Small city does not need big system


    Malibu city politics seems to be the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. Malibuites fail to recognize that we have the improper form of city government in action within our community and with the change of city manager we need to change our form of local government.

    Malibuites need a city administrator instead of the present city manager system. What difference does it make to us whether we have a city administrator or a city manager, you may ask. I think it makes a tremendous difference and this is why. Under a city administrator when and if we need to hire a new department head, staff advertises for candidates for the position and then the City Council interviews the candidates and makes a selection, unless the council deems none of the candidates desirable, in which case more candidates are recruited and interviewed. This is a time-consuming process but it is a hands-on process, for the council, the council being five people we voted for to represent us and to be accountable to you, the voter. Malibuites are ceaselessly linked to the governmental process and that seems particularly important in a city as diminutive as Malibu.

    In the city-manager form of government, the manager is the one who recruits and selects the department heads. The manager makes a decision and presents his or her selection to the council for approval. Because the council has not been involved in the process, it has little choice but to approve the manager’s selection, and therein lays the danger. Over a period of time, a city manager is able to put his or her own people in place and the city manager, a non-elected someone, can end up completely in control of the local government bureaucracy. Yes, the council still sets policy and the council can fire any department head it deems to be incompetent, but to do so is a vote of no confidence in the manager, a situation that doesn’t exist within the city administrator form of government. The City Council takes the responsibility for hiring and the responsibility for firing. That seems appropriate. The argument is made that hundreds of cities and counties around the world use the city-manager form of government, and that is true, but what is equally true is that, for the most part, these are larger cities, like Phoenix, San Diego, Kansas City and Dallas. I would venture to say that the manager system is probably right for those larger cities, but we have a projected general plan, the rationale of which is to protect and preserve the sub-rural, ocean-side appeal of the City of Malibu. We don’t want to be a sizable city, thank you; diminutive is beautiful to those of us who are trying so hard to keep Malibu from becoming just like every other suburban city throughout our land, large and governmentally aloof.

    My opposition to the city-manager form of government can be summed up this way: We don’t need to model ourselves after the cities we don’t want to be. We want a city administrator responsible to the voters via the Malibu City Council. What works for other cities is not necessarily what will work best for us in our Malibu community. What we have now does not work well, code enforcement, z-traffic, zoning, land use and recreational policies being just some examples.

    With the consequences of the last election the council should now know that political assurances might get you to the pinnacle, but they won’t keep you there.

    And that is all I have to say (sure),

    Tom Fakehany