Since the decision to remove Commissioner Georgia Goldfarb from the Parks and Recreation Commission, Malibu officials and fellow commissioners have stepped up to provide her the opportunity to stay on board.
Goldfarb was appointed by Councilmember Mikke Pierson after he was elected to the City Council in November 2018.
While Goldfarb has been attending the City Council meetings and speaking during the public comments, asking to remain on the commission, Pierson went forward with the decision to remove Goldfarb from the commission.
In an email to The Malibu Times, Goldfarb was asked if she had tried to get in contact with Pierson. Goldfarb said she had received a phone message from Pierson, but has not responded.
“He left a message for me on 3.7 (March 7) to discuss something — I do not know what he wished to discuss — if I wished to,” Goldfarb said in the email. “It was Mikke’s [Pierson’s] decision. I have not had any discussion of this with the staff.”
When the item to remove Goldfarb was added to the City Council agenda on March 14, the item was rescheduled and finalized on March 25. Cayley Jenner was eventually appointed by Pierson to replace Goldfarb.
Then, during the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on April 19, Community Service Director Jesse Bobbett announced commissioner Judy Villablanca’s departure after six years on the commission.
In a phone interview with Villablanca on Wednesday, April 27, she said she decided to step down so Goldfarb could have her seat.
“I know most of the council members well and I know they’re all good people and it takes a commitment and a lot of time to be a city council member, so I’m grateful that they do that,” Villablanca said. “I’ve worked in many groups in my professional life as a physician, and if you individually get everything you want, I think you’re not serving the population right; you’re not there to represent yourself, you’re there to bring good ideas. You just need to represent the people that elected you and listen to what they want.”
Villablanca said within the community, there are different views of what people want and what their priorities are.
“I always say, if you make one group perfectly happy, you’re not doing your job, you sort of have to find a middle ground of what’s best for the community,” Villablanca said. “I just think for any political job, you have to try to focus on what’s best for the people you’re serving, or what you can.”
Villablanca said she tried to keep the decision mutual after dealing with issues such as the Woolsey Fire and then the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s just how government works, I don’t think we’re unique to that, but trying to keep the conversation calm and listen to others’ ideas. I think that’s the important thing,” Villablanca said. “We still have a lot of things to deal with to help with our fire preparedness that haven’t been done and it’s been four years.”
Villablanca said she has not reached out to Pierson to ask why he decided to remove Goldfarb.
“Georgia is actually a personal friend of mine and I think she’s terrific; she’s a smart lady and she’s got a lot of energy for these things, so I think she’ll continue to be terrific on Parks and Recreation,” Villablanca said. “When you’re giving up your position to someone who you think is great, that’s not hard.”
During the City Council meetings, Pierson stated he has been trying to get in contact with Goldfarb but said she has been unresponsive.
“I never heard back from Georgia and I get it, maybe she was upset with me,” Pierson said during the March 28 meeting. “We had a good conversation and I’m sorry you’re hurt, it was not my intention. I know my job is to put the team together that best reflects what I’m trying to do and that’s what I’m attempting to do here.”
During the City Council meeting on April 25, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein appointed Goldfarb to take the place of Villablanca on the commission.
“I thought Georgia’s departure was unfortunate,” Silverstein said. “For one thing, she lives in east Malibu and there’s no one else left on the commission at that point that’s from east Malibu, and even though we’re just one integrated city, it is a fact that we’re 20 miles long, people who live in different parts of the city have different interests, and I think all the voices ought to be represented. So I thought it was, frankly, unceremonious the way she was removed.”
Silverstein said he asked Villablanca if she would be interested in stepping down to offer the position to Goldfarb, and Villablanca agreed to do so.
“[I told Villablanca] ‘I won’t remove you, I won’t think the least bit different of you and I’m happy to have either one of you, but I would like to see Georgia be able to still be on [commission]’ and Judy said that made sense, and she said she was happy to do it,” Silverstein said. “I told [Georgia], ‘I’d like to keep you on if you wanna still be on’ and she clearly did. She was very upset about being removed, so that was the genesis of it.”
The next Park & Rec meeting will be held on May 17, in person at the Malibu City Hall Multipurpose Room.