News


Police chief explains Children's Theatre probe

Friends announces rally for Saturday

"Tens of thousands of dollars" are involved in the investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, Police Chief Lynne Johnson said Friday in a statement to the community.

(Read the letter)

The letter, released late Friday morning, says department investigators are working "tirelessly" to complete the probe and that the department understands the importance of the theater to the community.

Johnson said the investigation to date has included:

Witness and employee interviews.

Review and analysis of thousands of city documents and e-mails.

Search warrants served on numerous employee bank accounts (the average turnaround time for obtaining information from these searches is six to eight weeks).

Search warrants served on three employee homes and a number of storage lockers.

"My officers who are involved in this investigation are working tirelessly through their days off and on weekends to complete a thorough and objective case as fast as possible," Johnson wrote.

Also Friday, the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre announced plans to hold a rally Saturday "to call for information about the City of Palo Alto's investigation of the theater."

The rally is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 from 3 to 4 p.m. at the newly named King Plaza in front of City Hall at 250 Hamilton Ave.

Ralph King, a member of the Friends, said Friday the rally is still planned despite the Police Department's Friday statement.

The theater was abruptly closed late in the afternoon of Jan. 24 and four full-time staff members were placed on administrative leave by City Manager Frank Benest.

The theater remained closed for four days but is operating again. Performances of "The Giver," scheduled to begin Feb. 1, have gone on as planned.

The temporary closure of the theater and placing four staff members, including longtime director Pat Briggs and longtime assistant director Michael Litfin, on administrative leave prompted significant concern in the community about what was happening.

Litfin has since died while being treated for stomach cancer. (Read Michael Litfin's obituary)

"I asked for the closure in order to secure specific areas of the Theatre to maintain the chain of evidence for the investigation," Johnson wrote in her letter to the community.

The chief also referred to Litfin's illness and death:

"All of us at the Police Department are saddened by the passing of Michael Litfin. He was a valued employee who contributed greatly to the Children's Theatre. On the day of the theatre closure, Mr. Litfin voluntarily came into the Police Department and wanted to give a statement. Due to his illness, my investigators did not want him to have to wait, so he was sent home. When we were made aware of the seriousness of his condition, we chose not to interview him."

Finally, Johnson wrote about the sensitivity of the investigation:

"I understand that this investigation is extremely sensitive and emotional. The Children's Theatre is a long-standing and valued institution in our community. The beloved staff have provided years of incredible service to the youth in Palo Alto. This investigation will not overshadow those achievements."

Johnson ended the letter noting that some updates on the investigation may be released, but "due to the complexity of the investigation, I will not be able to answer many of the community's questions until the conclusion of the investigation."

Comments

Posted by turned off on the childrens theater, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2008 at 1:29 pm

> Also Friday, the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre
> announced plans to hold a rally Saturday "to call for
> information about the City of Palo Alto's investigation
> of the theater."

If this rally takes place, it will prove how irresponsible this group of people is, and further demonstrate why the public should no longer subsidize this group.


Posted by JKForte, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 8, 2008 at 2:13 pm

To Turned Off:
FOPACT is not subsidized by any public funds. It is supported entirely by private funding from happy parents and other civic-minded citizens who appreciate the value of a children's theatre in the community.

Do not confuse FOPACT with the Children's Theatre itself. Two separate but related entities. And if FOPACT gets a little zealous in defending the institution it exists to support, that doesn't make them irresponsible, it just means they're devoted...

Frankly, I find it quite lovely that members of our community can care a great deal about an arts organization-- rather refreshing...


Posted by EOPACT, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 8, 2008 at 2:18 pm

FOPACT may be a little but surprised when the probe is over and some of the people they are devoted to are taken for a "perp walk".

It is always someone else--not the people you are zealously devoted to


Posted by turned off on the childrens theater, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2008 at 2:28 pm

The subsidy in question comes from the city of palo alto in terms of its $1.3M budget for the theater itself.

Money that the "Friends" don't have to contribute because it has been taken from the other taxpayers could also be considered as a subsidy.

The original posting should have been more specific on this point.


