Malibu City Council has stepped up again and again to offer support to Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) and its push for an independent Malibu school district. Council signed a petition in favor of the move in August 2015. Council Member Laura Rosenthal (then the mayor) volunteered more than a hundred hours to join the committee tasked with drawing up a financial agreement to separate from Santa Monica. Council members have driven down to Santa Monica—some of them multiple times—to pledge city support for the idea of a locally controlled district for Malibu. But when it comes to creating a district for Malibu’s kids, it seems there’s one thing council won’t do, and that’s change its form of government.
On Monday, an item brought before city council at the request of Mayor Skylar Peak and Mayor Pro Tem Rick Mullen suggested changing Malibu from a general law city to a charter city. A charter city form of government would empower Malibu’s leaders, if they wished, to give council members salaries, appoint a police force with a police commission, regulate its own elections, enact a strong mayor form of government, exempt itself from public bidding requirements and make other changes.
Malibu school board representative Craig Foster delivered a nine-minute speech requesting council analyze the proposal brought forward which, according to him, would not necessarily include any of the above alterations.
“I have heard fears from, ironically, all sides of our local political spectrum that to move towards a charter is to potentially open a massive new front in the political struggles of this city,” Foster said. “I want to be extremely clear here. My request and that of our education advocates is to consider a charter that does this one thing, school board voting, and only this one thing. There is no room, no desire and no tolerance for any conversation, suggestion, and certainly no step towards introducing more and broader charter provisions. What is contemplated here is this and this alone.”
Longtime planning commissioner John Mazza, speaking to council as a member of the public, reasoned that, though he believed Foster, many in the community may not.
“I believe Craig when he says, ‘Yes we don’t have to follow anything except the school board,’” Mazza said. “You know the general public does not trust politicians.”
In the end, Peak and Rosenthal voted to study the idea of making Malibu a charter city, but the vote fell 3-2, with Lou La Monte, Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner and Mullen voting not to pursue the change.
Council members expressed their desire to take the council’s petition, signed exactly two years ago (and held), to the county board of education.