Harry Barovsky was so upset when the city received a letter from an attorney for Remy O’Neill’s challenging the Malibu campaign ordinance, let me see if I can cast a little light on the situation.
The telltale line in the lawyer’s letter to the council is this: “Ms. O’Neill intends to establish a political committee which would make independent expenditures in support of or in opposition to one or more City Council candidates.”
Those are fighting words!
O’Neill is Carolyn Van Horn’s longtime supporter and former campaign manager, so it’s apparent the support they talk about in the letter is obviously for Van Horn and who ever else her group, which includes Gil and Joanne Segal, decide to anoint for council, perhaps John Wall, perhaps not.
The interesting side show is that the only council incumbent who has not announced yet is Walt Keller. Walt apparently would have us believe he’s taking his time and carefully weighing his decisions. In reality, Walt has been running around like crazy, trying to hustle up support for his candidacy, and is meeting with a very mixed reaction. Old-time allies, like Wall, Frank Basso and Ef Fader, are not saying, “No,” straight out, but they’re certainly not saying, “Yes,” either. Most important, Carolyn, Walt’s longtime ally, is not only not saying, “Yes,” but appears to be far from enthusiastic about a Walt Keller candidacy, and there are rumors Carolyn is working hard to cut off Walt’s potential support. To be more accurate, she is working to grab it all for herself because there is some considerable apprehension by the Carolyn team that she is in a race for her political life, and Walt on the ticket would be like dragging an anchor.
Now, as some of you might have guessed, I have never been a great Walt Keller fan, but even I get a bit of a feeling Ms. Carolyn is Ms. Rank Ingratitude since it’s Walt who really made her political career and stuck with her through thick and some considerable amount of thin. I don’t know why I’m surprised, since loyalty has never been Carolyn’s strong point. Walt, however is a stubborn cuss, and I suspect he is not going to go quietly into the night even though few of his former allies may already consider him ancient history.
But back to the council. O’Neill has been the prime mover behind Cornucopia Farms, an organization trying to get a farmers market and some organic farming into Malibu. The story put out by O’Neill and some in the Cornucopia Farms company was O’Neill was burned out, beaten down at the cost of having to defend herself in the recent aborted campaign violations prosecution and not going to take an active role in politics. The council then voted $5,000 and then $20,000 for Cornucopia Farms.
The arrival of the letter meant O’Neill has had a change of heart, or tactics, and is still very much in the game. Now that O’Neill’s tune has changed, some on the council figure they’ve been had and that the grants to Cornucopia Farms, which were allegedly used to set up and fund an office in O’Neill’s garage, seem to have a larger agenda than organic vegetables, which is sad because there are many good people involved in the project whose sole goal is organic farming and a local farmers market.
That gets us to the second part of the sentence I quoted from the lawyer’s letter, about making “independent expenditures in opposition to one or more City Council candidates.” That’s the flashpoint. It’s a reasonably safe bet the people they’re going to oppose first are Councilwoman Joan House and Planning Commissioner Ken Kearsley, both of whom are candidates for council and both of whom are backed by Barovsky. Then, if there is any money left over, it will go to try and block Jeff Jennings.
What we’re seeing is a battle to the death between Barovsky and his allies and Van Horn and her allies for control of the council. The great irony is that the only person in the past who kept the various factions from ripping apart and killing each other was Jennings, who frequently served as the conciliator.
After the last election when Jennings lost to Hasse, the council changed almost immediately. Without Jennings to mediate, it turned into open warfare. Perhaps it was inevitable that after almost 10 years in power, the Zero Growth crowd would begin to split up. Some of it’s political, but most of it is just personal. It’s old grudges, old wounds, old betrayals come to the surface. It’s sort of like watching a nasty family fight for the goodies after grandma dies, and were not going to know how it comes out until after the next election.