Editor's note: This column was written on Tuesday, March 3.
It’s Super Tuesday and Democrats all over America are having an angst attack. My son Tony, Karen and I all agree that our principal desire is to get “that man” out of the White House before he totally destroys this nation. Sadly, that’s where consensus ends. I suspect that we all may have ended up voting for different candidates and for totally different reasons. Normally, I believe I can handicap political races but I must confess that on this one so far, I haven’t got a clue. It’s also so volatile. Last week, Joe Biden was a has-been, an old, tired, washed-up politician who took one too many curtain calls. This week, he’s the comeback kid. Tomorrow, we’ll write the next chapter and I’m guessing Hunter Biden will probably have to lawyer up.
This week, we’re running the second in our series, the saga of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and its satellite, the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority. I call it a satellite because Joe Edmiston is the top guy in both organizations, which may give you a hint that they don’t exactly deal with each other at arms’ length. I can’t quite figure out what the official legal relationship is between the SMMC (a state agency) and the MRCA (a joint powers local authority) but I come from that school of politics that says whomever has control of the money calls the shots and if there is one thing I know for sure, Joe Edmiston is an absolute genius at getting money and dispensing patronage. Of course, no one calls it patronage anymore; now, they call it awarding study contracts, or environmental reports, or university grants or whatever, but it’s the way you fund your network of supporters to do what you can’t do as a state agency, and that is lobby the electorate. This week is about Joe Edmiston’s plan for Malibu Bluffs Park. Part of Bluffs Park is owned by the city and has the ballfields. The rest of Bluffs Park—some 80-plus acres—is SMMC/MRCA property and Joe wants to build campsites on the westernmost portion. I must confess that I can’t really blame Joe Edmiston for a good part of this. He and the city had a five-year swap deal where, if everything went OK, the city would have gotten the 80-plus acres in the middle of the city of Malibu and Joe Edmiston would have gotten the lightly used, 532-acre Charmlee Park. After five years, it wasn’t Joe Edmiston that walked away from the deal, it was the City of Malibu. Despite a small fortune spent on planning and taking public comment on the Bluffs Park site, for things like a possible community center, or a pool or additional ball fields, the city just packed it in and walked on one of its dumbest ever decisions. Apparently, the only two sports our city council cares about are surfing and skateboarding. Joe Edmiston, of course, never one to let an opportunity pass, decided what we need for part of that 80-plus acres of rough open space was a campgrounds which, of course, scares the heck out of the Malibu locals—particularly those on Malibu Road who have been burned out a few times in the past. Joe Edmiston’s people say they can handle it, so I suggest you read our story and make your own judgment.
In today’s letters to the editor, there is a letter from former Planning Commissioner Kraig Hill taking me to task for what he described as my “armchair whinging” of what the commission did in connection with the very hot issue of “Neighborhood standards,” which effectively would have downzoned much of Malibu by at least 25 percent. As many of you may remember, about 300-plus Malibu citizens showed up at City Hall council chambers to let the planning commission know what they thought of the proposed changes, which would have had a severe financial impact on many of the homes in Malibu, particularly the older homes. I was there at most of that meeting and I heard a procession of angry villagers go to the podium to berate the planning commission. I haven’t seen that many angry villagers in one place since the last few minutes of the movie “Young Frankenstein.” Kraig Hill seems to be of the opinion that the planning commission was anything but “tone deaf,” as I had charged, and that 95 percent of the people “walked out of the meeting with all of their concerns addressed.” Apparently, I must have gone to the wrong meeting because my impression was the 95 percent of the audience walked out believing the planning commission should be crucified. Well, I guess we can say that reasonable men can differ.
Our LA County sheriff and his entire department can’t seem to get themselves out of trouble. The latest is that some eight deputies who were at the scene of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site took some pictures of the site and the remains with their cameras and were showing the pictures around. Tonight, Sheriff Alex Villanueva is in Calabasas meeting with concerned citizens to try to calm the situation. I think one of the principal problems he faces is that he takes advice from a small group of people, many of whom worked on his campaign, and they don’t seem to have any sense when they are dragging him into trouble, and many seem to have their own agendas. I’ve heard that he said he didn’t want our city manager Reva Feldman to be involved in the group helping to select the next Lost Hills captain. Frankly, I doubt that the sheriff knows her more than casually, so it’s clear that someone close to him who doesn’t like Reva Feldman gave him that advice. Someone has created a problem for him that he didn’t have to have. I can only imagine that, at best, his relationship with Malibu is now very strained.