From the Publisher: 76 Days to Go

Arnold G. York

It’s just 76 days from today that we go to the polls, except most of us are not going to go to the polls, we’re just going to drop a ballot into a mailbox. The U.S. Post Office has already warned California that we are one of the states that may have mail trouble getting all of our ballots into the counting room in time, whatever that means—or, to put it another way, the post office has just told us that, 92 percent of the time, they can’t carry out their most important function: mail-in voting. But President Trump has told us, quite forthrightly, that he’s got a solution. He’s going to refuse more money to the post office to hire more temporary people to handle the load because he doesn’t believe in voting by mail; too much fraud, he says. That guy has chutzpa. He broadcasts what he’s going to do and why he’s doing it and his people don’t seem to be upset. They’re all worried about conspiracies and Democratic pedophile sex rings in Washington, D.C. pizzerias. I must confess that the appeal of conspiracies escapes me. It’s not just national, it’s also local. 

Here in Malibu, we have eight candidates running for city council this year. There was a possible ninth, Alia Ollikainen, a lady whom I must confess I never heard of, who didn’t get enough qualified signatures to get on the ballot. It only takes 20 Malibu qualified signatures to get on the ballot. Most candidates get in early, go in and get signatures and then bring the petitions back to have them checked to make sure they are valid. If need be, they go out and get more signatures. Nothing particularly mysterious about that. Every person that ever ran in Malibu went through that process, including the eight who are already candidates. Suddenly, several candidates are charging there is some sort of conspiracy to keep her off the ballot. I call it lawyer babble—and I’ve cleaned that up because this is a family newspaper. I understand this is a hard year to run because of COVID-19: no forums, no coffees at people’s homes, no chance to get some name recognition, no open debates. Everything is online and it’s very hard to build momentum on Zoom, so you have to find some attention getting issue, no matter how silly—and silly it is.

We have lots of real issues in this town. A lot of our citizens are suffering. They are running out of money. Most have mortgages and loans and, although there is some loan abatement, time is running out. My guess is that most of the businesses in town are doing maybe one half the business they were doing before COVID-19 and it’s all coming back very slowly. Walk through any shopping center in Malibu and they all have empty stores. It’s going to be a long time, if ever, before those stores fill up. Retailing has changed, probably permanently. I’m sure some people will say, “So what?” The “so what” is, if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking and this town is definitely shrinking. Make no mistake about it, we are short kids and families. High real estate prices are nice but they also mean fewer families with fewer kids. We had dreams of a separate school district but that’s difficult if you don’t have enough kids.

It’s nice to have some billionaires sprinkled around Malibu, but the truth is they usually don’t live here and these are second, third or fourth homes and almost none of them participate in town life. We also have some problems we have created for ourselves. We had a deal that we would swap land in Charmlee, which is a wilderness area on the west end of town, for some land in the Malibu Bluffs Park area. The idea was to take Bluffs Park and add some ballfields, which are in short supply, perhaps a community pool, perhaps a community center maybe some other amenities. So, what did the city council do? They walked away from the swap. That means no ballfields, no pool, no community center. Are we planning for Malibu to become a geriatric village? The PCH is a mess, particularly in the summer. There is nowhere near enough parking to handle our 12 million-or-so visitors. The solution is not to hand out more parking tickets and call that a success; the solution is to build some parking structures and maybe put some cheaper space at street level that mom-and-pop businesses can afford. And then, lest I forget, there was the attempt by the planning commission, principally John Mazza and Steve Uhring, to impose their own idea of what Malibu should be through something called “neighborhood standards,” whereby everyone would have been down zoned by 25 percent or even more, meaning loss of retirement income for many of the older residents. The planning commission passed it despite 300 locals testifying openly that they were idiots, and then council killed the plan. What lesson did Mazza and Uhring derive from all those angry villagers? The lesson was not that it was a bad idea but rather they felt it was just a bad council, and Uhring seemed to feel what else could he do but answer the siren call and run for council himself? 

There are multiple other issues, like sea level rise, which the California Coastal Commission seems to believe empowers them to be an even bigger super agency, and if you don’t like it, well then how about a $4.2 million fine they tried to hit some Malibu beach locals with? Or perhaps Joe Edmiston and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy / Mountain Recreation Conservation Authority, who are suing the Sycamore Canyon homeowners—with public money of course. We need council candidates who know how to get things done and also have some backbone, which has been seriously deficient in some of them lately. So, stop the bull and stop whining about the city manager and show us what you got.