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Feinstein Backs Malibu's Cityhood : Politics: Spokesman for Sen. Pete Wilson calls statement 'an irresponsible promise.'


Malibu's struggle to become a city has spilled over into the California governor's race, with Democratic hopeful Dianne Feinstein saying that, if elected, she would support legislation calling for a speedy incorporation of the seaside community.

"In my view, the will of the people--as expressed quite clearly this past June--should be carried out," Feinstein said, in a letter sent to Malibu's unofficial City Council.

Feinstein said she would be happy to sign legislation along the lines of a measure vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian in September.

A spokesman for Sen. Pete Wilson, the Republican candidate, immediately blasted Feinstein for making "an irresponsible promise."

Spokesman James Lee said that although the senator is "very sympathetic to Malibu's situation, he doesn't believe it is appropriate to give an iron-clad guarantee without at least being presented with both sides of an issue."

"(Feinstein) is obviously willing to promise anything at this point if she thinks it will help her," Lee said. "I'm sure she'd promise to bring the troops home for Christmas if she thought it would help."

Although 84% of Malibu voters approved cityhood in June, Los Angeles County officials have delayed incorporation until at least March in a bid to start work on a controversial sewer system before a new city government has the chance to block it.

After losing a round in the courts to nullify the delay, cityhood backers turned to the state Legislature for help. In August, a measure by Sen. Ed Davis (R-Santa Clarita) that would have cleared the way for immediate incorporation swept both houses of the Legislature without a dissenting vote. Deukmejian, at the urging of county officials, vetoed it after the legislative session adjourned.

In recent weeks, county officials have hinted that if their efforts to start work on the sewer hit a snag, they may seek to delay the actual incorporation until the spring of 1992.

Enraged cityhood backers, many of whom oppose the sewer as a prelude to widespread development of the Malibu coast, have said they will return to the Legislature when it reconvenes in December. They hope to have a measure similar to the one Deukmejian vetoed ready for a new governor's signature in January.

Last week, the California League of Cities passed a resolution supporting Malibu's bid to speed incorporation.

The City Council, which has functioned as a government-in-waiting since the election, sent a letter to both candidates last week, along with a copy of the previous measure, asking for a pledge of support.

Although Malibu's 8,800 registered voters are almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, all five members of the unofficial council are registered Democrats.

"Cityhood and growth issues have not been partisan matters, and I think all of us (on the council) prefer to keep it that way," Mayor-elect Walt Keller said.

Keller said that while he is disappointed with Wilson's response, "deep down I'm not terribly concerned that if he were elected, and even if he were to veto our bill, that it would make much difference. We didn't lose a single vote (in the Legislature) the last time around, and that makes you feel comfortable about the chances of overriding any future veto."

Other Malibu leaders were more critical.

"I don't think it makes sense to say that you can't take a stand on something before an actual measure is in front of you," said Councilwoman Missy Zeitsoff, a Feinstein partisan. "We sent them both a copy of the (vetoed measure). Dianne Feinstein took the time to read it and take a position, and Pete Wilson apparently didn't."

Local Republican boosters, several of whom urged Wilson to state his support for such legislation, tried to put the best face on the matter.

"He may lose a few votes here," said cityhood booster LaVonna Corzine, who is active in Republican circles, "but we're still for him."

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