This is the third in a series of one-on-one sit down interviews with each of the six individuals running for four open seats on the Culver City Council in the April 10 elections.
Any city council candidate will tell you that name recognition is important when trying to get elected. Three of the candidates running in this year’s April 10 elections are already known for having served on the council and Scott Malsin is one of them.
However, Malsin is also known not just for sitting on the council, but resigning from it last December to retain health benefits for his family.
He’s stated both publicly and privately (), that he made the right decision for his family. But rather than shy away from some of the criticism leveled at his decision, Malsin told Patch, “While there have been some people who have asked about it and have been critical I’ve had many people come up and give me hugs and say ‘You did the right thing. We need you back on the council.’ There is not much more I can do than to act with integrity and to essentially point out to people that the only thing I get out of continuing to serve is the privilege and pleasure of doing my best to make Culver City better.”
Malsin added choosing to run again was the toughest decision he’s made, “but it’s been phenomenal to run with this issue being a part of the political environment because it has allowed me to have so many very real conversations with people.”
Culver City Patch: When you resigned several of your fellow council members were upset with your decision. If those same council members are re-elected along with you, how difficult will it be to work cooperatively with them going forward?
Scott Malsin: I like all three of them [Andy Weissman, Micheal O’Leary and Jeff Cooper (who does not have to run for re-election this year)]. But I’ve worked with council members I did not care for on a personal level before and accomplished a great deal. Running the city is a very serious business. Personal feelings need to be set aside. I don’t bear grudges. I think [the city council members] all recognize [my decision to resign] was a complex issue that had many different facets.
Patch: What are some of your achievements on the council you feel voters should know about?
Malsin: My initiatives that I’ve put forward have made a lasting difference in Culver City. One example is a revision to our city’s zoning code that I initiated not too long after I got on the council. When I was first elected it would have been possible for developers to come in and build five story buildings along a majority of Culver City’s commercial corridors. Residents don’t want buildings on that scale and economically it doesn’t make sense on Culver Boulevard near Carlson Park or Washington Boulevard near Studio Estates.
Patch: Is that because you believe Culver City should have a certain look or feel?
Malsin: Residents don’t want to have their streets lined with buildings of that scale. Economically, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to encourage development and business activity along these long stretches of street where there’s no ability to create a concentrated energy. From an urban planning standpoint that concentrated energy can take the form of neighborhood business districts and that’s a goal for us to try and achieve. Walkability is a really desirable goal for our community.
We also have to recognize it is good for us to seen some new development because it generates revenues for the city. The zoning reforms we made create multiple benefits and I think long term is going to create a better community.
Patch: Given the City’s structural deficit and the abolition of the Redevelopment Agency do you think there’s a potential for these reforms to hinder growth and development that could bring in much needed additional revenues?
Malsin: We can get the private sector to build us the city that we want to live in. It’s obviously predicated on the need to see economic growth. But I believe that the shape of the ordinance we’ve created can create that balance and incentive to build us a better community.
I also really enjoy the opportunity to interact with our residents and being able to help folks. I’ve always had my home phone number on the City’s website. I’ve had the opportunity to assist programs like the High School AVPA program, and help different neighborhoods and individuals.
Patch: What do you consider are important qualities that a city council member should have?
Malsin: Concern for people’s well being, dedication, commitment to put in the time, ability to discern the greater good, intelligence, insight and perspective and also understanding financial issues, law, urban planning and zoning.
Patch: What do you consider to be the top three issues currently facing the city and how would you address them?
Malsin: The top one, and the one from which all else flows is our financial situation. We were in difficult straits to begin with, even before the state eliminated redevelopment agencies. We need to address the situation or we could face municipal bankruptcy within three to four years. We need to focus on the big picture. We ought not be worrying about whether we’re having a concert series in the summer or a program that will generate tens of thousands of dollars. We’ve got a multi-million dollar problem that we need to solve. I made a proposal last spring that can address this: creating a citywide infrastructure improvement district. It will secure the city’s financial stability and address long-deferred maintenance needs. It’s a way to fund streets, sidewalks, street trees and streetlights.
Patch: How do you propose to do that?
Malsin: I believe a sales tax increase is bad for business because it’s regressive, it impacts lower income people more than higher income people and the proceeds from it would simply go into our General Fund pot with no accountability. Rather, I’d like to put before the voters a modest assessment on property. I believe that for between $75 and $100 per year for a residential piece of property; perhaps $200-$300 on small commercial properties and somewhat more for large property owners like Westfield or Sony, we could raise about $5 million that would be guaranteed to be used for maintaining our sidewalks, streets, street lights and street trees. The funds would be used for only that purpose stipulated by law. Funding and maintenance would no longer be a political matter; it wouldn’t be trading it off against other services.
I also came up with the idea for a grant that we were awarded about a year ago - The Culver City Green Space Planning Grant. I’m really proud of that. I helped to write the grant application. It’s to look at our parks and plan out how we can best use the space that isn’t taken up by playing fields. I’d like to see that planning initiative completed and work on implementing the ideas that will result from that. It allows us to create a template for our parks. The periphery and other areas not well thought out. We can do planting or other improvements that will make our parks more appealing to a broader cross section of our population.
My third issue? I’d like to make sure that the projects that are built on the sites formally owned by the redevelopment agency fulfill the vision that the community defined for them. We’ve lost a great deal of the control that we had and that poses a great deal of risk. Obviously we don’t want to see a McDonald’s on Parcel B. There are legal aspects to the way that we manage the sale and development of those parcels that I would like to work on and there are planning tools also that we can utilize to ensure that they do fall within this vision.
Patch: Do you think council members should take a stand on school board issues?
Malsin: I’m a parent! I’ve got a child in 2nd grade at Farragut. I’ve worked hard to raise funds for our booster club. The [unions vs. parent-funded volunteers] is a really important issue. It’s not technically a city council issue but I was very happy to sign the petition [supporting parents] as a parent. I think it’s well and good for candidates to say they support these fundraising efforts. One thing I’ve never been afraid of is taking a stand. The strength of our schools has a great deal of bearing on how our community is perceived and on property values.
Patch: Do you think voters really care about who has endorsed candidates? How important are endorsements, really?
Malsin: I have a very impressive list of endorsers. To a certain extent you can take it with a grain of salt. Incumbents have generally had the opportunity to work with other elected officials, so they are often open to endorsing people they like working with. But I am proud to have been elected twice by the people of Culver City. There is no better endorsement than that.
Patch: If your campaign had a bumper sticker what would it say?
Malsin: I’d have two bumper stickers: ‘Experience That Matters’ and ‘Culver City Deserves Real Solutions To Real Problems.’
And I want to add that for whatever it’s worth, anybody who appreciates my service should also bear in mind that my wife has made it possible for me to do as much as I have.
To read more about Scott Malsin's election campaign visit his website at www.scottmalsin.com
Click the links below to read other council candidate profiles: