Several years ago, when we changed the city council elections to November instead of holding them in the spring, the hope was that with so many more voters engaged in the election process, our turnouts would increase. In the past, city council elections generally had turnouts of 35-40 percent of registered Malibu voters casting ballots. But this year, with the council race coinciding with a presidential year — especially an election for a new president — we could easily double that turnout.
In theory it was a good idea, but the reality, in my perception, is very different. This presidential race of Trump vs. Clinton is so partisan, so dramatic, as much a reality show as an election, that it has practically sucked all of the oxygen out of the air, and it gets very difficult to get people to pay attention to the down ballot races, which includes the 17 ballot measures and Malibu City Council races. I suspect when voters are just overwhelmed with the task of voting, as many are now, it’s easiest to go with the familiar names they know and the old reliables. Fortunately for us, we have six candidates for the council who all seem to have the intellectual chops to sit on the council, which is frankly more than I could say for one of the candidates running for president of the United States.
Since so many of you will be voting by mail, we expect to be endorsing in the city council race either next week or the week after, and not wait until the last moment. That allows us a chance to see the new candidates in action and get some feedback on their campaigns.
I understand that the absentee ballots are in the mail, or perhaps even already delivered in some places.
One of the problems I always have with city council elections is that there are truly not many issues on the table. I don’t think there is anyone in Malibu that endorses rampant development nor can I ever remember anyone advocating it. Of course, what I might call normal expansion, you might call rampant development.
We’ve been a city since 1991 and are now 25 years old. I’ve been through so many city council elections and it’s always the same refrain about rampant development just around the corner. I can’t see that it’s happened but even though we have about the same population as we had 25 years ago — about 12-13,000 — things have changed, and, in some respects, changed radically. It’s obvious to all of us that traffic has increased and increased substantially. Since our resident population is about the same, it means that this traffic comes from Santa Monica and the Westside, the San Fernando Valley, the Conejo Valley, Oxnard and other parts of Ventura County. We may not be growing, but they are and it impacts us. Malibu is also a worldwide name, and we have become a major shopping destination with many high-end stores. Malibu is now one of those things you do when you visit LA.
There was a time when traffic all went toward Santa Monica, while now it seems to be equally as heavy going both ways. It’s also clear that a number of our intersections are failing. On weekends and during summertime, they simply can’t handle the volume of traffic. We all know about the parking problems on PCH and a lot of other places also.
The iPhone has changed the visitor patterns. It’s nice to say that everyone should have access to the beach — and they all should — but it’s easy to buy land, and the problem is protecting it and not letting it be destroyed. Maintenance is always expensive and there always seem to be acquisition dollars but when it comes to maintenance, rangers, security and clean up, there are never enough funds.
These are all things we should be talking about in a council election. I’d like to see the conversation broaden, but so far I’ve seen little sign of it.
But there is still time and there is still hope.