The Malibu Chamber of Commerce and the Malibu Association of Realtors put their fingerprints on the Malibu City Council campaign Wednesday evening, as they sponsored a candidate's forum for the seven candidates running for office.
The forum was held at HRL Laboratories, and each candidate was met with a number of questions regarding the possible fracture of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, the Malibu Lagoon, and the protection of local businesses.
Candidates alternated responding to questions presented by moderator Don Schmitz, current president of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, and each candidate expressed why they felt they were qualified to sit on the Council.
“What I have is institutional memory of what we did right and what we did wrong and how to work with outside institutions,” said Joan House, citing her prior experiences on City Council.
Hans Laetz, a former Malibu reporter, said that that his focus would be correcting what wrongs House and other former City Council members may have committed.
“I’m running because as a reporter, I’ve seen the Malibu City Council make the same mistakes over and over and over again,” Laetz said.
A majority of the forum was spent addressing issues that affect real estate and local businesses within the Malibu community, and a number of the candidates on the panel agreed that protecting local businesses should be a priority for members of City Council.
Possibly the most outspoken of the candidates was Hamish Patterson, who maintained that Preserve Malibu’s proposal of a diversification ordinance should be a simple decision.
“For anyone to oppose a retail diversification ordinance is shameful,” Patterson said. “Who is fighting this and why are they fighting it? It’s a softball and I am all for it.”
Laetz brought a visual aid in his support of the diversification ordinance in the form of a blown up poster board featuring a photograph from the side of a Los Angeles bus.
The photo was an advertisement for Sephora, which read that the coscmetics franchise is set to arrive in Malibu Village on March 16.
Skylar Peak, who is a local business owner in Malibu, pointed to the notion that local owners feel inclined to support the community once they feel protected.
“Local businesses and people who live here and work here, they always tend to give back here,” Peak said.
John Sibert, the only incumbent in the race, agreed that the support for local businesses must increase within the city if Malibu is to remain a unique community.
“The city needs to be assisting wherever it can to help support local businesses,” Sibert said. “We don’t know enough about our city and we don’t get the word out to our people.”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve told people the best burgers are at The Country Kitchen and they ask where it is,” Sibert added.
The ongoing debate as to whether Malibu should seek to create its own school district also saw itself at the forefront on Wednesday, and although each candidate agreed that Malibu should seek to cut ties from Santa Monica, some are still unsure as to how it can be accomplished.
“We’ve created a city, we’ve created a council, now we need our own school district,” said Missy Zeitsoff, a member of the city’s first City Council.
“I 100 percent support our own school district if it’s financially feasible,” House said. “I do think we’ll provide a better education for our children and I think it will enhance our children.”
Andy Lyon, who currently has a child in the Malibu school system, commented that it is not the schools that are an issue, but the fundraising for the schools.
Patterson once again struck a chord with the audience, stating that before Malibu seeks to employ its own school districts, significant issues within the schools must be acknowledged.
“There’s a giant drug problem in our high school,” Patterson said. “How is a kid able to shoot heroin in the bathroom? And it’s not just one kid; it’s groups of kids. We need to be active within our schools and give our kids the leadership they need.”
“It doesn’t matter if we separate the school districts or not, if we don’t step in and be active, our kids aren’t going to get what they deserve.”