Posted by Jane Marcus, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I would argue that the $1.3m the city spends on PACT is one of its most productive investments. For what amounts to the cost of a modest house in Palo Alto, this community treasure supports the arts, offers access and entertainment to all, and nourishes our children and families. For concrete examples of how, see the many personal stories of generations of Theatre "kids" here: Web Link

Compared to the City's spending money on bricks and mortar -- as in the predicted $80m price tag for the Library upgrade -- the expenditure on PACT is a pittance. And, the return on that investment is, in my mind, priceless.


Posted by Friend, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:23 pm

If so much money was involved, why did the City never ask for an audit rather than implying the staff was at fault? The City management is to blame if there were accounting questions and never an order to audit the theatre accounts. Also, how does this relate to the equipment the staff reported missing after one or two break ins? Do the police think the Friends stole the equipment???? what is going on??


Posted by Very Confused, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:43 pm

In agreement with above poster, if thousands and thousands of dollars were involved, and the trigger was the theft of the coins last July, why didn't City Services start auditing the books of the Theater then? Why wait half a year to shut the theater down? Was it not the responsibility of the city auditor to examine the finances of the theater? Yet the the auditor is leaving right in the middle of the investigation. It is very confusing how much money is alleged passing through such a small operation.
Perhaps there is a large international crime ring somewheres in Palo Alto.


Posted by Gabriel, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:50 pm

"I would argue that the $1.3m the city spends on PACT is one of its most productive investments. For what amounts to the cost of a modest house in Palo Alto, this community treasure supports the arts, offers access and entertainment to all, and nourishes our children and families."

Jane, how is that different from Little League, except for the fact that Little League does NOT get that $1.3M each year? You seem to think that the "arts", which you define as such, are more worthy than other youth activities. Why can't you "arts" parents and friends and participants pay your own way, like LL does? Why does our city government need to pay operational costs for youth theatre, whereas most other youth activities pay their own way?


Posted by Jane Marcus, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Correction to my post above:

The link to the personal stories of generations of Theatre "kids" is here: Web Link

It's ironic that my "fat fingered" typo sent you to an important discussion of our how community needs to work for the Common Good - something PACT does in spades!


Posted by Adam, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 8, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Why are people so quick to jump to conclusions without any evidence or knowledge of the investigation? The police are expected to do a thorough, competent job which they are doing. What is this cry for information in advance? I would think no one would like incorrect information released which had to be corrected later.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Just like Palo Alto to have a rally for this. Let the police do their investigation. What a waste of time. Do you really think that this will get the police to release the information before they want to? If you do, I have a orange bridge in SF that is for sale!


Posted by non theatre parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 8, 2008 at 4:34 pm

likewise, I have found it so interesting that PA children's theatre parents have loudly cried foul on the police. OK, your child's performance may have to be delayed and you don't care for that, I realize you hate for your child to be affected. Still, why are you unwilling to let the police do their proper investigation? We are all city taxpayers, even those of us who do NOT have children involved in your theatre. I did not care for it when I learned a city politician was commenting on this affair, I feel that is improper. Some of us don't have local politicians speaking up out of turn for our children's activities which are quite varied around here, could be anything, LL and other.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2008 at 4:48 pm

I quite agree with Gabriel and non theatre parent about the smugness that seems to be coming from theatre parents. Of course, no one likes the children to suffer at the hands of things out of their control and have their activities put on hold and I sympathise with that.

But, and it is a strong but, they have an activity which is subsidised by all of us Palo Alto taxpayers and to say that we all benefit from it is wrong.

My kids are involved in sport and I have to pay heavily for their interests. I am glad to do so, but I don't feel that I should feel that those in theatre are getting a superior experience for their kids than I am in mine from ayso, little league, cysa, ice hockey, swimming, and whatever else is available. Yes, many of my kids activities are run by volunteers and to me that is much more of a life lesson than seemingly the theatre which is run by professionals doing a job of work. If (and I say if because none of us have any idea) any of these professionals have been doing wrong, I am pleased that they have been found out. If the same thing happened in any of the other youth activities run by volunteers, I would say the same thing.

