Pierson decision on commission appointee draws strong reaction

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City Councilmember Mikke Pierson recently decided to replace Georgia Goldfarb, M.D., his appointment to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. He had no comment to The Malibu Times other than saying he wanted to make a change. 

“I had a long talk with [Goldfarb], and I appreciate her,” he added. 

The town’s political activists and observers — particularly women — have weighed in on Pierson’s action, through letters to the editor and public comments at City Council. They have criticized the fact that he didn’t plan on replacing Goldfarb with another woman, using the case to illustrate how few commission appointees in Malibu are female.

“An older woman is being replaced by a younger man, in a city where male commissioners greatly outnumber female commissioners,” wrote Suzanne Guldimann, another Parks and Recreation commissioner. 

She pointed out that two commissions have no women at all — Planning and Public Works, and Public Safety has just one woman. City Council has never had more than two women. She called out Mayor Paul Grisanti and Pierson for not having any female appointees on any commission.

Jo Drummond wrote that only six out of 25 placements on city commissions are female and claimed that seniors are also underrepresented. She called the Planning and Public Works commissions “boys clubs.” 

A couple of letters to the editor also criticized the City Council for replacing Malibu’s female representative on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Board with a male last year.

Public comments claiming everything from misogyny to racism to anti-Semitism have been leveled at City Councilmembers.

However, it seems most likely that Pierson’s motivation for wanting to remove Goldfarb is political. 

The five-member Malibu City Council has been nothing if not contentious since Bruce Silverstein and Steve Uhring got elected in November 2020, with deep divisions of opinion between those two and the other three — Grisanti, Pierson and Karen Farrer. When it came time to elect a new mayor last month, it was Silverstein’s turn to hold the office in the council rotation, but Grisanti, Pierson and Farrer refused to vote for him, basically saying he wasn’t ready to represent Malibu to the world.

Grisanti was re-elected as mayor despite the normal protocol, with a mixed reaction from Malibu residents — some totally against having Silverstein as mayor, and some in favor of it. 

One of those speaking in favor of Silverstein getting the mayor’s job was Goldfarb, whose statement on the mayoral election was totally at odds with Pierson’s position.  

“I strongly urge you to follow protocol and vote for Silverstein as mayor and Uhring as mayor pro-tem, which has, to my knowledge, always been done,” Goldfarb said. “They’re eminently qualified and have been articulate and fair members of the council as well as representing the majority of voters in Malibu. It’s well past time to put conflictive personal differences behind us.”

In a phone interview, Goldfarb explained that she just wanted the city to follow its normal “precedent and tradition”: that whoever was next in the rotation to be mayor should serve. In this case it was Silverstein, but she said if it had been Grisanti’s turn, she would have supported him becoming mayor.

Goldfarb said Pierson called her two days after she made those public comments and said, in effect, that since their opinions had become divergent, and they no longer shared the same direction for Malibu, he was replacing her with a man that had children. 

“I didn’t ask what the divergence was,” Goldfarb said. “But we discussed all the ideas we still shared and issues we agreed upon, which included micro-grids, house hardening, the homeless, fire prevention and invasive plant removal. I also supported the release of the investigation, and so did Mikke. But he said he had a hard time supporting Silverstein for mayor.”

As a side note, Goldfarb said in her public comments that the protocol for rotating into the mayor and mayor pro-tem positions had “always” been followed by the city. 

However, that’s not true: On Aug. 27, 2012, Malibu City Councilmember Skylar Peak was not voted in as mayor pro-tem by the City Council, despite having received the most popular votes in the election. And it was for the same reason — a majority of the council didn’t think he was ready to represent Malibu to the world.

At the March 14 City Council meeting, Goldfarb spoke once again, stating she wanted to remain in her position. “I’ve not resigned and I wish to continue to serve,” she , noting that Pierson had been satisfied with her performance up until her comments at the Feb. 14 City Council meeting.

That meeting’s agenda item for Pierson to announce his new appointment to Parks & Rec Commission was skipped; however, TMT learned most likely Tim Ryan, who is active in AYSO, will be Pierson’s next choice for the volunteer position.