We’ve always tried to keep our letters to the editor interesting, which means letting all sort of things run that we don’t necessarily agree with. I’ve also made it a practice of not commenting on letters, just leaving that to other readers to respond. But times have changed and I find we’re getting letters regularly from certain writers to the point that they are almost op-ed pieces, so I figure it’s OK for me to comment. Our two most consistent letter writers are Sam Hall Kaplan and Scott Dittrich, so here goes.
Sam and I have sort of grown old together and whereas I find myself getting more skeptical and ambivalent about just about everything as time goes on, Sam seems to get more outraged with every passing year. In years past, Sam appeared to have some gradations of outrage, but not anymore. Now, it’s pedal to the floor outrage most every time. Part of that is a delusion that somehow our little town of Malibu, 13,000 strong, is a major player in all that happens here and along the coast. We are, of course, beset by the federal government’s National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Game people, who couldn’t care less what we think. Then comes the State of California and its various departments like the Department of Parks and Recreation with its own land and entities like the Malibu Pier and the Adamson House; Caltrans, which owns our main street, known as the Pacific Coast Highway; the California Coastal Commission, which believes it only answers to God, apparently with the blessings of the state legislature; and Joe Edmiston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and MRCA, who seems to believe he actually is God and, for all I know, it actually may be true. Now, we get to the more local stuff like the County of Los Angeles, Regional Water Quality Control Board, the LA Fire Department, the LA County Sheriff’s Department, plus Heal the Bay, LA Baykeeper and a myriad of environmental groups—now you may begin to see that the Malibu city manager has to be a suburb organizational politician just so we don’t get eaten up by the big fish. Despite what Sam and some of his loyal coterie may believe, the City of Malibu is just a minnow swimming in a sea of sharks and to blame what happens on poor Reva Feldman was just nonsense. Reva’s problem was that she wasn’t a particularly good politician because good politicians can smell which way the wind is blowing and they always manage to position themselves upwind of the stink.
So, if Sam thinks all we need to do is be tough, stand tall, spend a few million in litigation to keep our little town rural, with its $20 million beach homes, filled with people who own but don’t live here, whose kids are going to private schools, all I can say it’s a sweet fantasy and good luck with it.
Scott Dittrich also fears we are in danger of losing our rural character. Like most Malibuites, I can’t really say I was a farmer when Karen and I came here in 1976 and spent a little over $100,000 for our Malibu house. In 1976 this really wasn’t a rural town, but it was a small town with a small town feel and a very diverse population. Before us, many people had come to Malibu because it was far out and cheap, had that intimate little town feel, and the schools were good. It had a broad spectrum of people living here. You could work in the city and at the same time live in a small town, and the only downside was the commute time which wasn’t so bad in the 1970s. Scott believes we need “a warrior to lead the fight” to keep us rural. He wants our city manager to live in town. No problem—either give him a housing allowance of $100,000 a year or buy a house for our city managers now and in the future. He wants us to do something about the homeless. Perhaps we can take the advice of our new city council member Bruce Silverstein and come up with a registration ordinance so clever and well-crafted that the homeless will have choice but to leave Malibu or face the consequences. Or, alternatively, we can buy a certain kind of fairy dusty to sprinkle on the homeless and, poof, they’re gone. It would be nice if the city manager could make the fire season go away, or the sheriff’s department put enough cars on the road to stop the outrageous speeding in those Ferraris or cut back on all the brush in the Santa Monica Mountains (55 percent owned by governmental agencies) but they can’t, so let’s start being a little realistic. We’ve got a new, experienced city manager, who previously ran Ojai, but it’s going to take him some time to get up to speed here in Malibu so let’s cut him a little slack before you start the next social media assault. Government run by the loudest and nastiest and the most delusional doesn’t work very well. So, let’s do what we should do in a nice rural atmosphere that we are so fond of, “mellow out,” stop to smell the flowers, put your nasty verbal guns back in your holsters and get a little neighborly, and not just with those you agree with.