It is often difficult to know precisely what the results of an election mean because there are so many different reasons why people vote the way they do. First and foremost, Doug Stewart and Marianne Riggins were elected because they are both decent, caring, competent people who want to make Malibu a better place. They ran positive campaigns, made themselves accessible to the community, and have already served our City in different ways.
There were also other factors at play. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the local election for City Council was partially a referendum on civility—something the majority of people in Malibu are hungering for and which has been in short supply in some quarters these past couple of years.
I don’t think any one issue played the dominant role in this campaign, nor do I believe that our mission statement was in any way rejected by the voters. From what I could gather from the campaign materials I saw, all the candidates should be congratulated on running a clean campaign addressing what they wanted to do for Malibu, not demonizing their opponents. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of a dozen or so people on Nextdoor who tried to falsely accuse Doug of being a developer and Marianne of malfeasance.
I do not share the conclusion that this was an especially close election between the “slow growth” group and the “more pro-development” group, and that there was no mandate. Doug and Marianne and most of those who supported them are not remotely pro-development. Nor was this a close election. Doug, as of this writing (probably the final tally), had 2,206 votes, and he and Marianne had roughly 48 percent of the vote with six names on the ballot. Their next two closest opponents had a combined vote total of 37 percent.
In April of 2014 Laura Rosenthal finished in first place with 1,561 votes, and in the Presidential election of 2020 which generated a considerably larger voter turnout, Bruce Silverstein garnered 2,414 votes, not materially more than Doug got in an off year election.
Just as people on the national scene are tired of Trump’s name calling (even those who approve of his policies), most of us in Malibu are also tired of the incessant personal attacks frequently expressed on Nextdoor.
A small minority of people dominate Nextdoor on occasion, but they do not begin to represent most of the people who live here and wish to use Nextdoor as it was intended—for neighbor to help neighbor. We have had enough of the name calling, false accusations without evidence, the constant questioning of people’s motivation simply because they might have a different opinion, and the endless trashing of virtually all the people whom we elected over past years—people who tried their level best to serve Malibu.
I believe that all this negativity came back to hurt the very candidates a small band of supporters were trying to help. Their attacks were counterproductive. Hans Laetz is correct when he says that Nextdoor, as used by some, lost. It is no coincidence that Doug, who ran on a “kinder” and “safer” platform, got by far the most votes, so civility did indeed win out.
Bruce Silverstein recently offered to “bury the hatchet” and has committed to working cooperatively with his fellow members of the Council, and his supporters on Nextdoor have been virtually silent on Nextdoor since the election. This should all be welcome news to the vast majority of Malibuites who simply want a return to civility and a sense of community.
Burt Ross, Malibu