Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Slashing arts funding in Oakland

By awoodall
Monday, October 20th, 2008 at 12:53 pm in Night Owl, Oakland City Council, Oakland nightlife.

The city council is talking about cutting Oakland’s Cultural Arts program, acc. to the Friday story by the Trib’s Kelly Rayburn. The proposed move, on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting (doors open 6 p.m.), is tantamount to self-mutilation if we’re supposed to be betting the revival of Oakland on entertainment, art, dining and the like…in other words, giving people a reason for moving here and giving the ones who did something to do when the sun sets. I don’t know how many complaints I’ve heard about the city’s inability to communicate across the various departments. So the head doesn’t know what its ass is doing, but the head is supposed to be capable of giving people information about its various body parts. So let me spell it out to Ignacio De La Fuente and Jean Quan, the two councilmember geniuses who put the suspension idea out there along with some other brilliant proposals. I’ll try to go slowly. Artists and the art they create need money, which the program helps provide based on qualified people making qualified judgments. The artists create a buzz that draws more people, which draws restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs to feed and water them. That means more money for the city and safer streets etc. In short, it creates a cool city. Here is a more thorough description of what the program does and the future plans, including Illuminated Oakland.  I’m no schill for the city folks but my job will get a lot duller if Quan and De La Fuente have their way (Dellums and three other members are opposing).
I don’t care how many high-rise office buildings go up, without Cultural Arts support, the city won’t be worth hanging out in and the SF shadow will just loom darker and heavier, proving the theory that Oakland survives DESPITE its leadership. Here is a link to an online petition drive and more about it all.

Hi everyone, We could use your help!1.) Forward this urgent email to as many people as possible.

2.) Sign the online petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Oakland_Arts_Funding/index.html

3.) Come to the City Council Meeting on Tuesday October 21st!

4.) Contact a Council Member and let them know how important the arts are to you!

Funding for the Cultural Arts and Marketing Department is on the chopping block and will be voted on by the Oakland City Council this Tuesday, October 21. The meeting begins at 6pm and this topic is currently Item 19 on the Agenda, so it could be a long night. Grant funding is in jeopardy, as are all of the staff positions. This is a serious threat to a thriving but already under-funded community. We do understand that the City’s finances are in a dire situation, but the fact of the matter is that the cultural arts department has historically borne more than its share of cuts and now represents only .4% (4/10 of 1%) of the overall city budget, yet serves 6,273 children and youth through the art in the schools program (most of whom would not have access to arts without these programs), and another 957,650 people through performances, events, etc. Not only will department staff lose their jobs: staff an d teachers in the already-fragile arts sector will also lose jobs. The arts are not a luxury! Children and youth who participate in arts programs and learn positive ways to express themselves are less likely to engage in unsafe or criminal activities. Neighborhoods with visual and performing arts venues bring in $$s to the local economy, help prevent crime and violence by “keeping the lights on”, and add to the overall quality of life in our city.

If you are an artist, educator, work for an arts organization, enjoy arts events, have a kid in an arts program in one of Oakland’s schools or community centers, or have friends that are artists, please join us to make our voices heard. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

There are currently three council members who are opposed to cutting arts funding: Nancy Nadel, Jane Brunner, and Desley Brooks. All other council members have indicated that they will vote to cut the program. Please don’t let this happen!! Contact your council person immediately (preferably before Monday) and let them know that cutting the arts program is unacceptable. Also, let the three council members that support the arts know how much you appreciate their support. Below is contact info for each of the district council members:

District 1, Jane Brunner, jbrunner@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7001;
District 2, Pat Kernighan,pkernighan@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7002;
District 3, Nancy Nadel, nnadel@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7003;
District 4, Jean Quan, jquan@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7004;
District 5, Ignacio de la Fuente. idelafuente@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7005;
District 6, Desley Brooks, dbrooks@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7006;
District 7, Larry Reid, lreid@oaklandnet.com, (510) 238-7007
At-Large, Henry Chang, Jr., cityochang@aol.com

Not sure who your council member is? Click here to find out: http://www.oaklandnet.com/oit/CDST/DistMain.cfm

Please forward this to your staff, board, friends, students, their parents, your mailing list, etc. It is our responsibility to make our voices heard – and to let the officials know that we represent a larger portion of the public than they think!

