The Culver City Council meeting of Jan. 9 could not have been a more vivid illustration of our city and our government if it had been outlined in a textbook. When Mayor Mehaul O’Leary asked for the number of speaker cards addressing the end of the redevelopment agency, there were none. Later on the agenda, when the mayor asked for the number of people wanting to speak in regard to cutting the funding for the Summer Music Series, there were nine.
The Redevelopment Agency, even in this critical moment of statewide governmental shift, is an abstraction to most. The summer concerts are as concrete as our own sidewalks, a part of life that we know to be real.
Addressing the first action item on the agenda, City Manager John Nachbar stepped into meeting-mode in a way seldom seen before. In regard to AB 1 X 26, the bill dissolving the state’s redevelopment agency, Nachbar spoke in an animated fashion, emphasizing that the city has “already cut more than 50 positions, has already trimmed millions from the budget…what we had planned as a loss of 4 million per year spread out over the next several years is now a loss of 7 million, effective Feb. 1.”
Each member of the council deplored the state’s decision in their own comments, with Jeff Cooper taking it to a personal level, recounting his story of how he lost a business and had to start over again. “These will be tough times, and we have to make some tough decisions,” Cooper stated, “but we’ll do what we need to do.”
The 4-0 vote to designate the city as the successor agency leaves the council with months of transition to orchestrate and oversee.
While there are still some last minute attempts being made in Sacramento in regard to softening the blow, the current legal situation ends redevelopment in less than a month. This will change the shape of the government, and profoundly affect funding for many cultural events.
The Summer Concert series, a musical landmark that many feel defines Culver City as a destination during the summer months, was the first thing on the block. Of the folks who came to the podium to plead for the shows, both Jozelle Smith and Karlo Silbiger pointed out that the RDA money was not the only way to pay for the concerts. “My friends and I would put in together to buy a sponsorship.” Smith stated at the podium. Silbiger noted that the series had previously been funded though the city before it was funded through the RDA. “So there is a precedent for the funding coming from someplace other than redevelopment funds.”
Producer Gary Mandell offered the city of Santa Monica and their Twilight Dance series as a comparison. “They have gone out and gotten commercial sponsors, which is something we should have been doing.”
While discussion seemed to be heading in the direction of postponing the vote, it was finally a 3 to 1 decision to pull the plug on funding the concerts. The next council meeting on Jan 23 will allow interested parties to offer other options.