Public Safety, Tax and Karaoke Round Out Council Forums

Former Malibu mayor Pamela Conley Ulich kicks off a 2018 Point Dume Neighborhood Watch meeting.

The Point Dume Neighborhood Watch held its regular public meeting, followed by a candidate forum—the last one before the Nov. 6 election—at The Sunset Restaurant on Monday, Oct. 29. 

Led by former Malibu mayor Pamela Conley Ulich, the meeting started off with a crime update from Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Lt. Jim Royal and later, an update on the power outages from City of Malibu Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas.

Afterward, the candidates—Karen Farrer, Lance Simmens, Jim Palmer, Mikke Pierson and Olivia Damavandi—were asked a series of questions mostly related to safety, specifically to Point Dume and to Malibu as a whole. Topics including law enforcement, homelessness, sustainability and the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA) were addressed. Traffic in and around the neighborhood—in light of next year’s planned school merger—was not discussed.  

To preface a later question, Ulich asked Royal whether cameras—such as license plate readers—were legal and viable for the entrance to neighborhoods. He confirmed the sheriff’s department does utilize the technology and that it was legal, but raised privacy concerns.

The candidates were willing to discuss the idea in-depth. Farrer encouraged growing neighborhood watch programs in Malibu first, while Simmens called the installation of cameras “a dangerous path” to go down.

“I’m not so sure that it will [do] anything other than marginally support law enforcement efforts,” he added.

As for law enforcement, all were in agreement about upping the Volunteers on Patrol budget to secure more volunteers and additional vehicles. Additionally, they connected safety in Point Dume to addressing issues of traffic and collisions on Pacific Coast Highway.

A question asking whether the city should contract private security, however, did not get such a unanimous agreement.

“The idea of private security as an additive to our security here and for our public safety, I think is a good idea,” Palmer said.

Pierson, Farrer and Damavandi disagreed. 

“The only issue I have with it is they kind of become another middle man, because at the end of the day, somebody is going to call two of my favorite people,” Damavandi said, gesturing to Royal and Lt. Mike Treinen, “somebody is calling the cops.”

Farrer and Pierson were the only candidates to address the second part of the same question: raising the transient occupancy tax (TOT)—otherwise known as the hotel tax. This is a tax collected by the city for visitors staying in traditional hotels as well as short-term vacation rentals.

“I think actually, what would be a good idea, is if we collect all the transient occupancy tax that we’re owed. That, to me, could solve all this in a heartbeat,” Pierson said. 

On the other end, Farrer said, “Increasing the TOT creates a greater dependence on that revenue. I’m not sure if that’s something I want to see with the city,” and later mentioned short-term rentals, which is coming back to council at a future date.

When it came to addressing the homelessness situation in Malibu, the candidates offered their own experiences—including participating in the annual Homeless Connect days—but none were able to articulate concrete solutions to the issue other than working with Los Angeles County and working to deal with encampments in heavy brush areas.

Ulich recognized the peaceful campaigning season before the final question.

“In a world where people are so vitriol[ic] and mean, we are so lucky and blessed to have each and every one of you up here. It has been so refreshing to see the camaraderie and respect and it’s just been a joy to witness this,” she said.

To cap off the last forum of the season, candidates were joined by current City Council members Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, Skylar Peak and Mayor Rick Mullen for a round of karaoke to George M. Cohan’s seminal American march, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”