These people in charge of the theatre are just people doing their paid jobs. Any mentoring they are doing is all part of their job description. I admire much more those who do so much more and keep down their daytime job and give so much to our kids without receiving payment, and in fact pay out of their own pockets for extras to give the kids they volunteer for a good time and a good experience.


Posted by T.D. widow, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Parent,
By your reasoning, those without kids should not have to pay taxes for public education Your Republican reasoning makes no sense and is short sighted. Look at it this way, unique COMMUNITY resources like the Children's Theatre raise property values in Palo Alto, as do Palo Alto's great PUBLIC schools.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 8, 2008 at 6:51 pm

"Look at it this way, unique COMMUNITY resources like the Children's Theatre raise property values in Palo Alto, as do Palo Alto's great PUBLIC schools"

T.D., youth sports, Scouting, private schools, etc. also contribute to our property values. The question is: Why is PACT so special? Your attitude is very smug. Gabriel is right. PACT should pay its own operational costs, just like other youth activities.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 7:22 pm

It's interesting how many PACT supporters think that those who want to re-think city funding are somehow against PACT or don't appreciate it. Of course now - children's theater is great, as are other arts programs, sports, etc. I agree, it is a great community asset.

The acid test of this, of course, is whether the community will support it directly, as opposed to via tax dollars. I can't imagine why not. Sure, the PACT families would pay more - but for all the value they get, I am sure they would be willing (just like sports families pay a lot for sports). The city can provide the venue (as they do with many sports and other activities, though the leagues do pay some for field maintenance); the families, donors and sponsors provide the programs. What's wrong with that?


Posted by PACT Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Just like this community to make the Children's Theater a litmus test on the Bush administration. I would be more than willing to pay a course fee or a similar sports participation fee as do my children pay on other Palo Alto activities. For some reason this is frowned upon at the Palo Alto Childrens Theater, even though all other local Childrens Theater make participating children pay 100 or more to be in a show, with scholarships for those who cannot afford the fee. Please do not criticize families who participate as being lazy or unwilling to pay some sort of tuition, or expand the vendetta against the theater to some sort of larger GOP v Democrat political discussion.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2008 at 7:35 pm

TD

You get me wrong. I think the theatre is a great idea for those who use it. I see nothing wrong in the community as a whole for paying for public education as it benefits the whole community not just those with children.

What I see is a problem here is the smugness of the theatre parents who think that their kids are getting something superior to the rest of us who put our kids in sports or anything else.

I don't begrudge you your theatre, but don't underestimate the value of sports and the volunteers. We all do what we have to for our kids, they all benefit. Just don't think that yours is better than ours.


Posted by Judy, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2008 at 8:39 pm

The SMUGNESS of the PACT crowd is unbelievable! Why are we supporting them with our tax dollars?


Posted by PACT fan, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 8, 2008 at 9:24 pm

This is getting ugly unnecessarily. I didn't detect much smugness from the Theatre parents, just some dismay about the manner in which the Theatre was closed down and appreciation for the work of the staff in working above and beyond the call of duty for so many years. This should not be a discussion of arts versus sports, we all moved to this city for the many outstanding resources offered to the children and the adults. There are many resources which are subsidized by our tax money, but that is a subject for the next City budget review. Should the library charge for story time? Should our summertime concerts come with a price tag? Provide input to the City if you are unhappy about how our tax dollars are spent, but remember we are uniquely fortunate in the Bay area for having access to this gen of a theater.


Posted by Gabriel, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 9:41 pm

PACT fan, what you seem to be saying is that AYSO soccer parents can form a lobbying group to demand that our city government pay for soccer participant fees, as well as paid coaches. If Palo Alto has the funds to make one annointed youth activity free (PACT), why should it not make all youth activities free, including paid adult administrators? If, somehow, that happens, then how about all of the adult activities?


Posted by Confused, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2008 at 10:33 pm

The police letter says:
At the time of the closure there were no scheduled rehearsals in progress and a Police
Captain oversaw the closure to ensure the process was as low key as possible.

