I’ve been watching city councils come and go ever since we became a city in 1991. Typically, when the new council members are sworn in, people say nice things about the outgoing council, whether they mean it or not, and the new council members keep their initiation speeches brief and—typically—friendly. After all, why start by making enemies when you’re going to want their vote downstream on some issues? The golden rule is it still takes three votes to do anything. But that was the old way and now there seems to be a new way, something we’ve seen more of in Washington, D.C. and that now has apparently come to the local scene. This new way I can only describe as “confrontation politics.” Ever since the council election, Bruce Silverstein, the newly elected council member, has been on the attack, posting messages on all the digital outlets, including Nextdoor and Facebook, attacking various people—the city attorney, the city manager, the city staff and The Malibu Times, among others. Apparently, there is no such thing as disagreeing with Bruce—you’re either with him or you’re corrupt. I was curious to see what was going to happen and tuned in to the council meeting to actually watch the proceedings (something I generally avoid). I must admit that Bruce didn’t disappoint. After a few minutes of pleasantries, thanking his supporters, he immediately launched into an attack repeating his previous charges and threatening all that he didn’t intend to back down and that he found corruption in the house of Malibu (not his exact words but the intent was clear) and he wouldn’t rest until this corruption (sounding much like Elmer Gantry talking about sin) was eliminated. The others on the council sat stone faced. The moment of truth came a bit later. There comes a moment when the new council has to elect a mayor pro tem and, in the past—with one exception—the Malibu practice has been to elect the highest vote-getter in the election to be the next mayor pro tem. Bruce Silverstein was the highest vote getter in the election. There is nothing in law that requires this, but it’s a practice to maintain collegiality that we as a city have followed, but that apparently was the old way. After several interchanges between Mikke Pierson and Bruce Silverstein, the new council majority passed on Silverstein and nominated Steve Uhring to be mayor pro tem and, by a 3 to 2 vote, voted him in, which put Uhring into a bit of a dilemma. First, he had to vote against himself and also he had run with Silverstein, kind of as a slate. He clearly was uncomfortable being thrust into the pro tem position, so he simply declined to take it. He made a last attempt to get the others to go along with Silverstein as the pro tem but they didn’t budge. They then nominated and elected Paul Gisanti to be mayor pro tem, again in a 3-2 vote. In the course of all this, a few things became apparent. First, that there is going to be on ongoing battle on this council the likes of which we have never seen before in the almost 30-year history of this city. It’s clear the three—Mikke Pierson, Karen Farrer and Paul Grisanti—don’t trust Bruce Silverstein, or at least reject his aggressive attack politics. For our part, we will try and be objective but it’s not easy when you’ve been attacked and someone is trying to demean you, or I guess Bruce might say, defang me. After the meeting, when our reporter called Bruce Silverstein for an interview, he sent us an email response that said:
“As for your request for an interview, my public comments speak for themselves, and I have no further comment at this time.
“I also am waiting to see how the Malibu Times goes about reporting on this matter and the other matters respecting the city before I determine whether to provide interviews in the future.”
To that comment, I have to add my response. Bruce, you seem to be under the impression that we need your permission or cooperation to cover you. Other council members from time to time have thought the same thing. It doesn’t work. We’re going to cover the council and you, whether you want it or not. If you don’t want to talk to us, then just don’t talk to us. One last thing: I just received a copy of the affidavit by Jefferson Wagner that you alluded to as proof of corruption in the Malibu City Council. As I read it, it kind of puts me in mind of the affidavits that Trump’s team kept producing to prove election corruption, more anecdotal than evidentiary, but I’m willing to listen if you can make the case. Although I doubt that the other members of the city council are going to let you form your own little HUAC committee (House Un-American Activities Committee) to conduct investigations.