In preparation for this November’s city council election, The Malibu Times will be sitting down with all five candidates vying for one of two open seats.
The order for each interview has been determined by a blind drawing, with candidate Mikke Pierson picked to go second.
This is an abridged version of a much longer Q&A. We encourage our readers to read the text, in full, here.
Tell me about your history in Malibu. What from your past prepares you to take on this role?
My family’s been in Malibu since the 1950s. I would say a number of things prepare me for this role. Certainly, being a public works commissioner years ago and being a planning commissioner for the last six-and-a-half or seven years has been incredible training, and has really opened my eyes to the city. Plus, what I do for a living has been incredible training.
I am a business coach, which means I help people define and achieve their goals. I teach leadership. I teach public speaking. I teach all the skills of business.
I’ve worked with large organizations, I’ve worked with complex financials, so none of this is new to me.
My life’s mission is to give back and help people, and I’m very aware of that and I have been for a long time. And all of that feeds into the reason I’ve decided to run for city council. I was looking around for people I thought would be great to do it, and realized at some point, I had to look in the mirror.
How valuable do you feel it will be to have a planning commissioner on council?
Oh, it’s essential. It’s essential.
Land use issues are not black and white. There’s a lot of gray in the codes, and the interpretation of the codes, and the words of the codes and all of that. So, being the only planning commissioner on city council? I think that’s meaningful. I think that’s important.
I know now that there are three city council members that call me from time to time and talk about land use issues coming to them. So, I know I’m providing value there already.
Another candidate who’s running, Jim Palmer, is also a small business owner, a lifelong resident, a commissioner, he says that he’s a proponent of district separation, regulating vacation rentals, environmental city policies and wants to improve safety on PCH. So, what would you say sets you apart from him as a candidate?
Well, first of all, I’ve known Jim, I don’t know, 30 years? I think Jim’s great. What sets us apart, really, is my experience. I’ve been in the trenches with the city for years. I, once again, I’m the one candidate that knows absolutely everyone involved, whether it’s law enforcement, on the city, other politicians. I’ve been in the mix and I’ve learned a lot and it takes a while, you don’t learn it overnight. I think we see that sometimes with new candidates who are on the city council. There’s a real period of figuring it out—it’s not automatic. I have a huge advantage there, and I think, I think that means something. I think our city wants somebody to hit the ground and lead it forward successfully.
I have something else no one else has, too: I have a track record. Anyone can look back at my decisions, and I’m open and accountable to all of them, and I welcome people to do that. So, I think that’s a big differentiator, of me over all the other candidates.
Your website also says you’re a strong supporter of an independent Malibu school district. In what ways have you worked to support creating an independent district so far, and how do you plan to continue that if you’re on council?
I have not been involved with AMPS, that’s true. I’ve been doing other things to support the city. Me, my kids, we’ve all been through the school system, donated to The Shark Fund, done everything we can as a parent. I’ve worked in classrooms for many years.
With that said, I know everyone involved in the school district separation. I’ve got to meet them, I’ve gotten downloads from everyone from, you know, Craig Foster to even Karen herself. I think it’s fantastic what they’ve all done. I’m really appreciative, and I think I can add on with my planning commissioner skills on when that separation happens and things change, it’s actually going to be pretty important to do it right, and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when you do a big project like that. So, I think I can really add to it there, whereas none of the other candidates really have that experience.
Public safety is listed as the top issue on your campaign website and you provide nine different suggestions for improvements. How do you plan to prioritize what you would tackle first?
The first thing I want to do on public safety, really involves PCH. Because, like many residents, I’m completely overwhelmed by how hard the traffic’s gotten. So the first thing I want to do is meet with the people at Caltrans who oversee Malibu. I want to know who they are, because I know there’s been a change, I want to know their process, and I want them to know me. I think one of my strengths in business is I’m really good at relationships, and forming meaningful relationships. And working with Caltrans, I have no illusion it’s going to be easy. It’s going to take an ongoing, solid relationship and I can’t wait to get that started.
Also, the PCH Task Force, the four agencies that are there, from Santa Monica PD, LAPD, the Highway Patrol, and of course our sheriffs, I know about half of them now, so I definitely want to work with them. I want to work with our VOPs. I think, I think all that’s important. I read through the PCH safety study. It’s long, it’s going to take perseverance. And that’s part of my personality. I like to put myself in the middle of the most difficult places possible, because I think I have a good ability to move things forward successfully.
What do you think is the No. 1 issue facing Malibu today and how would you plan to tackle it?
If you have to ask for one, it’s people’s feeling of safety: safety on the highway, safety from fire. For some people, it’s safety from the homeless situation. It’s safety from what’s happening in their neighborhoods with rehabs, short-term rentals; so, what I hear is a lot of people afraid for the Malibu way of life, for their lifestyle, for the enjoyment of their property and their city. So, that’s how I look at my No. 1 area—and I’ve already described PCH.
MRCA, we all know, is going to be a difficult task. Once again, I like being in the middle of difficult things. I look forward to tackling it, under no illusion it’s going to be easy. I think we just have to look at what the planning commission’s been through there and we know what the city council’s going through—it’s not going to be easy.
Neighborhood character: Once again, I think when the city was formed, they took a long time to really try and have codes reflect what the city was meant to be, but I think after all these years, since 1991, it could use a few tweaks. There’s some gray areas and great examples right now are where neighborhoods get really upset about a large home among smaller homes, but the home fits the code, but no one ever anticipated they’d build a monstrous home next to a smaller home. Things like that, I think we need to pay attention to. And I think we should adjust our codes to reflect that and not make it such a contentious issue, but one that’s handled better by the city—better than it is right now.