Former Mayor Asks for Exploration of Mayoral Election Process

Former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich said she made the request for a strong mayor system of government so that the vote of the people, not the council decides who becomes mayor of Malibu.

A former Malibu mayor encouraged the Malibu City Council Monday to explore whether to move toward a "strong-mayor" system of government.

The city currently operates under a "weak-mayor" system, in which council members rotate to the position every nine and a half months. Under that system, the mayor has little power beyond the title.

Under the "strong-mayor" system, the mayor has power as chief executive.

Pamela Conley Ulich, who served as Malibu's mayor from April 2009 to January 2010, brought up the request at Monday's regular City Council meeting. 

"You were all elected by the people of Malibu to be city councilmembers. However, none of you were elected by the people of Malibu to our mayor," former Conley Ulich said at Monday's meeting.

She likened the position of mayor as a captain of a ship who can steer the course of Malibu in a consistent way.

"I would ask you to return the power to the people of Malibu to determine whether or not the 'weak-mayor' system, which is elected by only council members and not the people is better for our city or whether the time has come to have a 'strong-mayor' form of government," Conley Ulich said. "You have the power to put this on the agenda. You have the power to put this on the ballot and I hope you will have the courage to put it on the ballot to let the people of Malibu determine our fate."

She ended her statement, which came during public comments, with a promise that the people of Malibu will put the issue on the ballot even if the city decides not to.

"I’m hoping we don’t have to do that," Conley Ulich said.

Her request comes in the weeks following a to appoint Joan House to the position of mayor pro tem instead of Councilman Skylar Peak, who is for his alleged behavior at a Malibu shopping center. Peak was the top vote getter in April's election and was in line for the position.

Peak said during the meeting that he supports Conley Ulich's proposal to explore a "strong-mayor" system.

"I do believe that a 'strong-mayor' system is something that would be advantageous to our city," Peak said, adding that he will be working with his staff to explore the possibility.

Mayor Pro Tem Joan House said she likes the way the council currently operates, but will keep an open mind.

"I’m willing to look at it if others are willing to look at it," House said.

Councilman John Sibert said he will consider the request.

"I’m perfectly happy to see it on the ballot because I happen to believe in democracy," Sibert said.

Both Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal did not comment on the request.

