Malibu’s just getting a new council, with three new members—Bruce Silverstein, Steve Uhring and Paul Grisanti—added to the two hold-overs, current mayor Mikke Pierson and former mayor Karen Farrer, with the new members being sworn in next month on Dec. 14, 2020. Typically, the period between the vote and the swearing in is usually quiet, with the new council members getting oriented on how the system runs, the personnel, the city budget, the legal dos and don’ts, the state laws that govern a city manager-type government, which we are, so they can do their jobs once they begin. That apparently was the old way. Now, in the new, post-Trumpian age, people come in with their guns blasting, announcing their intentions and immediately start firing at their enemies, both real and imagined. Silverstein led it off with attacks on City Attorney Christi Hogin and City Manager Reva Feldman, but that was not particularly surprising since that was part of his platform when he ran. But the fact remains, it takes three votes for the council to act, which means any council member who wants to do something has to be able to convince two others to join with him. I can see major fights brewing, expensive lawsuits on the horizon and lots of recriminations to come. Times have changed and employee harassment suits are expensive and to be taken seriously. Posting attacks on social media or NextDoor may be an easy way to avoid having reporters asking you uncomfortable questions, but not a particularly good way to convince colleagues, but maybe I’m just old fashioned. We’ll see.

 

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Our city businesses are obviously struggling with COVID-19, and many are feeling the pain. Planet Blue, a large and very successful woman’s retail store in the Malibu Country Mart, which started its business in Malibu, and grew over time to encompass several stores, has decided to close its Malibu doors, although it continues to operate in several other locations. It’s clear the face of retailing is changing with so many people now shopping online. Almost every shopping center in Malibu now has several empty stores. With COVID-19 numbers growing again, more counties turning purple and tougher rules from the governor on the horizon, we probably will see more casualties before it’s all over. There are others waiting to come into Malibu, but no one is going to move until we get on top of COVID or develop a vaccine. Still, real estate remains hot and people still want to move here, if they can afford the freight.

 

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The environmental movement to get rid of the Rindge Dam, which sits in Malibu Canyon a couple of miles up from the ocean, continues to move forward. The enviros want it because they say it will provide sand to the beaches and help bring back more steelhead trout. The locals are afraid of flooding when the rains finally come. The Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that handles dams, just signed off its report and from there it goes to congress. It’s something like a seven-year project, which is estimated to cost about $279 million, which means (this being a federal project) you simply just double the number, bringing it to $558 million or so, assuming it follows the usual additional costs that seem to happen in every major federal project. I suspect they have a tough hill to climb to get the money, the deficit being what it is these days. 

 

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We are waiting to see what happens in Washington, D.C. There’s Biden—the president-elect—in waiting. There’s Trump, the soon-to-be president-unelected—in waiting. Everything is kind of on  hold, not just for the inauguration but also for the U.S. Senate contests in Georgia. The Dems need both seats to get control or it’s a divided government, pretty much, for the next two years at least. I kind of have a feeling that Biden may have two totally different scenarios. The first and most probable scenario is that the Republicans keep control of the U.S. Senate and he has to sit down and horse trade with Mitch McConnell. Whatever the result, the left side of the Democratic party is not going to be happy. There are lots of things Biden can and will do just by executive order, but they are only good as long as he is in office. His preference, for sure, is for congress to pass legislation, but if they won’t, he’ll go the executive order way. Biden is going to certainly be harder on Russia and China and he may pick up a couple of Republican hawks along the way. The other alternative is that the Democrats take the two seats in Georgia and then Biden can write the program. Either way, Trump is not going away. Over 70-plus million Americans voted for him and if he can even hang onto half that base, he remains the most powerful Republican in the country. Trump is also considering starting a new network and he begins with 70-plus million voters and 83 million Twitter followers. When you consider that Fox is now the top network and they have 3.6 million primetime viewers, and Hannity’s show had 4.3 million viewers in Feb 2020, and Carlson slightly less at 4 million or so, Trump starting with his numbers could be huge in the media. That’s a virtual money machine, assuming, of course, he doesn’t end up in jail.

 

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Kudos to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Republican, in charge of elections in Georgia, who was attacked by both Republican senatorial candidates in Georgia about some fictitious ballot stuffing or such, and who had the temerity to stand his ground and say “No” to both that they were wrong and the election was clean. They weren’t the only ones; apparently, South Carolina Senator re-elect Lindsey Graham was slithering around asking about ballots which left a definite impression on Raffensperger and his staff that he might be suggesting they just lose some ballots. It takes guts, something that’s been in short supply in this election.

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