Public Forum

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Money is the issue, not camping

Last week, the Coastal Commission voted against the City of Malibu’s LCP Amendment application and in favor of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s “override” plan to impose camping on the City and greatly increase the level of activity in their Ramirez Canyon property.

It was a disappointing vote, to say the least. I thought that everyone who spoke from Malibu did an excellent job. We were led by Mayor Stern who pointed out that 16 million visitors for a town of 13,000 is an unparalleled record of public access for any town. That is the truth about Malibu’s welcoming attitude toward outsiders. I was very proud of everyone from Malibu and the welcoming and intelligent way they delivered their message.

The conservancy, on the other hand, opted to hide its intentions behind its “human shields” who sought “social justice” against those that would deny them entry into the soothing embrace of the natural world. Implied charges of racism and elitism came from the mouths of the conservancy’s agents of their message. But the message was theirs and they bear the shame of hiding their intentions behind these people.

The reality is: this is not about camping. It is not about public access. If camping was so important, then why is it that when I called up the SMMC’s main number (323.221.8900) a few minutes ago and asked about overnight camping opportunities, the only park they had where they allow camping is Sage Ranch in Simi Valley. So I called them up (818.999.3753) and got a recording that told me that camping was $120 for a day for a “group” and $5 for each vehicle. I thought that was a pretty stiff price for the poor and disadvantaged inner-city recreation-seekers. In all of the 60,000 acres they mention on their Web site, this is their only camping opportunity? All of their parks close at sunset.

Camping is camouflage for the real intention of the SMMC: to keep their top brass offices in a Hollywood star’s gated complex and to have weddings every weekend for 32 weeks of the year to pay for it. That is the only thing they care about in this “override” plan.

This experience has brought the residents of Malibu together. One good thing is that the public’s high regard for the integrity of Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman, Zev Yaroslavsky and State Fire Marshall Kate Dargan is well deserved. It is refreshing to see those leaders act with integrity and take their responsibilities seriously and to listen to those who live in Malibu. That integrity reflects positively on all those who work for these leaders. Our firefighters in Malibu are outstanding individuals with high integrity. Their example has been set at the top.

On the other side of the coin, you have the SMMC leadership that chose to behave like lawyers in the OJ trial. They played the “social justice” card where it had no place and even had agents to deliver that message that they hid behind. They know it was false and they did it anyway. They have tarnished not only the image of their leadership (again) but also those who wear the uniform of their organization. To the SMMC, the ends justify the means. We spoke the truth. They hid behind agents who misrepresented the truth and they camouflaged their real intentions in a false camping plan.

The Coastal Commissioners reminded me of Commissars from Central Planning and the whole experience left me with an eerie feeling after the hearing. What I saw at the hearing was a beautiful display of how our state got into the present shocking fiscal catastrophe that it is in. Think about this: that was your money that they spent to fly those Commissioners in helicopters to give them a tour of the “big plan.” That was your money that went into printing all those fine brochures. We use our money to fight them and they use our money to fight back. The whole display was an education in State Government, for those of you who wonder how we got this far off track.

We have a great town and we should be able to determine its future without this kind intervention from “Central Planning.” That is the basis of American Government. Christi Hogin was right on that issue during her eloquent presentation when she described Malibu’s ability to work out its own issues locally (paraphrase): “It may be tedious and slow and frustrating, but that’s democracy in action.”

Rick Mullen