It’s fun but I’m getting tired

Some of you have asked me why I’ve started covering the City Council again, and a word of explanation is probably necessary. Part of the reason is that I’m training some new reporters, and to do it right you have to be there, at least for a while. Part of the reason is that some of the dailies have discovered that any political reporter who cuts their teeth in Malibu working for The Malibu Times can cover politics anywhere and they’ve taken to raiding us, which fills me with both great pride and a deep sense of anguish.

Part of the reason is we’ve had major changes in our city government and after 10 years of some very familiar faces, like Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn, there are many new faces on the scene and I want to get to know them.

Within the last year we’ve gotten Sharon Barovsky, Ken Kearsley and Jeff Jennings onto the council and that changes the chemistry. Add into that mix the new City Manager Marilyn Leuck, new City Attorney Steve Amerikaner, new Planning Director Barry Hogin, soon to come new Director of Administrative Services to replace Bill Thomas who is leaving and major changes on the Planning Commission. It’s obvious that we have practically replaced our entire executive team.

As with any new group, it takes them a while to mesh, to work out their relationships and maybe even some time before they discover each other’s hot buttons.

In the meantime, everyone is being very civil, as evidenced by a number of 5 to 0 votes. Even where there are disagreements, councilmembers have been much more civilized and the discussions much more rational than earlier councils.

It doesn’t always make good copy, but it’s kind of nice to see.

It’s also pretty clear to anyone who sits and watches the council, staff and Planning Commission regularly that we have been very fortunate and have some very bright people involved in our government. This is a good thing for Malibu and sometimes a tough thing for me as a reporter. As a general rule, really bright people are less inclined to make really dumb statements, and they always can find a half dozen good reasons to disguise what it is they really want to do.

For example, I sat through the last council meeting and listened intently to the proposed referendums. After it was said and done, I still couldn’t make up my mind. Was submitting the proposed Malibu Bay Company Development deal to the voters a way for the council to weasel out on their responsibilities and to pass off a hot potato to the voters? Or, was it really sound judgment? Hasse told me he figured the deal would end up in a referendum anyway, so there was no point in stalling. If the majority doesn’t want it, it won’t fly, so why not face the issue head on and put it on the ballot. I’m still not sure.

The Right to Vote on Commercial Development Initiative, which for the sake of brevity I’m going to call the Segel Initiative, since Gil and Joanne Segel are really the driving forces behind it, is being presented as a people’s right to choose. Is it as it’s being portrayed, the purest form of democracy, or is it in fact utter cynicism? Is it really just a group of people who backed the losing candidates in the last election, now trying to make sure that the people who did get elected have their hands tied, which I assume they want to do because they don’t trust them?

How you feel about it may depend on how you feel about representative government. Some people love those long ballots because fundamentally, they just don’t trust politicians. Some people want their representatives to use their judgment and not govern by ballot or polling. In any event, it’s going to be an interesting political season. The way it looks it’s going to take a staff of reporters just to cover the November ballot. And I need them, because I’m getting tired.

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

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