Well, I am a bit confused here. From what I understood, at the time of the closure a rehearsal of The Giver was taking place inside the theater. Children were inside the building. The cast and crew learned about the closure of the theater not by anyone who works for PACT, but from an outsider (someone who works from the city).

Why does the police letter states that there was not rehearsals in progress. The rehearsals was schedule to end at 6:00 pm. Did I miss anything?


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm

I would like to address the above concerns of parents and citizens who do not have children in the Palo Alto Children's Theater:

First of all, lots of people have kids who do little league or other sports AND children's theater. They are not mutually exclusive. I am for all of them.

When I was a kid my parents would not fill out the forms for scholarships, whether through pride or through busyness or just a lack of being informed. I never got a chance to do a single paid activity until I was older (yes, plenty of people have grown up without rich parents in Palo Alto, I'm thinking of writing a book).

Also, I actually consider the games as a public service, and have taken my children to see them when they were not playing (later in my life my younger siblings did do sports, heck, my mom even coached!).

What I would like to point out is that the Children's theater is actually quite good theater, very entertaining and very low-cost. A kid can afford a ticket on his or her own, four bucks is a steal for theater. You should check it out some time, it is a community resource open to everyone, not just children, eight bucks for adults.

The Children's theater does have paid programs in the summer, and they do have scholarships for kids who can't afford it. But during the year all a kid needs is parental permission. No selling pizzas or chocolate, or hosting spaghetti dinners. Parents are asked to volunteer, but frankly mine never seemed to be able to, yet I was allowed to be in plays anyway. Also, no equipment is required!

I am not knocking the lessons learned from Little League or other sports. But the kids that 'have' and those who 'have not' are equal at the theater, even if their parents can't provide the support that seems so necessary to even things like girl scouts (think cookie sales).

The theater staff acted 'in loco parentis' when I would have lacked supervision. They are also open more hours and more evening hours, keeping kids occupied and learning for a huge amount of time. I have also found that although there is competition for the big roles, kids with disabilities don't have to sit on the bench. There is always something to do. As an undiagnosed Aspergers kid with a dad working way too much overtime just to afford our rented house in south palo alto, and a mom who had three other kids including a baby and a toddler, I found a second home at the theater where I felt accepted. I still have friends I made there, thirty years later.

And yes, my parents chose to live in Palo Alto...where I had these opportunities, and got the education I needed to get a scholarship to a big league university and finish college. Little league was not an opportunity for me, though I am glad it is there if my kids need it, and I've done my share of hours in the snack bar, spaghetti dinner, and pizza sales for my younger siblings, so they could play ball.

I thank my folks for making choices which brought me to where I am now. And as I am currently bringing up our two girls a block from the theater and my daughter has already participated in at least eleven plays and seen countless more, I am ready for our city to help out just a little more, even if just to provide a bit more financial oversite next time so we don't end up here again.

Just remember all people deserve respect, even if they make mistakes.

When is the next game? Maybe we'll come watch.

Sincerely,
Katie Christman


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:49 pm

For comparison, here's what we spend (net of revenue) on other community service items (per the 2007-08 City Budget Web Link):

Golf Course - breaks even
All Recreation, Classes, Camps, and Activities - $400K
Parks - $3.7M
Open Space - $2.0M
Art Center - $1.7M
Community Theatre - $100K
Jr Museum & Zoo - $700K

Let's face it - we have some legacy items here in PA, like PACT and the Jr. Museum, that were taken up by the town long ago. Should they be? Not sure - a subject worthy of examination. Having good amenities is an important city asset - how much the cost of those amenities should fall on their users and boosters is a fair question.

We spend a $1M annual on PACT but have crappy libraries; $1.7M on an art center but have storm drains that don't work. Somewhere along the line PA leadership got confused, and some shabby gentility set in. It will do us good, not harm, to review these past decisions and set our house up properly.



Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:56 pm

Katie, it is clear that you are among many who benefited from PACT. I'm sure that no-one can sensibly oppose childrens theater in our community.

