The City Council’s Business and Finance Subcommittee voted to turn down a $24,000 grant from Los Angeles County earmarked to create a new economic plan for the city.
“I think it’s really a shame that the finance committee is turning away free dollars,” said Mark Ball, chairman of the Malibu City Business Roundtable. “Here we have the county offering a no-strings-attached grant. I don’t know why anybody would avoid good planning for the long-term future.”
The local business community has been pushing for a solid economic plan for the past few years. The council and local businesses agreed to create a local business plan for Malibu. It was put in the budget in 1997. At that time, the City Council agreed to put up one-third of the money ($8,000) and the business community would put up the remaining $16,000.
Last year, the business community failed to raise its part of the money. While trying to raise the $16,000 earlier this year, someone in the business community noticed there was county money available for that type of project. Peacock applied to the county and the grant was approved.
Last week, when the grant issue came up at the meeting of the Business and Finance Subcommittee, made up of councilmembers Walt Keller and Mayor Joan House, they voted it down. “I didn’t see the need for the study,” said Keller. “We’re doing what we can. We know what we want to allow for development.”
Keller pointed out that a similar study was conducted in 1993, under Malibu’s General Plan. “It presented various scenarios based on various growth plans,” Keller said. In regards to economic planning, Keller said “I’m not sure I really see the need for more than what’s involved in our regular process.”
Ball said, since Malibu’s business community funds one-third of the city’s budget, mostly through sales and bed taxes, there is a need for a current study. “The dynamics of the Malibu community have changed over the last five years,” said Ball. “Nothing is static. We do have needs in Malibu that must be met. I think what you have is, both Walt and Joan are opposed to any economic plan. As for their reasons, I don’t know.”
Creating an economic plan raises the issue of development. Keller said that’s an item that’s low on the community’s agenda. “Most people don’t see the need for business,” Keller said. Keller cites the recent closing of Malibu’s Crown Books as proof that Malibu can’t support the businesses that are here. He said the fact that businesses are hurting due to delays on Pacific Coast Highway proves that businesses primarily serve tourists. “If they were serving the residents, there wouldn’t be that much of a fall off,” Keller said.
Ball said local businesses would be hard pressed to come up with the money this year with the drop in revenues caused by post-storm road problems on PCH. “I’m still hopeful that there will be a change of heart,” he said. “Because I think the City Council needs to take a look at the long-term financial future of both the city and the Malibu business community.”
Although the subcommittee voted against the grant, the entire council must decide its fate. Finance Director Bill Thomas said it will not likely appear on a council agenda until late September.