East County Performing Arts Center still center stage

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At last week’s El Cajon City Council meeting, the East County Performing Arts Center was the main topic of a debated discussion. This comes shortly after the city council held closed session meetings with El Cajon’s Rock Church that came to them with a proposal to rent out the facility when it opens.

At last week’s El Cajon City Council meeting, the East County Performing Arts Center was the main topic of a debated discussion. This comes shortly after the city council held closed session meetings with El Cajon’s Rock Church that came to them with a proposal to rent out the facility when it opens.

Some in the community claim the closed session meeting was a violation of the Brown Act, but the city attorney assured council it was not and would fight it in court if necessary. Although I do not believe council violated the Brown Act, it definitely walks a fine line on what is the right and wrong way to conduct city business.

After serious rebuttal from the community, the council decided to open up the discussion to the public by an open Request for Proposals for anyone who desires to rent out the space. In a unanimous vote, council voted for staff to prepare the RFPs to see what entities might come forward and help infuse long-term money into ECPAC, therefore creating a steady form of revenue in tandem with the performances that will carry the art center forward.

On the flipside, community members spoke against this plan, stating the need for management to be hired to take care of business, including retaining the long-term money needed to make ECPAC work this time. It is council’s belief that this is the first step, due to the failure of the center in the past and that it is too early and expensive to hire management at this time. If this goes further and the city locks down days and times for other groups to rent the facility, the new management will have to work around this in order to schedule performing arts.

Though there were only four speakers that spoke against this idea at council, these four people are community leaders in themselves whom represent a community at large that are wary of allowing the city to manage the future of the performing arts.

So do we infuse money first, and then hire management, or hire management to infuse money and the events that ECPAC will hold? That is the debate at hand.

The hardest part of this decision, looking from the outside, is that if it is done smartly, both ideas could work. What this really boils down to is that many in the community have lost all faith in the city to handle this matter.

At the El Cajon Diversity Forum on April 4, Dr. Sheridan Barker said, “El Cajon is an interconnected ecological system, a living organization that happens to be people and businesses, associations and agencies. Everything has intended and unintended consequences. Even your best efforts, if they are not productive and well coordinated will cause other problems with another place in the organization or another place in the community.”

Wise words, and this is a perfect example of what she was speaking about. Councilmembers Tony Ambrose and Star Bales and City Manager Doug Williford attended this forum. It is highly recommended that the rest of the city council and those that have problems with the way that the council chooses to do business begin attending these forums.

They all might find out that if city officials, civic organizations and activists can get on the same page that the East County Performing Arts Center can meet all the expectations of everyone in the community. It might behoove all, to have Dr. Barker come in and mediate between all the parties involved.