Thursday, January 29, 2004
Sunset Center’s Future in Debate
The public is invited to attend a town hall meeting on Thurs., Jan. 29, to discuss the future management of Carmel’s newly reopened and beautifully remodeled Sunset Community and Cultural Center. Fireworks are all but guaranteed.
At a recent special city council meeting, some local residents expressed concern that the creation of a non-profit board, to manage the Sunset Cultural Center will take control away from the city.
Mayor Sue McCloud says that long-term users of the center, like the Monterey Symphony and the Carmel Music Society, have already met with the new board. McCloud says that “unless the [forthcoming] budget plan is out of whack,” she is for it.
Interim general manager Tom Bacchetti says that the city administration and council made a decision to try to move in the direction of non-profit management last May, and hired him to facilitate the process. Bacchetti says that the preference of non-profit management comes from the administration’s and council’s belief that “the Sunset Center can be operated more efficiently if operated outside of the bureaucracy of a city government.”
“There are things which very good, well-meaning people have been trying to accomplish for a few years and haven’t been able to,” he says. “A private 501C3 can get it to happen and it will be done quickly.
“There are people who don’t think it’s a good idea and they are worried about a loss of control or accountability. I think that’s probably not a concern. There are a lot of people who don’t like change and are comfortable with the way things are, even if they aren’t the best way of doing things.”
One of those people not happy with the change is the former director of the Sunset Center. After serving for thirteen years, Brian Donoghue retired from office on the last day of 2003. Donoghue says he left because he could “no longer represent the administration’s decisions on the arts,” including McCloud’s actions regarding the Sunset Center.
“The city has been running it for 100 years,” he says.
Donoghue charges that the mayor ignored and “buried” reports suggesting other forms of management and accused the city of “subterfuge.”
McCloud denied that any shenanigans are going on. “I’d like to take the upper road here and say that it’s all past history,” she said.
City council member Barbara Livingston said that the city is doing the public a disservice by not seriously looking at all the options, and that the cost-cutting measures promised by the non-profit could also be achieved by the city.
“So far I see no difference between the city-run Sunset Center and the non-profit,” Livingston said. “Both are going to have somebody to administer the center, whether the non-profit or the city’s own commission. The thing most disturbing to the public at large is that they have a right to expect the council to pursue all options.”
Thursday’s meeting is at 6pm in Diment Hall at the Carmel Foundation, Lincoln and 8th Ave. [BW]
Seaside Sees Drop in HUD Money
Could it be that all this talk of Seaside’s gentrification actually has consequences beyond folks with disposable income? With fancy developments like Seaside Highlands moving into place on formerly public land at Fort Ord, and tentative plans for a fancy golf community abutting the already fancy Bayonet and Blackhorse, city leaders look to the day when Seaside can hold its own against Monterey and Pacific Grove. But people who rely on assistance from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development might have to look somewhere else.
Since 2001, Seaside’s share of Community Development Block Grant money has dropped from $574,000 to $571,000 in 2002, to $502,000 in 2003 and to $492,000 in 2004.
The money comes from the budget of the US department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which requires Congressional approval, according to Gail Goldman, HUD community representative for the Central Coast. In order to qualify, a community must have some measurable level of poverty, housing overcrowding, the relative age of housing, and some lag in growth compared to other cities.
The money can be used for housing rehabilitation, homeownership assistance, special economic development projects, property acquisition and other purposes.
“It’s a complicated formula based on population and poverty level,” says Goldman. “It has nothing to do with how it looks. It’s based on census data.”
Again, changes in either population and/or poverty level can make an allocation change. Monterey’s share went from $270,000 in 2003 to $277,000 in 2004. Salinas, which has a significantly larger population, at roughly 157,000, and some poverty-stricken areas, got $2.5 million in 2002, $3.85 million in 2003 but $3.4 million in 2004.
Watsonville seems to be on an opposite trend from Seaside, with $811,000 in 2002, $1.18 million in 2003 and $1.31 million in 2004. [AS]
Local Activist Arrested At Vandenberg
Salinas peace activist MacGregor Eddy was arrested Saturday at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where she and a group from the Peace Coalition of Monterey County had gone to join an antiwar vigil outside the front gates. This is Eddy’s second arrest for trespassing at the base, which, she says, “makes it more serious—people do six months in prison at Fort Benning for trespassing.”
Eddy and other Monterey activists have brought protests to Vandenberg, a major US missile site, for years. The protest last week was aimed at a new land-based interceptor missle that is seen as a step toward the resurrection of the infamous Star Wars weapons system.
A court date has yet to be set, but Eddy will be represented by the head of the ACLU in Santa Barbara County.
“It’s a civil rights issue,” Eddy says. “We’re going down there and we’ll fight it. We’re taking the political struggle into the courtroom, defending the Constitution.”
Eddy says she was arrested for standing on the road that goes through the base’s front gate, a road the peace activists claim is public property.
“They had two majors there, the first time they had such high-ranking personnel,” she says, suggesting that the base is “cracking down” since it lost its recent case against activist Bud Boothe, who also faced trespassing charges. [SF]