Here’s a link to the evite:

I know that you are all really busy and I appreciate your time.

Thank you in advance for getting involved,

Lori Zook, Acting-Chair
City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission

Nicole Neditch, Co-Dierctor, Oakland Art Gallery
Vice-Chair, City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission


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8 Responses to “Slashing arts funding in Oakland”

  1. V Smoothe Says:

    Angela, what would you cut instead? Would you prefer the Mayor’s proposal, which would shut down all city services one day per week and slash everyone’s pay by 20%? Or maybe the Mayor’s alternative proposal that would lay off an addition 120 people (on top of the 84 positions already identified)? Are grants to arts organizations a more vital service to the citizens of Oakland than Park Rangers, a working animal shelter, and the Bookmobile, which were all eliminated under the Mayor’s proposal and would be restored under Quan and De La Fuente’s?

    In the best of all possible worlds, of course we’d be able to give lots of grants for people to make art. But when a City’s budget is as tight as Oakland’s, and we have to find a way to fill a $42 million hole when the total discretionary portion of the budget is only $110 million, direct services need to be our priority, not giving people money to reinterpret Greek folk music and take photos of seniors exercising at the Y.

    Subsidy is hardly the only way to promote a thriving arts culture in a City – Oakland could do a great deal more to benefit artists as a community by relaxing nightlife and cabaret restrictions than by throwing money their way.

  2. Angela Woodall Says:

    You say that like those were the only options and that the city is truly being creative in looking where the fat is. Now let’s assume that City Councilmembers cut their pay back to where it was before the dearly departed Edgerly doubled their paychecks. That would save more than the $1.64m total Cultural Arts program, which is only 1/3 of 1% of the City’s General Fund budget of $491 million.
    You tell me then what the most important agencies and functions are because I think they all are needed to make a city work. The arts program is more than giving people money to reinterpret Greek folk music and take photos of seniors at the Y. You can read some of the stories I wrote to learn more. But you will have to explain to me how just relaxing cabaret restrictions will benefit artists. And if we’re talking about subsidies how about those fat ones that went to the Fox Theater etc?
    That said, the city departments need to learn how to communicate amongst each other so entrepreneurs don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And the city/police would do well in the time of this budget crisis to communicate better with nightclub owners and the like.

  3. V Smoothe Says:

    Angela, Edgerly never “doubled” the Council’s paychecks (where on earth did you get that idea?), and are you seriously suggesting that we should be paying our City Council, who work untold hours in a difficult and thankless job, $35,000? Also, how can the Fox Theater have a “subsidy” when it’s a city project? A subsidy to ourselves? That doesn’t even make sense.

    In any case, you don’t seem to understand how this process works. The General Fund budget is $491 million, but very little of that money is discretionary. So what they had to do was cut $42 million out of a total of $110 million, not out of $491 million. I would say that things like libraries, parks and rec, and senior services, all of which are being decimated, are the foundation of what makes a city livable.

    It seems fairly self-evident to me that making it less difficult to perform art or display art with entertainment to draw people in would benefit the arts community as a whole more than subsidizing a small portion of it.

  4. Angela Woodall Says:

    Are you sure about the pay hike? It’s nice of you to take up the banner for their poor, overworked souls. And of course I know how the budget process works. It all comes down to the same thing, though: “Suspending” (and you really think that means just for a year?) the program would have made little difference to the bottom line, whereas subsidies like those to the Fox would. It is not entirely a city project AND the costs are mounting above the original estimates.

  5. Angela Woodall Says:

    Rather, are you sure about the budget hike, I should have said. The City Council’s office budget still has a lot of padding despite the $1 million cutback. They didn’t go back to the pre-Edgerly sums.

  6. Lori Zook Says:

    V…..you’re here too. And speaking of not knowing how the budget works, just yesterday you posted in another location an implication that if money goes back to cultural funding, it will come out of libraries and animal shelters. Guess what? That’s not how it works. Within a particular department, such as say, Cultural Arts and Marketing, funds had to be taken from one part of that budget to be put back into the cultural funding awards. So while I appreciate the effort to pit folks against one another, it didn’t work this time.