Bob Perkins DDS September 12, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Hey Pamela- I am just curious...what are the advantages? How is the city better served by having (one) person having more authority than the other four?
Pamela Conley Ulich September 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM
A 2006 Yale Law Journal article by Richard Schragger argues that "strong mayoralty is a potential instrument for democratic self-government". According to Schragger, "cities and their leaders are three levels down the political food chain, and must normally ask the states for whatever powers they have or wish to exercize." The city is "subservient" to other state and regional agencies. Richard Schragger, Can Strong Mayors Empower Weak Cities: On the Power of Local Executives in a Federal System, 115 Yale L. J. 2542 (2006) at p. 102. "A strong mayoralty provides accountability and transparency in local government while serving as a potential site of populist political energy." at p. 104. A strong mayor could act "directly for the people, untarnished by the city machines, uncorrupted by the ward leaders and the parochialism of the city councils, and independent of big business interests." at p. 105 “The democratic argument for the strong mayor [is grounded] in an older tradition, derived from the Greeks and articulated by political thinkers from Rousseau to Howe and beyond, views the city as the embodiment of the democratic polity (and not merely a reflection of the individuals or groups within it).” At p. 135. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=905840
Pamela Conley Ulich September 12, 2012 at 03:00 PM
The current system calls for a Mayor to be rotated “among all.” This results in a short term and it is difficult for Sacramento and Sister Cities to know who is serving as Mayor. The Mayor serves as the chief spokesperson for the City and is responsible for communicating with the public during a crisis. In addition, the Mayor helps review and set the agenda for the City Council meetings. We may be more confident knowing that our Mayor is elected by the people and for the people, instead elected by the three votes of council members who may or may not be acting in the best interest of the people of Malibu. I believe a Strong Mayor, like the captain of a ship, could insure that the course the City is consistent, strong and set for a destination consistent with where the majority of Malibu wants to go. I look forward to having this issue vetted with our community. In the long run, I believe we all have a part to play in protecting Malibu and our “way of life” and talking about this issue may encourage others to get involved in Malibu.
Bob Perkins DDS September 12, 2012 at 03:21 PM
thanks PCU....I appreciate your comments and explanations!
Gwen Lucoff September 12, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Thanks Pam for standing up to this biased city council, Why should Joan or the other members in the gang complain, they've gotten what they wanted, power, and now the gang's control will be extended because of Joan accepting the post of mayor pro tem for the "good of the city" Give me a break, we the citizens of Malibu are not "children" or teen agers that need to be protected, and I sure don't want Joan, Lou or Laura speaking for me. I didn't vote for any of them to begin with, and for sure I will now NEVER vote for them or who they support again. Skylar should be our next mayor, and I hope that this proposal that Pamela is making goes forward, but, with the majority of the board being held by the "gang", sadly it won't Power to the people!!!! we have voted and spoken by choosing Skylar by the MAJORITY of the votes! Let him serve, that's what "we" voted for, not 3 people with their pro delopement personal agendas!!!!! Silence is acceptance! speak up now! Gwen Lucoff
Andy Lyon September 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Mayor-go-round. They all get a chance to sell out Malibu equally. Why would they want to change that ??
Pam September 13, 2012 at 02:00 AM
You can't get past the lights. Let it go already! You thanked Skylar for his explanation yesterday. Can you please reiterate what that explanation was because I certainly didn't see it? He was elected and then "something" happened? You know what they say.... He may get his chance later.
Zuma Skipper September 13, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I never really understood the purpose of a "Weak Mayor System" in a municipality. It is really just an honorary title bestowed upon the rotating circuit of elected city council members. I think it's time that we have a bonafide, elected Mayor for our city, especially now given the challenges Malibu is facing as a growing city.
JamieDixon September 13, 2012 at 04:49 AM
We need a strong mayor who stops Malibu from being a "growing city", because Malibu can't sustain any more growth. The current City Council fosters growth, at the expense of Malibu's residents. It seems to be a vicious cycle of allowing development and spending money on infrastructure, which creates a need for more money, which creates a need for growth, which creates a need to allow more development and improve the infrastructure, which creates a need for more money, and so on, and so on... I don't benefit from Malibu becoming a crowded tourist destination, and I'm sure that most people who choose to live in Malibu would rather have Malibu stay the way it was when they chose to live in Malibu instead of becoming the urban beach city it is becoming. Rather than change Malibu at the expense of Malibu's residents, Malibu's leaders should find another city to live and work in that appreciates their sensibilities. The leaders can still be powerful, and maybe even appreciated by their constituents.
Tom Hasse September 13, 2012 at 04:27 PM
While serving as a city councilmember, I proposed in August 1999 that the City move to a Direct Election of Mayor system rather than the current Council Election of Mayor system. The reason was (1) because of the disputes over who should be elected mayor and for how long that occurred in 1990, 1991 and 1998; and (2) it should be the people and not the City Council who elect the mayor. The skills needed to be a good mayor are not necessarily the same skills needed to be a good city councilmember. The mayor conducts all intergovernmental relations, chairs the city council meetings and acts as spokeperson for the City to local and national news media. As of my research in 1999, however, the option of changing to a strong mayor form of government was not available to California cities with Malibu's population. So the Direct Election of Mayor option I proposed would still take place under a Council-Manager form of government.
John Mazza September 13, 2012 at 04:57 PM
If we had a strong mayor system in 2000 then we would have had Sharon Barovsky as mayor for 10 years. How about that ? That is a good face to put forward !
Lee Reams September 13, 2012 at 05:40 PM
While this sounds good does it really matter? The city doesn't control our schools, main roads, water, sewer, beach access, police, fire, etc...It is all outsourced or dictated on the city by the regional water board, coastal, santa monica school district, etc... So explain to me how anything really changes with an elected Mayor. Who is really pulling the strings? Unelected officials? Developers? So called environmentalist? It is almost comical watching patch posters hooting and hawing about city officials. Do they really have any power to do anything about these issues? Serious questions...
Hans Laetz September 13, 2012 at 05:47 PM
John makes an important point. A strong mayor system concentrates great power In one person or faction. There is a good reason why we have a council of five equal members setting policy, and a professional staff to implement it. No government is ever perfect. Ours certainly isn't. Decisions about the structural elements of a government should be made independently of the personalities and issues of the moment.
Adrian Kwiatkowski September 13, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Strong Mayor-Council government allows the voters to pick the chief executive of city government. Currently, only 5 voters in the City of Malibu pick the chief executive (city manager). There are countless nationwide examples of cities similar in size to Malibu that have a Strong Mayor-Council government. Please feel free to contact me for more information. Adrian Kwiatkowski, President, Strong Mayor-Council Institute (619) 200-6471 | Adrian@StrongMayorCouncil.org
Gary Taylor September 14, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Yeah Maybe you should go back there and fix all of their problems you left unresolved there. Perhaps they could use you there more than in Sauk Village or Maybe you could apply for that manager's job in Malibu?
Gary Taylor September 14, 2012 at 05:20 PM
amen. I agree then Tom Hasse would not have been


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