Council candidate Bill Winokur says he’s up to the challenge of helping to become part of the solution to problems in Malibu.
By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer
Although only a Malibu resident for a short while, Bill Winokur said he is ready for the challenge of being on the City Council. The 43-year-old New York City native has already gained an endorsement by Malibu Community Action Network, or CAN. However, Winokur said his direct association with CAN ends there.
On the last day to file, Winokur pulled the form from City Hall to run for council. He then quickly gathered 25 signatures, five more than needed, and returned the paper to make his candidacy official.
Winokur said on the night of his decision, he received a phone call from CAN activist Ozzie Silna, asking him if he was running. But Winokur said Silna did not guarantee he would support him.
Silna, in a phone interview Sunday, said Winokur asked him about the likelihood of gaining his support. “When I asked him why he was running, one of the things he told me was that he disapproved of Measure M,” Silna said. “He had the same problems with the current City Council that I did.”
Winokur said he didn’t support Measure M, the Malibu Bay Co. Agreement, which the residents overwhelmingly rejected in November, for several reasons. He said he did not feel comfortable with the city needing to collect $25 million to purchase the Chili Cook-Off site, and was unaware of how that amount was chosen in the first place. He added that he felt more scrutiny needed to take place on the environmental and traffic implications of the deal.
“Part of the problem is that I felt like a ‘yes on M’ ended all the discussion,” Winokur said. “Now the issue is forced to come back for further review.”
Winokur said when the City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the agreement, it was his first inclination there needed to be a change. He said he would have liked there to be a voice on the council to point out what he said were the flaws of the deal. Then came the August closure of Civic Center Way’s connection to Malibu Canyon Road.
“I felt like it was just an idea that was very quickly imposed without true concerns for the ramifications,” Winokur said in an interview last month. “It made me feel there needed to be fresh blood on the council.”
Vocal community outrage led to a special council meeting in September, at which it voted to re-open the road. At that meeting, the council decided to set up a task force to look for another way to solve the problem of traffic issues in the area.
“Joan House challenged the people who came to that meeting to be part of the solution by joining the task force,” Winokur said. “And I decided to take that challenge.”
Challenges are nothing new for Winokur. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in just three years with degrees in economics and physics. He then took a job at a paralegal firm, with the intention to eventually go to law school. He later changed his mind and got a job with Morgan Stanley. He has since worked for major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Chemical Bank as a structured finance professional.
In 1992, Winokur went into private business, becoming a management consultant. He moved to California in 1999, first living in Beverly Hills while his Malibu home was being built. He also lived several years on a trailer at the site of his under-construction home in Serra Retreat. Winokur said during that time, he realized the planning and permitting process in Malibu needs to be examined and improved. Winokur married in October. His wife has one child from a previous marriage, and Winokur has two children from a previous marriage.
Although Winokur said he believes there needs to be change on the council, he still had respectable words to say about several of the current members. He called Mayor Ken Kearsley, “a person who would be reasonable to work with.” He added that he does not accept that Kearsley and Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Barovsky are pro-development. He further stated he feels he can work with Kearsley and Barovsky, as well as with Councilmember Andy Stern, especially on the issue of finding a new solution for dealing with the Malibu Bay properties. Although, he added it is the company’s job to come to the city, since it is the city that has the right to grant the permits and any variances to the zoning code.
At the time of the interview for this article in early February, Winokur admitted he was only about a quarter of the way through reading the General Plan, and he had not read any of the Local Coastal Program drafts. He said he was quickly getting that material finished. But Winokur said his being a novice to the Malibu political scene should not be a concern for voters.
“In my lifetime I’ve been able to amass a lot of information on complicated issues,” he said. “I have been able to do this in school and in business. I can do this on the City Council.”