This Sunday, April 28, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., all of the Malibu Woolsey Fire heroes—who are listed on page A8 of this newspaper—are invited to come to the Malibu Farmers Market in the Civic Center area near the library and pick up their heroes certificate, Malibu Dolphin pin and more (which will be a surprise). There will be fun, food, friends, stories and heroic lies to be told as well as music. We’ll be there all day. The Operation Recovery tent will be set up near the entrance. Heroes can arrive at any time between those hours.
The Mueller Report is in and everyone is claiming victory, particularly our leader, who seemed to go from almost manic delight, claiming total victory, into sudden total anguish with a crashing plunge. Within a 24-hour period, he tweeted or retweeted 50 times and it feels like he’s hanging on by his fingernails. I can really feel for his paranoia that everyone is after him because—truly—everyone is after him. The most interesting part of the whole report is when reading it, you know it is imminently clear that Trump is his own worst enemy. If he would just stay quiet for a week or two and leave everything alone, his approval rating would probably go back up the five points he dropped in the latest poll. But, apparently, he can’t leave it alone and he’s going to spend the next two years jousting at windmills.
It’s beginning to feel like the entire world is losing it. Ukraine just handily elected a new president, whose most significant accomplishment for the office is that he’s a comedian who plays the president of Ukraine on Ukrainian television. Who next? Morgan Freeman or perhaps some late night TV hosts who look in the monitor and hear “Hail to the Chief”? You could almost give Trump credit for democratizing the presidency. Legions of people now believe, “If Trump could get elected, well then, why not me?”
Our newly elected LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the sheriff’s department seem to be going head-to-head with the County Board of Supervisors on just about everything. None of the board supported Villanueva, so I suspect he doesn’t feel he owes them anything. He’s already hired back a half dozen or so deputies who were fired under the previous sheriff, Jim McDonnell, and he’s also decided to move his offices out of downtown and into the eastside—much to the outrage of the Board of Supervisors. Even though the LA County Sheriff’s Department is a department of the county, which means its budget comes through the county, its leader is unique in that he was not appointed by the Board of Supervisors; he was elected directly by the people. Villanueva’s position appears to be: We are co-equals and I don’t answer to the Board of Supervisors, only the voters of Los Angeles County. How all this will impact the county budget for the 18,000 people who work for the sheriff’s department and manage the jails is far from clear. How it will affect contract cities like Malibu, no one knows because nothing like this has ever happened before. Meanwhile, the rank and file sheriff’s deputies seem to support the new sheriff, but what happens when they get to the bread and butter issues like funding pensions and overtime pay? Well, then it’s anybody’s guess.
Recently, the Malibu City Council, in a 3-to-2 vote, decided not to go ahead with the Bluffs Park swap. They decided to take back Charmlee Park, which the city owns, and give back part of Bluffs Park owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and their satellite, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Returning part of Bluffs Park back killed plans for a number of things that had been proposed for that site: additional baseball fields, a softball field, a full-sized soccer field and some smaller practice fields, maybe a dog park, a skate park, a pool, or perhaps a clubhouse. The council said not to worry as they recently purchased and now own other property, which could hold some of those things. Theoretically, that might have been true, but the council got a taste of real politic when a plan to sell off two acres of that recently purchased land in the Civic Center area to the LA County Fire Department for a new fire station ran into opposition from just about everybody. The proposed sale to the county for a new fire station would have made the remainder of the parcel where the Chili Cook-Off was held virtually unusable for recreation uses as had been talked about. The fundamental rule, this being Malibu, is whatever you want to do, you can expect a wave of opposition and, unless you’re willing to take the heat, nothing will happen—like new ball fields. For example, for years, some people have fought the very popular Chili Cook-Off and tried to stop it because they didn’t like the lights and the noise.
Part of the driving force to sell off part of the parcel was to cut back on some of our debt. No question about it: We’ve taken a big hit. The Woolsey Fire and subsequent rain damage, I’ve been told, totals roughly $9.8 million. The city is in for $850,000 or so and the rest—about $9 million—would be reimbursed by FEMA, so the city very reasonably looked to cut back on its debt and expenses. Typically, FEMA is slow to reimburse and with Trump in the White House... We all know his feelings about California. We won’t be rushing down to the mailbox to look for the check. It’s reasonable to believe we are going to be Puerto Rico’d and California’s not going to see any money as long as Trump is in office. That means the city may have to do something to get some additional bucks if it becomes necessary. Nothing to panic about. Cities borrow money and issue bonds all the time, but it could put a dent into some of our plans.