Young contender takes on seasoned incumbent for 41st District Assembly race

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With November elections approaching, 41st District candidates voice their intent to lead Malibu competently. But their plan of action differs.

By Sylvie Belmond/Special to The Malibu Times

From state budget quandaries to business desolation and local regulation snafus, two candidates take heart as they battle to win the votes of the 420,000 41st District’s residents, which includes Malibu.

Republican Michael Wissot, 28, is running against seasoned local Democratic politician and incumbent Fran Pavley to represent the district in the California State Assembly.

New on the political scene, Wissot already has a plan of action that will begin with a Malibu issue. If he is elected, Wissot said his first initiative will be to propose the repeal of AB 988, the bill that mandated the California Coastal Commission to write the Local Coastal Plan (LCP) for Malibu.

“I have written a bill that will repeal AB 988 and pass control back to where it belongs, in the hands of the elected officials of the City of Malibu, not a group of state appointed bureaucrats,” states Wissot on his Web site.

“A lot of people in Sacramento are open to compromise when it comes to local issues, but the Legislature does not realize how upset Malibu is over the LCP,” he said in an interview with The Malibu Times, noting that Malibu should not have to pay lobbyists to go to Sacramento to petition for them, since that is what representatives are for.

Pavley, however, who is experienced in the political arena, does not think anyone would be successful in carrying a bill against a bill that was adopted by a 9-1 vote.

She noted that Wissot does not bring in the necessary experience be an effective state legislator because he has not served in local government or on a school board, which are traditional stepping-stones for a legislator.

In regard to the LCP, Pavley said she was not in the Assembly when AB 988 was passed but if she had been, she would have attempted to amend the LCP to give Malibu time to adopt its own plan.

“But that law has passed and it is now state law,” she said.

Malibu would probably be more successful to make changes through amendments, she said.

Pavley also indicated that Malibu hasn’t really seen how the LCP would be applied and how the process would actually work because the implementation is now stalled by the referendum.

Still, Pavley said she would remain involved indirectly as a legislator.

Unconventionally, Wissot went door-to-door to introduce himself to local voters. In his campaign, he stated that residents in the 41st District are not suitably represented.

The current leadership is one-dimensional and special interest groups dominate it, he said. Although concerns about the environment are important, they need to be balanced with the needs of people, noted Wissot.

Wissot received a master’s in business administration from the University of Arizona and a master’s in international management from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management. He currently leads Dentistry.com, an Internet company specializing in information-based services for patients and dental professionals.

“I have been focusing on all the issues, including the economy, which is desolate right now,” said Wissot, who acquired some political experience when he worked as an aid for Republican presidential hopeful Sen, John McCain (R-AZ) in Washington, D.C.

But Pavley said that Wissot was only working for McCain for a short period of time and indicated that his statement about one-dimensional representation is improper.

“As a former mayor of Agoura, I spent the last 25 years very involved in local issues. I have developed close relationships and am informed with Malibu issues,” Pavley said.

She listed a number of bills she authored and reiterated that people in the 41st District value quality-of-life issues.

“They care about water quality and environmental issues, and in addition to that, I focus on education, law enforcement, domestic violence, transportation and more,” said Pavley, who was a teacher for 28 years.

She also highlighted that she spends a lot of time on district issues to help the constituents personally.

In the eyes of Wissot, the state budget deficit also needs to be dealt with.

The $24 billion deficit can be addressed without hurting businesses or residents, noted Wissot. Typically, when there is a deficit in the budget, the state cuts programs or it raises taxes and the voters have to suffer, but if pork barrel spending was eliminated and business incentives were offered, this would not have to be done, he suggested.

Pavley responded that the state budget does not have much flexibility. She reasoned that the drop in personal income and cumulative tax credits offered by the state partly created the deficit. She also pointed out that, unlike the federal government, states are required to balance the budget.

Even then, “we have not cut education at all and we have protected local governments,” she said.

However, the health care cuts were unavoidable since they are not earmarked expenses.

“What is happening is that so much of the budget is being specifically earmarked that it leaves nothing for emergencies,” Pavley said.