Another controversial Malibu campaign comes to an end

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Ozzie Silna

Measure M supporters say opponents led a dishonest campaign.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer and Kim Zanti/Special to The Malibu Times

Measure M has been defeated, and another chapter in the Malibu Bay Company saga is complete. Measure M opponents waiting at Granita restaurant in Malibu erupted into cheers upon learning the elections results.

Measure M opponent Rich Fox said, “The City Council said the people of Malibu are smart. Obviously they are. I am so proud to be a citizen of Malibu.”

“I am glad to see the people looked at what the deal had.” Fox continued. “And they didn’t settle for a bad deal.”

The mood was starkly different at Casa Escobar restaurant where Measure M supporters gathered Tuesday evening. People were shocked and saddened, and they immediately left the restaurant, shaking their heads.

Judy Newman Weedman, a 30-year resident, said, “I’m shocked and in total disbelief. I worry for the well being of this community, what the outcome will bring. We had a vision that’s been a very wonderful vision-to keep our health and well being. Now that’s in jeopardy.”

The campaign was not unlike most elections in the city’s history, marked by controversy and accusations of dishonesty and unethical practices coming from both sides.

“The opposition misrepresented the facts,” Councilmember Andy Stern said. “It’s hard to counter emotion with fact.”

The leaders of the losing camp say a dishonest campaign is exactly the reason why their opponents were able to win. They say the opposition, led by Malibu Community Action Network (CAN) and Planning Commissioner Richard Carrigan, worked hard to confuse the voters so it became something they would not support.

Carrigan has a different viewpoint on why the measure lost.

“We were able to win this because the information worked its way into the marketplace, and because the community became very concerned and involved,” he said.

“The city presented an agreement that was half-baked and had illusionary benefits,” he continued. “They should have been better prepared with people with land-use knowledge to make the deal.”

Councilmember Joan House, a supporter, said, “Having 12 properties and a huge development agreement required a lot of information and a lot of study, and the complexity itself was a negative.”

Councilmember Sharon Barovksy said, “It’s been a difficult campaign. It’s easier to vote no than yes on complicated issues.”

Opponents say the complication is the exact reason the measure was defeated.

Tami Clark, a Measure M opponent, is listed as publisher of the Malibu Tribune a new bi-weekly newspaper, which encouraged voters to turn down the MBC agreement.

“This shows how convoluted for sure this [agreement] was, and it confused the hell out of people,” Clark said.

In their campaign, Measure M opponents said the agreement allowed for more development than if MBC developed its properties individually. Also, they said, the benefits offered to the city were not good enough, and some of them might never happen. The proponents said these were all lies.

Just five days before the election, CAN released Malibu Tribune, an eight-page publication. It contained numerous written pieces, charts, diagrams and pictures addressing CAN’s various concerns about Measure M. Although CAN leaders say this issue is the first of what is a new bi-weekly publication, several of the measure M proponents called it nothing more than a political mailer in disguise, and an illegal one since it was not documented with a political committee identification number.

In response to the newspaper, Lloyd Ahern, a leader of pro-Measure M group Yes on Malibu, released a large flyer that called the Malibu Tribune a hit-piece in disguise. He added that the opponents to the measure were mostly people who “have had nuisance litigation against the city and have supported the oppressive Coastal Commission legislation upon Malibu.”

In response to Ahern’s flyer, CAN member Ozzie Silna said, “There are a few people who are deceptive in their portrayal of our side and I find it unacceptable to speak with them in the future.”

As M opponents continued to celebrate, campaign organizers in support of the measure said they were very grateful for all the hard work that went into the campaign.

M supporter Georgianna McBurney said to disappointed supporters leaving Casa Escobar, “You all did a great job, don’t be bitter.”