MALIBU— On Monday, July, 13, Malibu City Council voted against a proposed ballot measure that would have allowed residents to vote on whether or not they wanted to change the city’s election system to a directly elected mayor or a “strong” mayor system, rather than the at-large council-manager system it currently undergoes.
City Council voted 4-1 to file the motion with the majority of council members noting that the ballot measurement comes in with too short of time for the city to take a vote on, especially considering the financial circumstances and other obstacles that the city faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“For myself, I definitely struggle and consider the charter aspect right now…how much more can we do right now with everything we’re going through,” Mayor Mikke Pierson said. “We have really big issues we’re struggling to take care of. I don’t know the change in our form of government right now makes sense.”
An elected mayor or “strong mayor” system would provide the city with an elected official with more experience and continuity in the position if they serve either two or four-year terms. In a strong mayor system, it would also allow the elected official to be provided a subsistence salary, treating the position more as a full-time profession. However, for Malibu to conduct either the election process, the city must be approved as a charter city. A charter city can establish the form of government and define its reach and role in municipal affairs, even with conflicting state laws, unless on matters of statewide concern.
Council member Jefferson Wagner, who voted for the measure, suggested the city consider an elected mayor option, but opposed a “strong” mayor system. Wagner recommended the council to establish a commission that would draft a structure to consider the ballot measure in the future and look into becoming a charter city.
Pierson and council member Rick Mullen suggested that stronger public input was needed for the measure to be considered on a future ballot. Both council members recommended residents to start a petition backing the initiative.
“That to me would have to come from a concerted effort of the citizens of the city to do a proper petition in my mind because it’s a major deal,” Pierson said. “I would want to see this come forward on a petition, or that we had robust public meetings because it’s that kind of decision, it should have robust public meetings if people are interested, citizens should bring this forward.”
Council members also voiced the lack of pull the city has due to its limited population. Malibu currently has around 13,000 residents, 8,000 of which are registered voters according to council member Karen Farrer. Mullen said the city has trouble recruiting residents to run for council positions, making an elected mayor or strong-mayor system, seem inconvenient.
Of the 482 cities in California, only 125 are charter cities, while the rest are general law cities.
Malibu City Council members currently are elected at-large to serve four-year terms. The position of Mayor rotates between council members and are appointed to serve a one-year term.