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Budget and Finance: Considering the LA Theatre Center

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, April 05, 2005, at 03:52PM

I'm actually at the Budget and Finance committee meeting right now, using the bits of EDGE connection I can pick up in City Hall room 1010 to blog this "live."

Public comment took an hour, and since public comment comes before the actual committee discussion we still don't know exactly what it is the committee intends to do. You can read detailed notes of public comment in the post body, but the summary is that comments took three general forms: * Whatever happens, make sure the process is open and that the theatre be open to all. * Will & Company has successfully operated in the theatre for over a decade and given many multicultural actors their first chance to star in a production. * Latino Theatre Company people talking about the money they have been awarded and the need for a Latino theatre space (and also stressing that they want to keep the theatre open to other people).

5:42pm: The meeting's now over finally, and I'll recap the whole thing in just a bit.

I'll update this post with other comments, both public and committee, as the meeting progresses.

From the original post's intro:

We're in the public comment section of the meeting right now, which comes before the committee actually even tells us what's going on. So right now people are speaking to the bits and pieces of what they think is happening, not to whatever action it is the Budget & Finance committee intends to take.

I just made my public comment a minute ago. After getting over a bad case of nerves I think I was effective in getting across the point that at the time of the RFP process the issue did go before DLANC and the Arts Committee. The committee (I wasn't yet here at that point) decided to endorse the Gilmore RFP that the city did end up accepting. If the Council in any way intends to change that decision now, the matter needs to not be acted upon until it can again come before the neighborhood council. Also, I reminded the committee that the LATC was intended to be a centerpiece of Downtown revitalization. If it is still intended to be that -- now in a time when this revitalization is actually occuring -- it needs to be open to all organizations who would wish to fund and execute performances there.

Update (3:56pm): Part of the comment from the Latino Theatre Company is that they have secured from the state a four million dollar allocation for capital improvements. A committee member asked if that money was part of the original RFP, and the answer is no, it wasn't, because at that point it had not yet been awarded. The committee was concerned that they might then not be able to act on this information, since that could be ruled bid enhancement.

Update (4:02pm): A few comments now from speakers associated with Will & Company, one of the theatre companies currently in residence at the LATC and a part of Gilmore's (previously) chosen proposal. They emphasized the multiculturalism of the company, and their use of neighborhood school children in their productions. Artistic director says that Gilmore and Will & Co wish to make the facility available to any company who wishes to do a production there. I hate to hear this becoming a race thing, but that's part of where the discussion's going. "I hope that you take into consideration all your constituents."

Update (4:04pm): I whispered to Jason Waters that this may be the first ever live-blogging from City Hall. He and Nic Cha Kim both asked me to mention that they're here next to me. I haven't heard any requests for "Hi Mom" yet.

Update (4:10pm): Still comments from Will & Company people. Themes: absolutely multicultural, local high-schoolers able to act with professionals, Will & Company gave me my chance, etc.

Update (4:14pm): I didn't mention earlier (though it is part of the agenda linked yesterday) that the Council's Budget & Finance Committee is made up of five Council members: Cardenas, Miscikowski, Parks, Garcetti, and Smith.

Update (4:25pm): Here comes trouble... Brady and Don are up now. Brady is taking issue with the fact that we've only got 24-hours notice about this issue (ed. and we really don't even know what's happening). "Why isn't there a debate going on?" Paraphrase: "We need to put together a blueprint for the LATC and we need to find a way to keep LTC in Downtown. But most important is keeping the LATC open to all uses." Don is praising LTC for interacting with the Central City East community. Need to consider: was the original RFP legal, who has the money to keep it going without city money, who is going to collaborate with the surrounding community? The community needs to be better kept informed of what's going on at LATC.

Update (4:35pm): I missed his name, but the current speaker is a money producer who's on the board of LTC. This isn't about getting rid of Will & Co, this is about created a world-class theatre center and bringing millions of new dollars to the table. This might be the only opportunity to bring the Latino Museum back into the Historic Core since rising prces mean they can't afford to buy a building. I don't know if I addressed this enough earlier: LTC wants to partner with the Latino Museum to put the museum in the theatre building. An earlier speaker said that this would be in the lobby, the basement, and in one small theatre (there are four at LATC). Back to the current speaker...This isn't about the old RFP, this is about bringing a new and much better use to the building.

Editor's note: It's still odd that this is all occuring when the committee still hasn't in any way made its intentions clear on what they actually intend to do. This appears to me to be a strategy fraught with legal peril.

Update (4:40pm): Committee question: Why is it you can claim that the theatre would no longer need city money, when in the past its funding had to be propped up by the CRA? (Answer from same speaker above:) Income continued to rise in the past, at the end the (LATC Company, not LTC) were paying 25% of all total costs of the theatre, including 100% of operating expenses. That was what caused it to go bankrupt. Different today if that we (LTC this time) are coming with financial backing, and this time the deal is to pay upkeep, not rent. That works in other cities.

