A REPLY TO BURT ROSS / MALIBU TIMES LETTER
The Malibu Times recently published a Letter to the Editor from Burt Ross, a self-proclaimed humorist who writes a column for the newspaper. For personal financial reasons, Mr. Ross is aligned with a pro-development faction in Malibu, which is currently represented on City Council by Paul Grisanti (a real estate professional), Karen Farrer (a real estate investor) and Mikke Pierson (a self-described “business coach”). Under past ownership of the Malibu Times, Mr. Ross misused his column to attack me after I was elected to the City Council on a slow-growth platform that resulted in my receiving the votes of more Malibu residents than any other candidate. Because the new owners of the Malibu Times admirably refuse to permit Mr. Ross to abuse the privilege of his humorless column to pursue a self-serving political agenda, Mr. Ross now resorts to pursuing his political agenda in Letters to the Editor.
In his most recent Letter to the Editor, Mr. Ross seeks to deflect attention from the fact that multiple Malibu residents have accused Pierson of misogyny, ageism, racism, and antisemitism following Pierson’s unceremonious and ineffective attempt to “replace” Dr. Georgia Goldfarb on the Parks & Recreation Commission. In his Letter to the Editor, Mr. Ross brands these Malibu residents as people whose “hatred has no bounds.” When I first learned of Pierson’s action, I chalked it up to political retribution for Dr. Goldfarb’s refusal to “toe the line” respecting Pierson’s (and Farrer’s) public reprobation of me. Residents’ claims of sexism and ageism resulted from Pierson disclaiming his action was politically motivated and claiming he preferred to appoint a younger person with children who use Malibu’s recreation facilities. If Pierson’s stated reason for replacing Dr. Goldfarb were his true reason, and not a fabrication, it may support a legal claim of sexism and ageism, as explained in Public Comment by long-time Malibu resident, Suzanne Guldimann. This is particularly the case when Pierson proposes to appoint a younger man even though there are many mothers of children who use Malibu’s recreation facilities. As for the claims of racism and antisemitism, I have publicly stated that I do not share that view, but I don’t know if there is any substance to the accusations, as I simply do not know Pierson well enough to have such an opinion. So far as I can tell, Pierson is simply a retributive politician.
In seeking to deflect attention from the public outcry against Pierson’s questionable actions, Mr. Ross resurrects the now-former City Manager’s spurious claim that my substantive criticisms of her capabilities and performance (which were shared by thousands of Malibu residents) were animated by gender bias – a claim that was definitively disproved through an investigation championed by Pierson, Farrer and Grisanti. Mr. Ross also claims that my complaint that nobody has appointed anyone but men to the Planning Commission is belied by the fact that I have not done so either. My response to Mr. Ross is that three of my five appointments to the city’s commissions are women (including one woman of color), and I have appointed the only women on the Public Safety Commission and Public Works Commission. It is not my responsibility to single-handedly redress the failings of others – in particular, Pierson and Grisanti, who (after Dr. Goldfarb’s removal) will have only male Commissioners on each of the city’s five commissions and who also joined with Farrer to replace Patt Healy (the founder of the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth) with Lloyd Ahern (another pro-development supporter) on the MRCA Advisory Board. The absolute minimum that Pierson and Grisanti can do to correct their disrespect of more than half of Malibu’s residents is for at least one of them to replace their appointees to the Planning Commission – even if it is with another pro-development appointee like they (and Farrer) have appointed in the past. I am certain there are multiple qualified candidates who are not men.
