Malibu’s new mayor looks forward to serving the community

Malibu City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein brings rigorous analysis to the council, but explains others may not be accustomed to his way of decision making. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

Bruce Silverstein hopes to continue prioritizing Woolsey Fire rebuilds, and concentrating on public safety

Transparency, accountability and fairness. These are qualities that have been described by members of the community of new Malibu Mayor Bruce Lee Silverstein.

After serving two terms as mayor pro tem, Silverstein was sworn in as mayor on Dec. 13, 2022. 

Silverstein succeeds Paul Grisanti, who served two terms from April 2021 to December 2022.

The Malibu Times asked Silverstein how the City Council has changed since he joined in 2020.

“I think we did a much better job of considering what was being proposed and making independent decisions,” Silverstein said. 

Last year, speakers that shared their concerns during public comment were occasionally interrupted when it came to speaking negatively. Silverstein believes in allowing everyone to share their concerns without interruption. 

“The role of the mayor is twofold; it’s simply to run the City Council meetings, to be the chair of the meeting, and in that regard, I think the meetings could be run a little more smoothly than they have in the past,” Silverstein said. “In one respect, I felt that occasionally members of the public were cut off prematurely when they were making a comment, and I thought that this is fairly common in many cities. Sometimes when a person was going over their allotted time, they were considered to be a person that was liked by members of the council, they were given a little extra time to finish their statements whereas if they were making a statement that that wasn’t necessarily welcomed, they were cut off promptly when their time was up, and I want to make sure that everyone’s treated equally identical, as best we can. 

“You get your three minutes and it doesn’t matter what you have to say, you get to say what you want during your three minutes; it doesn’t matter whether what you said to the council or whether it was postitive or negative.”

As ceremonial mayor, and the city’s representative, Silverstein said he has the opportunity to meet with the Sheriff’s Department and Board of Supervisors.

Silverstein hopes to continue the effort of resolving unhoused individuals living in Malibu, prioritize Woolsey Fire rebuilds and concentrate on public safety. 

“We need to somehow expedite that process and we need to concentrate on safety. I think those are the big items, and of course there’s school separation,” Silverstein said. “I don’t think I’ll be part of [that], I suspect there’ll be two other council members who will lead that charge; they’ll be appointed next week. I don’t expect to be one of them, but I’ll be as supportive as I can at whatever it is they come up with.”

As for staffing, the city has had difficulties with retaining employees. Silverstein has seen the challenges with those who don’t live or near Malibu and hopes to provide alternative options. 

“I think the city has lost a number of employees whose absence is being felt by the various departments,” Silverstein said. “I’ve been told repeatedly whenever that’s happened that almost invariably the answer is the employees don’t live in, or in many cases near, Malibu. It’s very expensive to live and the vast majority of the time, the employees are leaving to go to work for a city that’s closer to their home.

“I had recommended, and I believe Steve Uhring and one or two others had supported, that we basically overpay our important employee positions to make sure that we attract good people and retain good people. I think that we are going to be looking into that, not just paying them fairly, but paying them more than what you would get in a neighboring city, so that we can better compete because of the distance and the expense.”

Many cities and jobs are providing opportunities to work from home. 

“I think that’s definitely being explored, throughout the workplace in general, letting people telecommute more,” Silverstein said. “Obviously, people need to be in the office, but no longer is it viewed as a nine-to-five, five days a week office job. People can work at home. I think that’s going to help us retain people if we find a way to, efficiently and competently, allow people to work from home.”

Silverstein also pushed the city to make Steve McClary the permanent city manager. The city also recently hired a consultant for the planning department and the building and safety department. 

In regards to returning to in-person meetings, the city will be addressing it this year. Silverstein knows residents and members of the council hope to return to in-person meetings. 

“I’m very much on the fence because the pandemic is not over, it is still dangerous and I know that many government bodies are meeting live now but just because others are doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, but I suspect we’re going go back live,” Silverstein said. “I understand that there are some wrinkles that need to be ironed out by the city staff to make that work doable.”

“There’s there’s no question that live meetings are preferable we had one live meeting over the course of the last two years and it was a very good meeting, it’s much better when you can see people’s faces and even see their body language, that can be done by Zoom and still hasn’t and for some reason hasn’t been permitted,” Silverstein said. “It escapes me why we do not let members in the public be seen on the Zoom screen. Many of those people have expressed a strong preference for it, even if we go back live, having the meetings hybrid so they can participate from their homes.”

In 2020, the City Council adopted an urgency ordinance enacting a temporary Restaurant Recovery Program to help local restaurants recover from the impacts of the pandemic. The ordinance allows local restaurants to get a permit to temporarily expand seating areas to adjacent common areas or sidewalks, while ensuring that physical distancing and other public health protocols are in place to control the spread of COVID-19. 

“I think it’s helped a lot of the local restaurants survive the pandemic,” Silverstein said. 

Members of the community have expressed their concerns about potentially losing the Malibu Farmers Market due to the Santa Monica College construction and have requested support from the city. In December 2022, the council approved the Legacy Park Agreement Waiver for Temporary Malibu Farmers’ Market Use. 

“The market itself is a community institution and it’s a gathering spot for members of the community and we have been working hard to try to find ways to accommodate them and keep them running despite the county’s lack of facilitating,” Silverstein said. “That’s [Malibu Farmers Market] an important part of the community.”

With new Councilmembers Marianne Riggins and Doug Stewart joining, Silverstein is looking forward to a new year. 

“I think that they both have different life experiences that they bring both professionally and I think they’re both very mature and thoughtful and I think that the council for the next two years comprised of the five people that are currently on it, is going to operate very smoothly and professionally,” Silverstein said. “We won’t necessarily all reach agreement on everything, but I believe that the discussions will be respectful and insightful and we will reach good decisions. We’ll have a good process and a good process is what gets good results.”

After experiencing an uncertain year when arriving to City Council in 2020, community members have expressed their support for Silverstein with the transparency, accountability, and fairness he brings to the council.

“I’m pleased that that’s been the perception of some people because I do strive for those ideals, I believe very much in democracy and not just at the voting booth, but in public discourse, something that some people don’t understand or agree with. I believe it’s important to look at every issue from different angles and have a discussion, even if the result of the discussion seems like it’s obvious before it begins,” Silverstein said. “Because it’s important for the public to see the reasons that things get done, not simply see that they get done, and that’s one thing I’ve been working hard on for the past two years. 

“I talk a lot which many may have noticed and sometimes people get frustrated with me for speaking as much as I do, but I think it’s important for the public to understand why we do what we do as much as it is for them to understand what we do. And I don’t believe there’s been enough attention paid to that in the past and, and I think more attention needs to paid to it lately and I think it’s a better result because of that.”