    And the idea of “subsidies” is a little misleading. Those grants are a contract for services, which include among other things, running after school programs (many of which are completely free to participants), running classroom programs, and providing the city with performing and visual arts events, which in fact do provide a service to the city. I appreciate your lack of interest in the arts, and frankly don’t care, but at least get your facts straight and don’t try and diminish our work by referring to the various artists and arts organizations with that smirk. It doesn’t lead to an intelligent dialogue.

  7. V Smoothe Says:

    Well, Angela, you were the one who said “pay,” but if you want to change that now to talk about office budgets, we can do that too. “Pay-go,” or the discretionary funds that each Councilmember gets, are being cut in half (saving $1 million). The vast majority of this money is paid directly to the City’s Public Works department, so the cut to the Council budget is an effective cut to Public Works, and will likely force further layoffs in the department. Furthermore, this is literally the only money available to pay of capital improvements anywhere outside of redevelopment areas. So yes, we could eliminate it, but doing so would mean that we were taking away literally the only source of funding for park and streetscape repairs for many of the people who live here.

    Once again, the funds going to the Fox Theater are not funds that would be available to pay for any of the things we’re discussing. And yes, it is our project and only ours, and the reason it is costing more than the original estimate is because after the DDA was approved, the City changed their fire and safety requirements. It’s also worth noting that for this whole project, which, BTW, is providing a new venue for the performing arts and a home to the Oakland School for the Arts, we are only paying 46% of the costs – the rest is coming from outside sources.

    Lori –

    Balancing a budget is a zero-sum game, and yes, the restoration of funding for the entire cultural arts grant program did come at the expense of parks, libraries, and animal services. It’s disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Be happy that you got what you wanted, but it’s important to recognize that Oakland residents are paying a price for it in the form reduced services elsewhere.

  8. Angela Woodall Says:

    Apropos Fox Theatre, there’s an update about the opening and the funding in today’s Trib. The reason it is costing more is not because of the City’s requirements (although it wouldn’t surprise me if that had contributed some). Rather, here is a better description:
    “The transformation did not come without a price. The original estimates to fix the building rose from about $27 million in 2004 to $33 million in 2005 and $60 million in 2006, $32 million of which was funded by Redevelopment Agency loans. The funding also includes $6.5 million from the School for the Arts and a $19.1 million loan from Bank of America. Although ambitious and expensive, the project at the time did not include many of the original period details that ended up in the final product.
    Patrick Lane, a redevelopment program manager for the city of Oakland, and president of the nonprofit ownership structure for the theater, said there were four options and pricing for rehabilitation of the Fox when Tagami got involved as a consultant in 2003, from a basic “Ruins” seismic retrofit to what he called the ultimate “Cadillac” version.
    The project hasn’t reached the Cadillac stage, Lane said, but still the costs of the project have gone up $22.6 million since 2006, mainly because of the unforeseen complexity of modernizing the lighting, electrical and plumbing systems and making structural improvements while maintaining historical integrity. There is also more money needed for tenant improvements to the theater and a new lobby restaurant and bar.
    Tagami, a principal of California Capital Group and the Fox Theater’s for-fee developer, and the city’s project manager, Jeff Chew, have vigorously scouted new sources of funds, and each new source of funds brought more and more historic detail back to the Fox.
    The project has been awarded millions in historical tax credits and grants, and the nonprofit Friends of the Oakland Fox, the group that helped keep the theater in the public eye and away from the wrecking ball, has raised nearly $500,000 in donations for the restoration.
    The Redevelopment Agency has contributed nearly $50 million to the project, some of which is in the form of loans and some in grants. It gave an additional loan of $7.5 million this summer to fund the completion of the Fox and keep it on schedule.
    Tagami’s fee is 2 percent, and has not risen with the costs.”
    All that said, V you really should watch your patronizing language, with me at least. It is not polite esp because I am all for a fun, spirited back-and-forth but it’s not personal. And good debate does not include trying to shout someone down as you often do in the comments of your own blog. I noticed as a reporter in DC that officials try that to intimidate journalists. After all, it’s all about Oakland darlin.

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