Lance Simmens Headshot.jpg

Lance Simmens

In preparation for this November’s city council election, The Malibu Times will be sitting down with all five candidates vying for one of two open seats.

The order for each interview has been determined by a blind drawing, with candidate Lance Simmens picked to go second.

This is an abridged version of a much longer Q&A, which will be posted with the online version of the story. We encourage our readers to read the text, in full, here.


What would you say is the theme of your campaign?

The theme of my campaign is embodied in its slogan, which is “principles over politics.” 

We are at a juncture right now where the anxiety in the public at large is bigger than any I’ve witnessed in my 65 years. What in effect it has done, is it has diminished, if not erased, any faith and confidence that people have in their leaders, in their institutions and, if anything, I am an institutionalist. I’m trying to paint the broad picture of where we are right now and why what is required more than anything else is civility and the ability to compromise.

Have you witnessed, do you think, a lack of civility among either current council members or your fellow candidates?

Oh no, not amongst the fellow candidates. I’ve been around a lot of campaigns in my life and this has been the most civil. This is a textbook example of civility.

Last week, I was in a six-plus-hour marathon meeting on short-term rentals, where the council basically broke down, 3-2. Now, were they civil? Yeah. I mean, no harsh words were tossed around, but there was definitely a demarcation, you know, splitting the council. Here, we had a full-blown presentation—very intricate, detailed proposal—only to say, “Well, maybe we can’t even do this.” That seems to be backwards to me. Now, is that a lack of civility? No, that’s probably more just a lack of communication, but that’s a serious problem, too. 

Can you tell me about your history in Malibu and what from your past prepares you to take on this role?

I’ve been here three years and, as I said, I wish I had been here all my life. 

I mean, this is just an absolute dream come true to be able to be part of this community. And as I’ve already said, for 40 years, I worked in senior level, very high level, public policy, political and government positions. 

I worked for Bill Clinton for eight years. I worked for the United States Senate Budget Committee for six years and that was during the ‘80s. I was obviously working on the Democratic side, so we were fighting the Reagan supply-side Revolution. I worked for the United States Conference of Mayors for six years, doing urban policy for America’s cities. I’ve worked for two governors. It’s been a fantastic experience for me to be in the inner workings, and to see where things work and where they don’t work. And to be a senior advisor to a senator, a governor, a mayor, a vice president, a president, is really heavy stuff. So, that’s me in a nutshell. I’m dedicated to it. 

How do you think your experience and national politics would inform your governance over a town as small as Malibu?

Here in City Hall, it would be the relationships which you develop, not only with county governments and state governments, but also with the different agencies, the different departments. I’ve had extensive experience in both of those. 

In 1993, I was asked by Vice President Al Gore to set up an Office of Sustainable Development in the U.S. Department of Commerce in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And part of what our office did was we’d go to different communities. We would convene all these stakeholders together and we would try to draw consensus on what it is that distinguished that community from all others, and what it is that makes it a long-term sustainable community. And then, once we identified those indicators of sustainability, we only would focus on those where you could actually measure. They used that as a report card, more or less, for, “Is this community achieving a greater quality of life?” That’s something I want to do here. 

I spoke with Craig George, our sustainability director, about this idea, he said, “Oh, I would support that 100 percent. It’s a great idea.” It’s a way to get the community involved. 

Here in town, you were president of the Adamson House Board and president of the Malibu Democrats. How did those experiences prepare you to be a city council member here in Malibu?

The Adamson House is an incredible gem. I was president there for nearly a year and one of the things I really wanted to do was, I wanted to make it big time. I wanted to make it like our Hearst Castle, you know. So, it gave me a really good introduction to the history of the Rindges and the ranch, and the railroad that they built, and the highway, and it gave me a real appreciation of PCH, for sure, because that history goes back to the 1920s. And so, I think that gave me a real good appreciation for the community itself. 

And then, the Malibu Democratic Club gave me a real good appreciation for the political milieu or tenor of the town. I’m still vice president of the Malibu Democratic Club. It’s just another way of reaching out to those in the community who have a real sense of community and want to do things that are important for the betterment of the whole place.

Given that you moved to Malibu only three years ago, do you feel you have the name recognition required to win an election?

I think I’ve got name recognition, just because of some of the things I’ve done in the community. Whether it’s enough to pull off a win, I don’t know. I’ve got a strategy that I hope will at least draw attention to me and my history and my dedication. Whether it’s enough? There are a number of people who have said, “Run, and if you don’t make it you will have established yourself and get on a commission and run again.” 

If it doesn’t happen, I’m living in Malibu. Who can complain? So, I think the answer to your question is, I just don’t know.  

Looking at your campaign website, I could not find any mention of Malibu schools, although all of your fellow candidates list education as a key campaign issue. Have you taken a stance on school separation, and why have you chosen to not highlight it as part of your campaign? 

I have learned and developed over the past several weeks, through these candidates forums, to get a real appreciation for what the issues are, so, I’m learning. I have  come out forcefully for the bond. I believe we should have PCB-free schools, for sure. It’s only fair to the teachers, it’s only fair to the students. I support us breaking away from Santa Monica; I think we ought to have local control over our own schools. And we ought not be tethered to a board or a district committee or whatever that probably has some very different priorities from what we have here. 

You also mention safety on PCH. And on your website, and again I’m quoting, you suggest, “securing additional weekend parking in commercial buildings downtown.” Can you flesh that idea out a little bit?

I have done some research and there are several buildings downtown who originally, before we became a city, had built into their lease agreements, or into their titles, that they would make available underground parking to the city on weekends, because it wasn’t being used, for free. How many parking spots, I asked, are we talking about here? And the number came up, like, approaching 500.

But that’s only one part of what is essentially a three-part program on congestion.

We ought to identify some land, off site, off the beach, construct some sort of parking arrangement, and institute a shuttle service to the beaches. And prohibit parking along those sections of PCH which are, you know, like, beyond Malibu Seafood—except to residents.

I believe we ought to put bike lanes on PCH.

And then, the third point is, I live down between Big Rock and Topanga on PCH and when it’s not stacked up, which is in the morning, in between those two lights, from Big Rock to Topanga, cars are going 70. I mean, they’re just flying. And we’ve got to have more enforcement.

What do you think the No. 1 issue facing Malibu today is, and how do you plan to tackle it?

I have not talked to one person who does not say, PCH safety is the No. 1 issue. I think you get unanimity amongst the candidates on that, as well. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I feel fairly confident that if you went out and took a poll of people on the street, that would be their No. 1 issue. It’s certainly my No. 1 issue. 

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