In Washington, DC, a letter from Malibu’s mayor was seized upon by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the butt of a joke—one that has caused a major controversy back here in Malibu.
Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson signed a letter that was part of a campaign by League of California Cities to congressional leadership asking for $500 billion in coronavirus stimulus money for local services. Much of the letter was a generic ask on behalf of state and local governments in general. However, the letter was modified to also mention some “critical” projects specific to Malibu that some may not view as strictly essential—like an all-electric vehicle fleet and solar energy projects.
And that was red meat for McConnell and the commentators at Fox News.
Speaking on the senate floor on Aug. 5, McConnell said, “Yesterday, I received an urgent letter from the city of Malibu, California, and—I promise I am not making this up—they asked congress for hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments because they have had to delay their conversion to an all-electric city car fleet. I guess that’s an emergency in Malibu: When they can’t keep buying brand-new electric cars as quickly as they’d like.”
Fox reported the letter was also sent to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
McConnell left out other essential services that have been cut back in Malibu and were also included in the mayor’s letter—things like services for fire victims and fire prevention programs.
McConnell later tweeted, “Our country is facing bigger problems than whether Malibu gets to upgrade its street sweepers. Struggling families need help now. Democratic leaders must stop blocking aid to Americans over their unrelated left-wing wish list.”
The McConnell story was only reported directly by Fox News, but was picked up by other news outlets.
Fox News incorrectly reported the letter was signed by the Malibu City Council and City Manager Reva Feldman; it was not signed by any of them—the only signature was Pierson’s.
The reaction in Malibu was swift—social media lit up with residents wondering if city council had discussed the letter before it went out. But a lot of residents thought the letter was fine and had no problem with what it said.
KBUU News reported they could not find any mention of such a comment letter on any city council agenda. A city council policy, as reported by KBUU, does not allow individual city council members or the rotating mayor to speak for the city on policy matters without the request first being reviewed by the city manager and voted on by city council.
Feldman clarified at last week’s business roundtable Zoom meeting that the letter was written by Pierson and not her.
Although Pierson did not respond to The Malibu Times’ request for comment, he made a statement at Monday night’s city council meeting about the letter, saying that McConnell’s statements were “a gross mischaracterization—or complete lie.”
“At no time did I even ask for money for Malibu,” Pierson said. “All I did was advocate for small cities.” Part of that advocacy, according to Pierson, was pointing out the many programs that had to be put on hold.
As for the fact the letter was sent out without consulting other council members or city staff, Pierson said time was of the essence.
“There was an urgency on it, or normally I would have waited,” Pierson said.
Hans Laetz contributed to this report.