Council members heated over Chili coverage

Ken Kearsley and Steve Uhring

The mayor pro tem heavily criticizes local newspaper editors’ coverage off Chili Cook-Off fundraising efforts by the city, shocking some with his comments. And MCLC members continue their criticism of the city’s bungling of grant money.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

It was an angry night at City Hall on Monday as council members and their opponents clashed over how the city has handled the Chili Cook-Off site fundraising.

Malibu City Manage Katie Lichtig’s announcement two weeks ago that the city would not be receiving most of the grant money it had originally believed it would be receiving has angered many in the community. Although city officials have defended this situation by saying the grant money will come once the city has purchased the property and needs funds for the wastewater/storm water treatment program, many remain skeptical.

Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy President Steve Uhring challenged the council members’ statements that not having the grant money for the property acquisition was satisfactory, because the city could get the money for the treatment program.

“We also join the majority who reject the council’s declaration that the loss of immediate access to the grant funds is positive or in any way good for Malibu,” Uhring said.

His comments and MCLC supporter Rich Fox’s questioning of why the city staff had not kept the public abreast of the situation were met with harsh responses from the council.

“To make a political football out of cleaning up that creek and lagoon [the expected outcome of a successful wastewater/storm water treatment program] is unconscionable,” Kearsley said. “To do that is of the lowest, lowest, lowest.”

Councilmember Jeff Jennings said he thought it was inappropriate for people to insult the city staff, whom he said had been working hard to raise the $25 million the city needs to accumulate to purchase the Chili Cook-Off site.

“I think that breaks new ground in the political wars of Malibu,” Jennings said.

Good news-city receives good credit rating

City Manager Katie Lichtig said that Standard and Poor’s had given the city a high credit rating that is only shared by five other municipalities in the state.

This could save the city money as it issues certificates of participation, which are similar to bonds, to fund the Chili Cook-Off site acquisition.

However, when asked by a public speaker if the city’s credit rating would be affected once it takes on debt to finance the Chili Cook-Off site purchase, an official hired by the city for the financing said, “It would be incorrect to say it wouldn’t.”

Also, it was announced that the city definitely would be receiving $2.5 million from the State Water Resources Control Board, although the money would not come until after the Dec. 31 deadline to purchase the property, so the city will have to sell interim COPs to make up the cost. Unlike the other grants that it lost, Malibu is able do this with this grant. Additionally, the public learned that Malibu would be receiving $700,000 from the county that must be matched by the city.

The council will meet on Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. to finalize the issuing of the COPs. It has not been calculated what dollar amount of COPs it will need to issue, since several variables still exist, including how much fundraising monies the city will have received by Dec. 12.

Meanwhile, the public fundraising continues, with a deadline set for Dec. 9. Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said as of Monday, the city had received $700,000 from the public and $250,000 from Malibu Creek Plaza, which is owned by Steve Soboroff. MCLC has promised to match all money donated between Nov. 15 and Nov. 30, up to $500,000. Barovsky said the city had accumulated about $400,000 (out of the $700,000) in that time period as of Monday.

Mayor pro tem’s criticism shocks some

A comment by Mayor Pro Tem Ken Kearsley criticizing the local newspapers’ coverage of the fundraising led to gasps and other sounds of shock in the audience at Monday night’s meeting.

“So we have gotten some grants [for the Chili Cook-Off purchase] unbeknownst to some editors in this town who might subscribe to the Joseph Goebbels school of journalism,” Kearsley said.

Goebbels was the minister of propaganda during Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

On Tuesday, Kearsley said his comments were directed at both local newspapers because, in his opinion, they had outrageous headlines on their recent Chili Cook-Off fundraising articles that were “spun to sell newspapers.”

Kearsley said although the actual stories were fine, the headlines were misleading.

Goebbels is known to have said “the headline is the story,” implying that people only read the headlines, hence Kearsley’s reason for using the comparison.

However, Kearsley stressed that he used the words “might subscribe” rather than saying the editors of the newspapers actually subscribed to Goebbels’ methods.