Encouraging and Supporting the Expansion of the Arts since 1965
Letter to the editor
Santa Maria City Council, a major disappointment to the city when it comes to supporting public art
I couldn’t be more disheartened by the inaction of our city council at the October 3rd meeting regarding the Arts Master Plan and Ordinance. Early on, Councilmembers Boyson and Waterfield were clearly prepared to pronounce the Art Plan DOA with Councilwoman Waterfield at one point, among other ludicrous notions, suggesting all the city’s non-profits could join together and pay for public art. An incomprehensible notion since most arts non-profits are all volunteer based organizations struggling to fulfill their individual core missions.
Councilman Cordero seemed to understand the value of public art and was ready to support the ordinance, but, after Boyson and Waterfield continued to poison the well with convoluted attacks, he reluctantly seconded a motion he early said he wouldn’t support – sending the plan back to another committee, a motion made by Councilman Moats. To Councilman Cordero’s credit, he kept the ordinance from dying on the spot.
Mayor Patino unfortunately didn’t comment until near the end of the discussion and expressed an interest in having all residents help foot the bill through a tax. The council – particularly the mayor – could have shown greater leadership and made a proposal to keep the plan moving forward by fine tuning the options presented by staff. She could have suggested a number of actions including calling for a fee equal to one-quarter-percent for all building permits pulled and perhaps recommending a cap, a similar action which the planning commission took at their meeting two months ago before they endorsed the art plan and sent it to the city with a recommendation to adopt it.
But most telling was the overt elated reaction from developer Dan Blough after the vote – high fiving city staff – which only affirmed that it is the developers – the good ol’ boys - who are calling the shots in Santa Maria.
A very disappointing outcome after two years of work on a beautification plan that hundreds of other cities have used successfully. After two hours of testimony the council just gave lip service to the support of public art, then shot it down. Sending this to a new committee is nothing but a delay tactic in an upcoming election year, and a chance to further cripple this ordinance so that it never sees the light of day. I have little faith in the city to pick up the pieces and commit to a public art plan.
So instead of sending a message that Santa Maria is on the verge of a cultural transformation, they are committed to status quo. Retail sales tax is king. Unfortunately, a run-down looking city is an open invitation to more crime, lower property values, and a disinterested and unconnected population. It is clearly time to elect a council that understands that art can turn that trend around, give the city character, identity, and strengthen the local economy. Our elected officials need to be people who actually value art.
Craig Shafer - Santa Maria Resident
The birdhouses were at the OCAF Chalk Art Festival this year. It was a great success! Thanks to all who supported our fundraiser.