But the point is about how it is funded. There are childrens theater all through this country in many communities - the vast majority are not run by city government. And many kids in those programs have experiences like yours.

PACT is special not because it is city funded; it is because it is a good program, run by good people, in a good community. If it became privately funded, I expect all the above would continue to be true - just as they are true of many other community youth programs.


Posted by Former Supporter, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:57 pm

I watched the behavior of the Parents of the Children's Theatre at City Hall last Monday night, and reading that the rally will go on as planned this Friday sickens me. I would never have my grandchildren associated with such a group of misguided parents.

The Police are doing an excellent job, slowly and methodically working through all the evidence. They should be getting cooperation and help from the parents of the CT, instead all they've had is criticism and hostility. What a terrible message to give all those children at City Hall last Monday night.


Posted by Anonomus, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 1:38 am

Here is an issue I haven't seen addressed: What percent of the children in all of Palo Alto able to participate in CT? I suspect it is an extremely small percent. If 600 applied and wanted to participate could they be in the plays?
I doubt that the number of children involved in sports or library activities are as limited as the CT. Who at CT decides who will be allowed to participate? Is it by random selection?

I suspect it is by social standing in the community or the important parts are asigned by the IMPORTANT People in the community.


Posted by Norm, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 9, 2008 at 7:19 am

This whole theatre discussion is a joke. If a crime took place, let the police do what they need to regadless of the who is involved. Obviously the judicial system believes that someone did something, so stop sweeping it under the rug.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:01 am

Thank you Norm. Well said!


Posted by John, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:29 am

"What percentage of the children in Palo Alto are able to participate in CT." Good question, because it's my understanding that many of the children who participate come from outside PA and yet it's our tax dollars which go to support the children's theatre.

Also, I was surprised when a friend of my son's was always getting the lead roll in productions. If you're good I guess you are favored. Not the right atmosphere for the merely average kid.


Posted by Alumni, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:52 am

I am involved with the PACT outreach programs. We go to all the Palo Alto elementary schools (half the schools one year the other half the next) and to the 3 middle schools every year. We are required to cast EVERY child who tries out. We could have 30 kids or 100 and we find ways to use everyone. Our main goal is for the kids to gain confidence in themselves, gain respect for each other, and to have fun. Many of the children have never been involved in the theatre before and we hope that the outreach inspires them to go on to do more shows at PACT. At the Children's Theatre itself the staff tries hard to cast most of the kids and encourages others to help out with the crew. EVERYONE who wants to be involved can be involved, if not on stage, then behind the scenes which I have found has been even more rewarding for a lot of the kids. Usually a child who keeps trying out will be cast even if they might not be as talented as another child. The staff wants everyone to have experiences both on and off the stage.


Posted by Jane Marcus, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2008 at 9:13 am

I don't understand some contributors' perception of smugness on the part of the theatre parents. I've never thought my kids were getting something superior at the theatre, just something different. The theatre is a place where kids who don't participate in competitive sports -- for whatever reasons -- can learn about teamwork and cooperation.

Unfortunately, a major difference with theater is that it needs more infrastructure than sports. Costumes, lighting, scenery, etc. are integral parts of the experience -- you can't just bring balls and bats to a field or diamond and make the teamwork function. (Perhaps that's where the perception of smugness comes -- it's not smugness, just the nature of the activity.)

Recognizing the need to support the Theatre's infrastructure requirements, The Friends of Palo Alto Children's Theatre, a non-profit 501c3 organization, raises funds for equipment not included in the City Budget. The Roy Ginsburg outdoor stage -- aka the Magic Castle -- the site of each summer's sold out Hot Dog Suppertime Theatre shows, was funded by the Friends and built in Palo Alto's first Public/Private Partnership.

As far as the cost to participants, I'd certainly have been willing to pay more than I have for theatre programs. I believe the summer Conservatory Program is underpriced for what it offers. Just as it's adjusted PACT ticket prices, the City should reevaluate the fee structure for the classes the Theatre offers while being mindful of the need for scholarships and/or fees on a sliding scale.

