My Experience at the City Council Student Forum

By Taylor Tomlinson

November 2, 2020

We gathered on Zoom almost a week before the debate. Five students, including me and co-Editor-in-Chief Bailey Mathews, along with other seniors, Kimya Afshar, Davis Kerbeck, and Ava Bradley, were chosen to be student moderators at the next City Council Debate. We would be developing the questions, organizing them, and finally, delivering them to the candidates. This was a very exciting opportunity for us all, and not one we were planning on taking lightly. 

  The five of us spent an evening thinking about what questions we wanted to ask. First off, we wanted this debate not to be like any other previous city council debate. We wanted to stay away from the questions that have been rehearsed countlessly by the candidates. Most importantly, we needed to ask questions that mattered to us the most. With eight candidates, all men over 50, some would say that youth perspectives were needed. The environment, policing, and homelessness were all topics we wanted to hit hard. By the end, we had devised around 12 questions. 

   At the next meeting, we prepared for how the debate would practically run down. We assigned roles and made cuts to accommodate for our two-hour time limit. By Wednesday night, we were ready for the forum

  The debate began at 4:00, with all the candidates appearing in their home offices 15 minutes prior, their campaign office. All except Andy Lyon, who arrived right at 4:00 in his backyard with his spraypainted sign in the background. After a quick speech from State Senator Henry Stern, the debate opened with the Environment section, moderated by Bailey Mathews. All candidates seemed particularly concerned with Climate Change’s role in the wildfires. California wildfires have increasingly worsened in recent years, with Malibu feeling its full effects with the 2018 Woolsey Fire. Many listed ideas of increased environmental protection in Malibu. Some candidates, such as Steve Uhring, have based much of their campaign on promises of environmental protections. Fire preparation was also brought up during these sections. The City of Malibu’s response to the Woolsey Fire was highly criticized by the citizens. These candidates proposed their suggestions on how another wildfire would be handled. 

  Homelessness was the following section and a rather contentious section among Malibu citizens. Many feel that the homeless population is a danger to public safety, while others feel that they need humanitarian assistance and help from the city. Moderated by Davis Kerbeck, the section allowed candidates to respond on how they would handle the homelessness issues in Malibu. Some candidates, such as Andy Lyon, Doug Stewart, and Bruce Silverstein have been increasingly outspoken about their concerns. Many candidates felt that some of the homeless are true “down on their luck” and deserve assistance, but others, some of who may be mentally ill or facing addiction, are not the responsibility of the city. This has been an issue that has caused tension in our city, and a pressing one that the candidates needed to address.

 Policing and Public Safety has the following section. Some have called into question the city’s spending 8 million dollars on outsourcing to the Los Angeles Police Department. Some of the candidates defended that spending with some implying that we may need to spend more to see the money being put to good use. Policing issues have been a hot-button topic, particularly this summer with the Black Lives Matter movement. Pacific Coast Highway has been a critical public safety issue. Car clubs and street racers create excessive amounts of noise, along with danger for regular commuters. The City Council candidates seemed determined to make PCH a safer road. Some detailed plans to lower the speed limit, while one candidate, Lance Simmons, discussed a plan to add onto the highway. 

   The final two sections, moderated by Kimya Afshar, was business and education. Longtime Malibu residents will notice the quick turnover of local businesses. Owning a business is tough, but in Malibu, high rents and a global pandemic make it nearly impossible. Some candidates favor more government support with our local businesses, while others felt that much couldn’t be done. In the education section, the candidates were asked if they supported a reopening of Malibu schools. Paul Grisanti, Andy Lyon, and Doug Stewart were adamant on a school reopening, while candidates like Lance Simmons, Mark Wetton, and Steve Uhring seemed mostly for it, but with strict precautions. Candidate Bruce Silverstein was completely against, despite the suggested compromises, claiming that it would not be safe for students to return to the classrooms.

  With that final question, the debate was finished. I was extremely grateful for being able to participate in my local government, even if I am not able to vote in this election. All of the students involved were incredibly passionate about local issues, and it was frankly, very cool to be a part of that. It is never too early to care about your city and want to make a difference. 

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