The Malibu Rotary Club hosted a City Council Candidates Forum last Wednesday where the five candidates were pressed on their stances regarding commercial development, sporting field shortages and past civic experience.
Malibu Times Managing Editor Knowles Adkisson moderated the forum, which was attended by about 25 people at Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business.
Candidates react to Rob Reiner group’s chain store initiative
The hottest topic seemed to be a new draft ballot initiative from the group Save Malibu, backed by Rob and Michele Reiner. The “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” seeks to limit the size and number of chain stores allowed in Malibu and require voter approval on the construction of shopping centers over 20,000 square feet in size. The Reiners hope to get the initiative on a November ballot.
When asked if the recently submitted ballot initiative to regulate chain stores in Malibu was a referendum on the current City Council’s leadership, councilmembers La Monte and Rosenthal refuted the question. Both touted current plans by the city to implement a one-year cap on chain stores in the Malibu Civic Center and concurrently draft a specific plan for the civic center.
“I think [the referendum] is a Band-Aid that would stop the bleeding a little while, but would not solve the problem,” La Monte said. “I don’t think the amount of Starbucks you have in the place is really what determines what your city is like.”
The City Council voted 3-2 in November 2012 to draft a formula retail ordinance to limit chain stores in the Civic Center area, with La Monte and current Mayor Joan House voting against the measure. The vote followed uproar over the closure of locally owned restaurant Point Pizza.
But in September 2013, with community group Preserve Malibu threatening to bring a formula retail ordinance directly to voters via a ballot initiative if the council did not act, the council delayed a vote on the measure until November. Some Preserve Malibu members later suggested the delayed vote was intended to relieve pressure and draw out the process.
Rosenthal said at last week’s debate that the city council had not stalled efforts to implement some type of guidelines for commercial shopping centers in Malibu. Instead, the city has drawn out the public input process to assure all sides are heard.
“Some of the developers say, ‘Well, you’re stalling, you’re stalling.’” Rosenthal said. “It’s really about elongating the process.”
Louks criticized the current council for deciding to hire a consultant to draft the specific plan and design guidelines at an estimated $650,000 while ignoring opponents of the idea.
“The specific plan we’re embarking on, here again, we’re spending a lot of money,” Louks said. “…Our city can do a much better job engaging our community.”
Challengers Andy Lyon, Hamish Patterson and Louks all said they were in support of the ballot initiative.“It’s about people feeling connected to what is going to happen in the Civic Center,” Lyon said. He suggested the city begin offering informative study sessions to the public regarding long-term projects planned in the civic center.
Patterson raised the issue of infrastructure stability in the Civic Center. With several shopping centers and a hotel project in the works, he fears the city is unprepared for an onslaught of traffic and emergency situations.“Once these developments go beyond a certain size, they begin to affect the infrastructure of our community,” he said.
Nonincumbents address experience
Louks, a seven-year Malibu resident, said she spent 16 years as a Mary Kay cosmetics salesperson before becoming an architect. She would be holding her first public office if elected, but said she was ready for the new role.
“I haven’t been political, or career-oriented, but I have experience speaking in front of thousands of people,” she said.
Patterson has experience serving on a Malibu subcommittee that sought to find a new skate park location. He also listed his leadership experience as a former manager of a “dude ranch” in Pennsylvania and said he worked to improve watershed management problems in Portland, Ore., in the 1990s.
Lyon said the challenges he’s faced as a single father of four children honed his management and budgeting skills. When asked if that experience was analogous to managing a city with millions of dollars in its coffers, he said yes.
“When you’re looking at living within your means in the city and making decisions, yeah, it’s just on a different scale,” Lyon said. “You’re going to be budgeting, you’re going to be looking at what you can afford and can’t afford.”
Rosenthal and La Monte detailed their own backgrounds as a contrast. La Monte was involved in the Big Rock board of directors, served on the city’s public works commission and on the view protection task force before being elected to the council in 2010.
Rosenthal served as a PTA board member, parks and recreation commissioner and public works commissioner before being elected to the council in 2010.
When asked whether she felt Louks, Patterson and Lyon possessed the requisite experience to serve on the council, Rosenthal said she did not.
“I just feel that you need experience working within the city commissions, committees, understanding the budgets, having gone through a lot of that,” she said. “So do I think that they have those experiences within our city? No, they don’t.”
The city clerk’s office began mailing out permanent vote-by-mail residents on Tuesday. City Clerk Lisa Pope said her office began processing new absentee ballot requests this week and mailing those out as well. Election day is Tues., April 8.