PACT's Outreach program brings theatre programs to Palo Alto's public schools. With cuts to arts funding in the schools, the City, through its support of PACT, provides opportunities for kids, especially those who don't thrive on the playing fields, to participate in plays at their neighborhood schools.

Palo Alto's municipal support of the Children's Theatre goes back 75 years to the days of Lucy Stern. It is a storied and unique history of which we should be proud. Yet it would be useful, once the current crisis is resolved, to review the situation and determine, as a community, how to preserve this valuable resource for future generations of Palo Alto kids.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:08 am

As a comparison, there is a lot going on in sports which is equally valuable. Please note, I said equally not superior.

My daughter has done basketball refereeing at the Y for which she started off doing it for free then when she was older got paid, a small amount of money but for the full day Sunday where she worked hard with little thanks from most of the parents (just because most parents don't think to thank the refs) and taught her the responsibility of having a job.

My son has been an assistant coach for an ayso 1st grade soccer team for which he had to appear twice a week after school for practices and
Saturday games where he had to supervise half of the team in their mini game. For this he got no payment. He has also done little league umpiring for which he did get paid and as he is not old enough yet to get a part time job, this has taught him the responsibilities of having a job and given him some spending money (remember boys don't get asked very often to be babysitters).

At little league the older boys do get a little more responsibility on the teams and are expected in return to help younger ones and at try outs, etc. They also learn that if they don't turn up on time and ready to practice, that they get less play time at games. They learn about being a team player, about how to win and even more importantly how to lose. They learn how to groom the field and how to respect their equipment. Many life lessons are learned from playing little league.

For this I volunteer at various events, although I have never done any spaghetti dinners and I do not approve of kids selling cookies to anyone outside their family or asking for sponsors for batathons. Yes, I have donated above the registration fees and had my share of driving muddy, sweaty boys around town, and treating the whole team to pizza or hotdogs after the game.

The lessons my kids learn from doing sport should be meaningful for the rest of their lives. They have learned to get fun out of doing things for nothing and making friends from it. They have learned the value of responsibility and hard work. They realise how much a sincere thank you is and how hard it is to be overlooked when they walk off hungry while both teams are eating pizza when they have been on the field more than any player.

These are good life lessons. I would not change my kids' experiences. I value what they have done.

Theatre is equally good, but I do not look on it as something that my kids have missed out on. If they are getting this for free and as one poster pointed out, it sounds to me like a free babysitting service, then I do not think they are comparable at all.

Yes, please come and watch some of our ball games at Middlefield. They are free, which is not bad for sports events and often the games are really gripping. You can enjoy lunch from the snack bar and good company on the bleachers.

We are a community and remember it is all volunteer and people volunteer even if their kids are long gone from the sports, because they enjoy working with the kids. We have no paid oversight and all the extra time the coaches put in mentoring our kids are done by pure reasons alone and not because it is part of the job description.

We are not superior to theatre, we are equal but different.


Posted by no joy in mudville, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:26 am

A couple of years ago the palo alto police were called to deal with a mountain lion that had strayed out of the foothills and into a North of Oregon neighborhood. The police shot and killed the dangerous beast, who could well have killed a child had the timing been a little different.

People in palo alto were outraged! The idea that the police would kill a beast that wanted to kill them was too much for these highly "educated" people. They wrote letters by the hundreds condemning the police--who were only doing their job!

In this case, again the police are only doing their job. The police have not been trying to shut down the children's theater, or to otherwise tarnish their work. All they have done is to follow procedure in investigating what was initially reported as a theft. Given the turn of events, obviously there was more going on here than meets the eye, and all of the "parents" who have been flailing away at the police clearly show themselves no different than the people who condemned the police for preemptively acting in order to save human life.

This really is one sick town.


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:34 am

I'm a Palo Alto property owner and tax payer. I do not have children. Last night I went to the PACT to see their production of THE GIVER. I was extremely impressed. I have no problem at all with my tax money going to this fine institution.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:50 am

Gordon, that is fine. I am a taxpayer do and I do have children, one of whom in fact is in a PACT show right now. I would prefer my tax dollars go to neglected infrastructure and services, while we who enjoy and benefit from PACT simply write them checks.

