City council race to kick into high gear

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At least five candidate forums are scheduled for the month of March. The first round of financial statements from the 10 candidates is due March 4.

By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times

After a little more than a month of campaigning limited to neighborhood coffee sessions and other meet-and-greet type events, as well as some advertising, the Malibu City Council race will take a wider focus beginning next week with the start of candidate forums. As has been the case with every council race since the April election format began in 1992, the month of March will be when the campaign kicks into high gear, most likely remaining at that level until election day on April 13.

There are 10 candidates in this year’s competition for two seats, making the 2010 campaign the largest in more than a decade. The candidates are: Ed Gillespie, Harold Greene, Matthew Katz, Kofi, Lou La Monte, John Mazza, Laura Rosenthal, Steve Scheinkman, Mike Sidley and Jan Swift.

Several candidates have Web sites stating their viewpoints and have mentioned their visions for Malibu during individual or teamed neighborhood sessions. But the forums will give an opportunity for the candidates to get a little more specific in a format not necessarily on their terms. And the public will have an opportunity to see how the candidates’ opinions match up.

Topics expected to be covered during the candidate forums and during the city council campaign in general range from the septic system/sewer and other development issues, to the city’s relationships with state agencies and environmental groups (see sidebar A10).

The first forum will take place on March 4 at the Hughes Research Labs Auditorium, cohosted by the Malibu Chamber of Commerce and the Malibu Association of Realtors. According to the forum advertisement, both groups could endorse candidates “based on the results of the forum.”

Other scheduled forums include one sponsored by students at Malibu High School on March 10, the Point Dume Community Association (traditionally the most well-attended forum) on March 11, the Paradise Cove Homeowners Association on March 20 and the Point Dume Clubhouse on March 27. The Malibu Township Council is also expected to host a forum, but a date had not been set as of Tuesday evening.

For the first time since Malibu’s original city council election in 1990, there are no incumbents in the race. Mayor Sharon Barovsky and Councilmember Andy Stern are not eligible to defend their seats because of term limits. The two political allies are supporting Rosenthal and La Monte, who both serve on the Public Works Commission. The two candidates are also backed by several other current and former city council members from Malibu’s political group that has been a majority on the council since 2000.

Meanwhile, the traditional opponents of the city council majority, led by Steve Uhring and Ozzie Silna, are supporting Mazza, who currently serves as vice chair of the Planning Commission, and Scheinkman, a retired businessman who moved to Malibu in 2006.

The other candidates will be looking for support from various segments of the Malibu populace. Gillespie is the chair of the Planning Commission and has served as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Sidley is involved in education issues, as are Rosenthal and Scheinkman. Greene is a longtime head of the Native American Cultural Resources Advisory Committee. Gillespie, Sidley and Greene have called themselves “independent candidates.” Katz, Kofi and Swift are not widely known for their political activities in Malibu.

The public will get a better idea of where the support is coming from for the candidate’s on March 4 when the first round of financial statements is due at city hall. Financial contributions are limited to $250 per person. An individual who does not contribute to a candidate’s campaign can spend as much money as he or she wants to support the person as long as the candidate is not connected to what is called “independent expenditures.”

Topics expected to be covered at candidate forums and during the city council campaign include the following:

* The proposed ban on septic systems in the Civic Center and the surrounding area by the Regional Water Quality Control Board

* The temporary reduction of rent payment granted by the city to the owners of the Malibu Lumber Yard mall, and whether it was an unnecessary bailout or a much-needed action by the city to help a partner in need

* Legacy Park and how it was acquired by the city and what is planned for it

* Public school issues, including the city’s relationship with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the controversial field lighting at Malibu High School

* The creation of a viewshed ordinance

* Commercial development

* Malibu parks, including the recently approved Trancas Canyon Park, and the belief by some that more ball fields are needed in the city

* The city’s relationship with state agencies and environmental groups