Update (4:48pm): Speaker from the CD9 office: The RFP was three years, but that kind of a deal doesn't allow for handling the deferred maintenance costs of the building. Jan Perry would prefer to have this committee just receive and file the pending RFP so that the Council can then pursue all the options available to it, instead of getting caught on this RFP. All groups have a right to participate in the theatre. Need to make sure the theatre can be maintained. People haven't seen the open discussion of this space because the RFP has still been pending.

I forgot to note that developer Tom Gilmore spoke first, said that he fully believes he won the RFP process fair and square and that process should now become valid. That said, if the process does go to a new RFP process he fully intends and welcomes the chance to compete in a fair and open process.

From discussion just now: The city owns the LATC (the CRA owned it when it was developed), and there is no debt on the building.

Update (4:55pm): Current speaker started by saying something to the effect of: I don't want this to sound racist, but LTC and Will & Co are here fighting over the scraps, and it's the white community that owns the Taper, Ahmanson, etc. LA Theatre is segregated. LTC is not racist, not exclusive. Fact that we don't have a home for Latino theatre doesn't make any sense.

Ed: Yikes. I don't want to touch that.

Update (5:06pm): Last two speakers. Whew... Speaker from LTC saying that LATC in its hey-day was amazing place for generating opportunities and creating experimental theatre. LTC wants to bring it back to that state.

Nic Cha Kim, from AACE and Gallery Row (and earlier in the update), is the final person up. One company has presented the promise of money, the other has presented testimony from a lot of actors. This is a question of process.

Cardenas is taking Nic to issue for that actors/money bit. He's having LTC actors here stand. And now someone else had Will & Co. people stand. Humor is attempting to diffuse a tense issue. Cardenas says its a Latino cultural thing to not want to come speak; let one person handle it for them. Nic: I'm Asian-American, and we're usually quiet, but I'm here speaking.

Now the non-public process starts.

Update (5:10pm): Speaker from Cultural Affairs (I think?): The RFP was designed to just address operation of the theatre. We need it off our books, since the operation is draining our budget.

City Attorney's Office: The RFP was recommended to be awarded. You either need to accept that recommendation, or you need to just file the RFP. Your action's are limited by the bid process, since the RFP was put out. The current RFP process needs to be finalized. New news (LTC money) can't be considered in awarding one proposal, but can be considered a change of circumstances that warrants rejecting all proposals and start over. Potentially then everything could be considered, and there is the option of negotiating via a different process.

Greig Smith is really worried about opening the city up to legal action if the RFP process is terminated and the city then negotiates in a different manner.

Update (5:35pm): Councilwoman Miscikowski wants to have the original RFP rejected and everyone instructed to look at the process again. Garcetti seconds.

Garcetti: "If you don't believe that we support multi-cultural theatre, just look up here."

Garcetti wants a new process, not a redone process. Acknowledges the neighborhood council needs to be involved. Asks LTC what state funding conditions are.

LTC speaker: State requires matching provisions. Requires simple control (basically ownership) in order to qualify for the match.

Another speaker: This is why we need to come back; not sure that is completely the case.

Miscikowski: If the city is required to transfer the property in order for LTC to get the grant, that raises issues. Asks the City Attorney's office to investigate. Wants any new process to involve the neighborhood council early in the process.

Smith: Asking who's actually seen the terms of the grant.

State speaker: Need to find out what state options are. Site control normally isn't required... leasing usually suffices.

Miscikowski: If the city was ever going to transfer, the value would have to be appraised fairly, since the city can't make any public gift of funds. Lots of things become involved at that point. City is not able to transfer property other than by its processes.

Garcetti: If financial burden wasn't the issue, would this be something you'd want to continue administering?

Cultural Affairs: Yes, we would have preferred that.

G: Would you prefer these two companies continue using the facility?

CA: Yes, and other companies.

G: CD9, what is the community desire for the property?

CD9: Always the intent to preserve the facility for theatre. City's ownership of the building allows us to put pressure to continue that vision. Intend open process.

G: Shouldn't have to be choosing between companies. Need to find a way to encourage even more theatre.

Update (5:42pm): Parks: Asks Cultural Affairs what would happen if we continue this process and the facility stays with Cult. Affairs.

CA: Continue to have directive from City to operate facility.

Smith: How can we sit here and just throw out an accepted RFP? Giving up bird in hand for two in the bush, and we don't know what's in the bush. We've been critical for Cult. Affairs overspending, but we continue to make them pay by rejecting the RFP. We'd be back at square one with new debt.

Cardenas: RFPs shifted costs from Cult. Affairs to general fund. Not necessarily an ideal solution. Lawsuit woulsn't be successful, because the RFP was never awarded; this is the final part of the awarding process. Didn't meet all the needs of the city.

Smith: But it met the RFP requirements. If you're saying the RFP wasn't good enough, that's our fault.

M: We have to come up with a new process because these city owned buildings are going to have maintenance costs and that's going to come back to us. Seperate motion to receive and file RFP to send the RFP to the Council, and also to have the CLA report back to the committee in a week or two.

Motion passes 4-1. Garcetti opposed.

Whew... I'll recap in a bit.

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