Letter to The Editor: Respect and proper decorum must return to Malibu council meetings

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Letter to the Editor: The Malibu Times

The City Council meeting on May 13 extended past midnight as we were dealing with an appeal of a Planning Commission matter often referred to as the Malibu Inn. The matter before us at that meeting is NOT the subject of this letter. Rather, the decorum during that meeting by members of the council and the public is the subject of this letter.

The city’s official standard for meetings and interacting with the public and the staff is longstanding and has been diligently adhered to until recent times. The City Council updated this standard in its 1998 Resolution 98-083 with the title,  “… Rules of Procedure and Decorum for the Conduct of City Council Meetings…”.  This is part of the policies dating back to 1991 that the council is supposed to operate under. This resolution also applies to city commissions, including the Planning Commission. (Section III A)

The standard for Decorum in Section I-A is: 

“Members of the City Council shall maintain a polite respectful and courteous manner when addressing one another, the City staff, and members of the public during Council meetings.”

In Section IV-A,  Rules for the Public states: “Members of the audience shall not engage in disorderly, or boisterous conduct, including clapping, whistling, stamping of feet or other acts which disturb, disrupt, impede or otherwise disturb the orderly conduct of the City Council meeting.” I would add this is typically the standard for all government meetings. The cheering and clapping are especially of concern as they likely intimidate others with possibly counter positions from stating their positions and are therefore an impediment to their free speech.  

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the presiding officer, usually the mayor, to maintain the order and decorum of the meetings. (Section I B).  

The council meeting of the 13th did not even come close to adhering to these standards.

First, there was public, verbal abuse of city planning staff by one or more members of the council and by the members of the public during their public comments and during a break. 

Furthermore, there was applause and verbal comments from the audience on repeated occasions. 

Unfortunately, the presiding officer did not rise to the occasion to maintain order and to follow the decorum requirements including being respectful to the city staff and protecting them from abuse.  

This is clearly not acceptable.  

Every councilmember and every commissioner has a responsibility to adhere to this requirement for decorum and respect for city staff and the public. I for one, intend to do all I can to ensure compliance with this long-standing requirement.

Doug Stewart

Mayor Pro Tem