Guest Column: ‘Your Malibu, Your Decision Act’ on November Ballot

Last month, more than 2,300 registered Malibu voters — more than 20% of the city’s electorate — signed a petition to place the “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” on this November’s ballot. Most of those signatures were gathered by committed residents, eager to preserve Malibu’s small town character, and many who signed the petition said they were eager to have a voice in Malibu’s future. 

The enthusiasm demonstrated by those who gathered the signatures and those who signed the petition is notable, especially when compared with April’s City Council election results, where the winning candidates each received approximately 1,500 votes, or about 800 votes less than the number of signatures that were submitted in support of a November vote on the “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act.” 

So it was with surprise that we read late Friday night that the City Council is now contemplating delaying placing the “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” on the ballot this November. More specifically, it seems the Council is contemplating seizing on a technicality — the omission of two words (“special election”) in the petition signed by voters — in an attempt to push the initiative back to the April 2016 ballot. You read that right: per the Council’s agenda, they are considering delaying voting by nearly two years. This is outrageous, and the citizens of Malibu deserve better. 

The measure, which seeks to preserve Malibu’s small town character by giving the citizens of Malibu the right to vote on big commercial developments and by limiting the influx of big-box retailers, has the support of more than 60% of the community’s voters. And what’s more, the Malibu voters who signed the petition did so with the intent that the initiative appears on this November’s ballot, and at no other time. 

Indeed, this newspaper and mailers received by every registered Malibu voter stated unequivocally that the measure was to appear on the November ballot. Suggesting now, just weeks before they are to place the measure on the ballot, that voting can and should be delayed due to the omission of the words “special election” is absurd. 

For more than three years, the Malibu City Council has debated development in Malibu, time and again settling on a “wait and see” approach with regard to formula retail while fast-tracking approval of a variety of development projects. Based on the number of signatures gathered and the community support for the “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act,” it is clear that the voters of Malibu want a voice – and action – in this process. Rather than wait for the Council to act, they put their names on the line and signed up for a campaign to help determine Malibu’s future – and they did so expecting that their voices would be heard this November. 

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That the Council seems intent on silencing those voices based on a legal technicality is deeply disturbing, especially because California election law is clear – as long as a petition substantially complies with the law, it must be enforced, even if there is a technical error. More than enough signatures were gathered (only 1,385 were necessary) to qualify the measure for the November election (a “special election”), and the City has the authority to place the measure on the November ballot. Indeed, it has the responsibility to listen to the voters and their intent by placing the measure on the November ballot. 

Should the Council opt not to place the measure on the November ballot and thus ignore the will of the voters, it is all but certain that voters (and those who petitioned for this initiative) will not wait until 2016 to be heard. Instead, they could, and likely will, seek to put the exact same measure, the very measure the Council is now looking to delay until 2016, on the ballot in early 2015. 

We see no reason to provoke this approach. It would be far better for the voters to consider the issue in November, when turnout is high, than in yet another election a month later. It’s now in the hands of the Council to decide whether to prolong the inevitable, or to let democracy take its course. 

Dru Ann Jacobson, Carol Moss, Michele Reiner are petitioners for the Your Malibu, Your Decision campaign. 

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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