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City Council fires up over arts seats

Leaders clash over size of developing commission

Posted: June 24, 2009 8:50 p.m.
Updated: June 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The development of a Santa Clarita arts commission moved forward this week, but not without some heated discussion.

The City Council heard a rough outline of the structure of the commission Tuesday night, presented by Diane Trautman and Sherry Klahs from the city’s arts advisory committee.

The big sticking point? Mayor Frank Ferry and council members Laurene Weste and Laurie Ender contended the commission should have five members — the same as the city’s other commissions — rather than the nine suggested.

After much haranguing, the council signed off on the recommendations, directing city staff to return to the July 14 meeting with a resolution to create the commission.

In addition to the proposed reduction in seats, the council recommended the commission seats only be open to city residents.

“There should be equity,” Ferry said. “This is political. I expect the arts commissioners to advocate for the arts and go after money from the budget.”

Councilwoman Marsha McLean locked horns with Ferry and insisted nine members are a necessity because of the different, diverse  nature of the arts community.

“Five members is not sufficient. Arts is not the same as planning,” she said. “Making it like the other commissions is dooming it from the beginning.”

That sentiment was echoed by Klahs, who said: “It’s not about equity; it’s not about politics. It’s about serving the community the best we can.”

Whether five seats or nine, Phil Lantis, the city’s arts and events coordinator said: “We’re just happy to see a commission moving forward. We weren’t invested either way in the numbers.”

The selection process for the commission would be the same as for the planning and parks, recreation and community services commissions. Residents would apply for the position, and City Council members would cast an open-ballot vote for each open seat.

The recommended term is four years, with a stipend of $25 per monthly meeting for each commissioner.

The council approved the formation of an arts commission in January, directing the city’s eight-member Arts Advisory Council to develop a plan and return for approval.

The formation of a city arts commission comes more than 10 years after local artists first approached the city for assistance.

The Arts Alliance — now called 661Arts — was formed after local arts organizations approached the city in 1996.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity for our community,” said TimBen Boydston, executive director of the Canyon Theatre Guild. “I believe this is a perfect foundation.”



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