Outside consultant to oversee council election

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Consultant will be available to answer questions on campaign laws. During the weekend, the City Council conducted its first of two LCP workshops.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

With allegations of illegal actions being a regular occurrence during Malibu municipal election campaigns, the City Council voted on Monday to hire an outside consultant to help with the 2004 council election.

City Attorney Christi Hogin recommended Robert Stern (no relation to Councilmember Andy Stern) from the Center for Government Studies, which, according to its Web site, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity that studies and helps implement innovative approaches to improving social problems and the processes of self-government. Hogin said Stern is respected in the field of government ethics and campaign-finance reform.

Stern will conduct a workshop on campaign rules. He will then be available for candidates, campaign committees and other members of the public to answer any questions that may arise. He will also be available to hear complaints and make recommendations to the city on whether they are worth following up. In addition, Hogin said Stern would take a look at the city’s election ordinance to make sure it is up-to-date. She said representatives from the Fair Political Practices Commission will be invited to come down for a workshop on election laws. Stern is being hired at a cost of $250 per hour, with a cap of $10,000.

Stern attended Stanford Law School while Councilmember Jeff Jennings was on a teaching fellowship there. Jennings said he has only spoken with Stern once in the past 35 years, regarding a question he had on election law during one of his campaigns.

Apology made

Also at Monday night’s meeting, actor Daniel Stern apologized for any harm he may have caused for words he said about the city in an article that appeared in the Surfside News in which he criticized the city. Stern and his wife, Laure, are attempting to revoke a permit given to Sprint PCS for the installation of a wireless facility near their home. The permit was granted by the City Council

last month, with much of the equipment being placed underground, at the request of residents who were concerned about the project. But Stern, who did not attend the meeting, said he was of the understanding the equipment would be put on the telephone pole, because that is what the Planning Commission had approved last summer. Stern got a temporary restraining order that expires on Feb. 3. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for that day.

In addition, the council approved changes to the rules regarding the Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee. It increased the committee from 13 members to 15, and changed the method of selecting members to being a vote by the whole council. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Committee Member Redstar announced his resignation, although he said he supports the council’s action on changing the membership rules. The committee has had a great deal of problems lately, with accusations coming from different people. Redstar attributed the problems to differences of opinion on the direction the committee should be headed.

City’s LCP draft almost complete

On Saturday, the council conducted a workshop on the Local Coastal Program (LCP) draft. The council went through the first half of the LCP, and will complete the rest of it at another workshop on Feb. 7. Then, in the first week of March, the council will vote on the document. It is not certain what will happen with it after that.

The city plans to present it to the California Coastal Commission as an amendment to the LCP the commission drafted for the city. The city’s soon-to-be-completed draft contains many differences with the Coastal Commission’s, including a reduction in the amount of land designated as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHAs). The city has gone with a different system, the ESHA/non-ESHA method, called a tiered approach. ESHAs are given the highest priority with this system. After that, there are resource protection areas (RPAs), followed by everything else.

Although the meeting for the most part stayed to the task of dealing with specific issues in the rival LCP documents, at times politics crept in. Dennis Seider, whose Californians for Local Coastal Planning issued a brief in support of the city’s lawsuit this week, spoke for several minutes on the importance of the city being able to write

its own LCP. Also, Malibu

Community Action Network President Steve Uhring talked about how it is the City Council’s fault Malibu is in this situation. He said the council removed a perfectly good LCP in 2000 before it could go before the Coastal Commission. Others dispute whether that actually occurred. Uhring had provided what he said was proof to The Malibu Times that it did. The news staff is currently examining it.

Malibu entered the modern age at the meetings. Both meetings were shown on live television for the first time in city history. All future meetings will be aired live

as well.