Who’s phoning a friend for the final answers?

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    With only four weeks to go to the next City Council election, the pace of the local campaigns has begun to accelerate. Here’s the latest.

    Over the weekend, a professional polling firm from Pennsylvania called Malibu to sample voters’ attitudes, particularly about the proposed agreement the city and Malibu Bay Company have been negotiating over the last 11 months. Although the pollsters would not reveal the name of their clients, it was pretty clear to several of those polled that the clients were strongly opposed to the proposed deal and were trying to gauge the extent of the community support for the swap which will mean a development deal for ballfields, a community center and some other community amenities. Several people I talked to were upset because they felt some of the questions asked them to assume facts they thought were highly exaggerated or simply untrue, things that related to subjects like extent of the traffic or the size of the proposed project. Surprisingly, one of the issues they tested was whether people thought celebrities were getting special treatment, apparently nervous about the Streisand/Brolin project.

    They not only asked about all the candidates but they also asked about Barbra Streisand, Harry Barovsky (who’s not even a candidate) and a question about The Malibu Times and the Surfside News to find out if the prospective voters were favorably disposed to those subjects.

    Now, I don’t know who paid for the survey, which my experts tell me probably ran between $5,000-$10,000 but there was something very familiar about the question they asked about The Malibu Times.

    In the 1998 election, Gil Segel, the minence grise behind the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy and buddy of Barbra Streisand, commissioned a poll from an outfit out of Oregon that also asked if people knew The Malibu Times and viewed it favorably. I’m sure they practically choked on the results because it was reported, and mind you this was his pollster, that The Malibu Times was viewed favorably by 69 percent of the people polled and unfavorably by only 15 percent. I must admit I was surprised because I had no idea that Gil had that many friends. By the way, the only reason I know about the poll is because it came out in the court evidence when the FPPC investigated Segel and his political group over their campaign practices.

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    The Malibu Township Council (MTC) held a political forum at Webster E.S. Saturday, and this one turned out to be more interesting than most because they allowed the candidates to rebut one another’s answers. All six candidates, of course, said they had nothing to do with the opinion poll. It will be interesting to see if the payment for the polls shows up in someone’s campaign filings after the election.

    The big surprise of the day was Joan House, normally the most low key of campaigners, who came out swinging and took on both Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn, head on. It’s pretty clear Joan knows that both Walt and Carolyn are coming after her, and there is clearly a great deal of acrimony between them. Joan strongly defended her participation in the Ad Hoc Committee to work out an agreement with Malibu Bay Company, and several times challenged Walt and Carolyn’s version of past events. No one called anyone else a liar, but it wasn’t far from it.

    The big issues at the forum seemed to be Bluffs Park, loss of the ballfields, the leaving of City Attorney Christi Hogin and whether she jumped, as Walt and Carolyn seemed to claim, or whether she was pushed, both unnecessarily and expensively, as several of the others maintained. They charged the city is going $400,000 over budget this year, almost exactly the cost of l’affaire Christi. Another major problem seems to be that the experienced staff is clearing out about as fast as they can find new jobs, and several candidates are worried.

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    Although we don’t have the results of an expensive poll to tell us how all the candidates are doing to date, another benchmark of performance is how they’re doing raising money, particularly with limitations of $100 per person. In the last filing, which covers the period from Jan 1. through Feb. 26, this is the way it stood:

    Jeff Jennings

    Raised $11,605 from 131 contributors

    Jennings made no loans to the campaign

    Walt Keller

    Raised $7,300 from 83 contributors

    Keller made no loans to the campaign

    Joan House

    Raised $5,865 from 72 contributors

    House also loaned her campaign $200

    Ken Kearsley

    Raised $4,670 from 85 contributors

    Kearsley also loaned his campaign $1,000

    Carolyn Van Horn

    Raised $ 3,765 from 59 contributors

    Van Horn made no loans to the campaign

    John Wall

    Raised $250 from 3 contributors

    Wall also loaned his campaign $3,500