Malibu Times columnist Burt Ross delivered these remarks at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Mayor Peak, former Mayor House, former Mayor Rosenthal, former Mayor Sibert and former Mayor La Monte: My name is Burt Ross and I share something with all of you — I, too, was a mayor, once upon a time. As some of you know, I arrived on these shores almost three years ago, an immigrant from the old country (New Jersey), and it is a joy to call this paradise my home.
And, as some of you also know, for the past couple of years, I have written a humor column, first for Malibu Patch and now for The Malibu Times, but tonight, as I attend my first council meeting, I have a number of serious observations to share with you. First and foremost, I want to thank all of you for what you do on our behalf. I do not question for a moment your love for this town and appreciate your efforts to make our community a better place to live.
When I first moved here, I attended a Malibu council candidates forum, which took place on Point Dume. Accustomed to the down-and-dirty politics of New Jersey, I was thrilled to see how courteous our citizens were. The name-calling which accompanied many of the campaigns back East was virtually absent here. The sense of community and mutual respect seemed to be consistent with the overall tenor of what I had already witnessed in Malibu — the small-town warmth that you can feel at the Malibu Playhouse, the Malibu Film Society, the Rotary Halloween Party, Tales By The Sea, the Optimist Club Pancake breakfast, the Methodist Pie Festival and so on.
But then, something happened last spring during the council election and, more recently, in the discussions both pro and con regarding Measure R. All of a sudden, we suffered from the same thing our country as a whole is going through. Some people stopped listening to those with different opinions and, even worse, questioned the motivation and even the integrity of reputable people on each side. Anger and recriminations came to the fore in a town where so many have so much to be thankful for.
When I was a young boy, my grandmother (may she rest in peace) took me to visit one of her old bedridden friends, Molly Koppel. Molly asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told her President of the United States. A tear literally dropped from her eye and she said, “Mein kind, don’t be a politician. Better you should be a doctor.”
And so I have stayed out of politics for almost 40 years now and my two grown children have stayed out of politics. (My daughter, following Molly’s advice, is now a doctor.) But wouldn’t it be tragic if all of this nastiness prevents good people from even considering public service, which should be one of our highest callings?
Thank you again for serving and not being deterred by the personal attacks. And finally, in pursuing the noble goal of preserving Malibu by controlling its growth, wouldn’t it be ironic if we failed to preserve what is equally important — the civility and kindness of our unique community?