Mr. Ross’ claim that multiple Malibu residents’ “hatred has no bounds” reveals a serious case of projection, as Mr. Ross and the handful of Pierson/Farrer/Grisanti supporters with whom he is aligned are unapologetic in their ad hominem attacks on me, which are often joined, if not fueled, by Pierson and Farrer. One need only review recordings of City Council meeting and observe Farrer’s vocal tone and body language when she speaks about me or addresses me and compare it to her tone and body language with others. Anyone who honestly does that will see the obvious hostility, which also can be read in Farrer’s statements to the lawyers hired to investigate the Wagner Affidavit and the unfounded gender bias allegations Farrer voted to have investigated. In those interviews, Farrer also insults Malibu’s majority of slow-growth advocates, who Farrer and Pierson deride as “conspiracy theorists” and “Bu-Anon.” Multiple residents have publicly noted Farrer’s abject hostility, which is open and notorious. Although Pierson makes a superficial effort to conceal his disdain, his amiable facade fails him more often than not.
At the last City Council meeting, Farrer proudly noted that I had misstated that she had appointed only one woman to a city commission. Farrer was correct. I had read in the press that Farrer had appointed only one woman, and I should have consulted source materials to confirm whether that was accurate or inaccurate. In fact. Farrer has appointed two women – one to Parks and Recreation and the other to Cultural Arts. That, however, is the only thing inaccurate about my public statements about Farrer. I also concur with Jo Drummond’s observation that Farrer’s working on School Separation for 14 years without provable results is not something to be proud about, much less a qualification for continuing to head up the process. Nor is having children who went to public school in Malibu a qualification for heading up the process – any more than it is a qualification for being a Parks & Recreation Commissioner. Nobody questions Farrer’s passion and commitment to School Separation. But passion and commitment do not translate into ability, and 14 years of effort without success belie any claim of ability. Inasmuch as the School Separation process is an adversarial legal process, Malibu would be better served having a City Councilmember on the School Separation subcommittee with legal experience. Of course, I am the only member of the City Council who has such experience. Just as Pierson, Farrer and Grisanti refuse to follow a multi-decade tradition of appointing the City Councilmember who received the greatest number of votes in the latest election the honorary Mayor, however, they also cannot bring themselves to appoint me to the School Separation subcommittee because they are unable to put principles above personalities. As a result, the very cause Pierson and Farrer seek to champion suffers. That is not misogyny, ageism, racism, or antisemitism. Rather, it is simply petty political gamesmanship that feeds their personal egos at the expense of the residents they were elected to serve.
As for Grisanti, meeting with representatives of Qatar in his capacity as the “Mayor” of Malibu shows terrible judgment (to say the least), publicly discussing his ill-conceived meeting shows a lack of self-awareness, and twice being the swing vote to appoint himself as the honorary Mayor (both times in contravention of decades-long tradition memorialized in City Council Policy Number 33 adopted in 1998) shows an utter lack of character. It also should be noted that I have not once before now referenced Grisanti’s dishonest dealing that resulted in the suspension of his real estate salesperson license (which suspension was stayed in a probationary manner) – even though I was encouraged to do so by multiple Malibu residents during the election campaign. I even warned Paul privately that others were considering a smear campaign, so that he would have an opportunity to be prepared if it should occur. I am sure Paul will verify this if asked. And if he does not do so, I can demonstrate it with emails from during the election. By contrast, Pierson was engaged in a private smear campaign against me throughout the election, which I have been told by others to be continuing to this day.
Nearly a half-century ago Mr. Ross was the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, where he distinguished himself by working with federal authorities to take down members of organized crime who attempted to bribe him to support a development deal. For that act of integrity and bravery, Mr. Ross deserves our respect – which he often reminds us. And for losing much of his savings in a get rich quick Ponzi scheme, followed by losing his home in the Woolsey Fire, Mr. Ross deserves our empathy. But Mr. Ross’ more recent behavior is nothing to be proud about. If Mr. Ross still had half the integrity he demonstrated in his youth nearly fifty years ago, I am confident that he would join the numerous long-time residents of Malibu (all of whom have lived here far longer than Mr. Ross) and join in opposing the people he chooses to champion, who are the representatives of third-party development interests responsible for destroying much of what has made Malibu a rural coastal paradise.
Bruce Silverstein, Malibu
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