it feels like,” then sympathetically urged a decision.

For approval of the city’s investment policy, the day’s city treasurer introduced his report to the mock council, Lippman seated beside him. Student Greg Williams, mentored by Councilman Walt Keller, questioned the criteria used. Without prompting from Lippman, Seider listed safety, liquidity and yield. Lippman seemed pleased at the lesson taught, and Seider seemed pleased at the unanimous approval by the mock council.

Other student participants included: Alex Betuel, Julie Platner, Jussie Smollet, Kelly Hine, Shauna Bass, Christopher Marsolek, Forest Howlett, Julie Repp, Jennifer Barrett, Jamie Olsafsky and Brittany Turek.

The idea for the day had been proposed to the City Council by Councilman Tom Hasse. It was coordinated by the Parks & Recreation Department and assisted by Malibu High School staff. “I think the kids learned something, and so did we,” said Hasse. Said Parks & Recreation Supervisor Marilyn Stern, next year she will plan for a full day, allowing for more individual time with the mentors and a longer council session, this year’s council having run well over its allotted time.