Perhaps when PACT becomes a private institution, you can can simply pay a higher ticket price or write them a check.


Posted by IT's-Time-For-A-Change, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:53 am

> I'm a Palo Alto property owner and tax payer. I do not
> have children. Last night I went to the PACT to see their
> production of THE GIVER. I was extremely impressed. I have
> no problem at all with my tax
> money going to this fine institution

By this logic, anything that is "really impressive" is deserving of tax dollars?

This is not how rational government is supposed to work. There is nothing in the Charter about running a Children's Theater, or providing subsidies to people who do not live in Palo Alto for their entertainment, or the "in loco parentis" supervision of anyone's children.

It really is time for people to begin to put their feet on the ground and take back our government from the many special interest groups that have made a mess of our finances, impoverished our infrastructure, and obviously made a hash of the mental processes of residents who have come to think it is acceptable to use tax money for entertainment and child care


Posted by Gordon Reade, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2008 at 11:14 am

"It really is time for people to begin to put their feet on the ground and take back our government from the many special interest groups that have made a mess of our finances, impoverished our infrastructure, and obviously made a hash of the mental processes of residents who have come to think it is acceptable to use tax money for entertainment and child care
Posted by IT's-Time-For-A-Change, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 7 minutes ago"

Dear IT's-Time-For-A-Change

Are you referring to my mind as a hash? I research Alzheimer's for the Stanford University School of Medicine and I sign my posts with my real name. Do you have the same courage? It's easy to talk big when your name is, "IT's-Time-For-A-Change" or is that what your mommy really called you?



Posted by IT's-Time-For-A-Change, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 11:58 am

> I research Alzheimer's for the Stanford
> University School of Medicine

Your occupation clearly does not give you any credentials in the domain of rational/charter-based government.

The point still stands that the taxpayers of Palo Alto do not have an obligation to spend their tax money on children's theater, opera, dance, rock climbing, baby sitting, or any number of thousands of entertainment -based activities.


Posted by Eliot, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2008 at 12:00 pm

"A couple of years ago the palo alto police were called to deal with a mountain lion that had strayed out of the foothills and into a North of Oregon neighborhood. The police shot and killed the dangerous beast, who could well have killed a child had the timing been a little different.




People in palo alto were outraged! The idea that the police would kill a beast that wanted to kill them was too much for these highly "educated" people. They wrote letters by the hundreds condemning the police--who were only doing their job!



This really is one sick town."





Dear No joy in mudville,


Really? I don't remeber that. However I do remember the time that the Palo Alto Police beat the crap out of a black man for no reason at all. I understand the man later died. What was the story there? Were the police only doing their job? If you think this towen is sick perhaps you should take a good hard look at yourself.


Posted by Another Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 12:35 pm

After reading the comments I had a recollection of what happened many years ago when he tried out for a play.

He wound up as a stage hand working behind the scenes building the set and working on lighting, etc..

After the play the "Stars" were honored and given a party, etc..

The others involved were totally "snubbed" with no recognition whatsoever. This was one of the most demoralizing events of his life up to then. I recall what an emotional mess he was in after the play.

This is what I recall as the type of adults who ran the CT.. I hope it has changed, but who knows. Does anyone know?


Posted by Marie, a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2008 at 12:55 pm

As a family member of Pat Briggs - we are hurt and disappointed at the way that she, Michael, Alison and Rich have been treated. She has given her life to the Children's Theatre, in terms of time and commitment that far exceeded a 40 hour week, or even double that most of the year. She pretty much lived there, trying to offer as many opportunities for all who wanted to participate, as much as possible.

She started there in 1961, before I was born. Even though I never lived in PA, I would go to see her as much as I could, and I was always impressed and proud of how much she gave to others - to her staff, the parents, and most importantly, the kids there.

She does not deserve this treatment. I feel for her and for all the people close to her, who are going through this at the same time as they are mourning the passing of Michael Litfin, who was a wonderful human being.

If I lived in PA, I'd be at that rally for sure. Hope it goes well.


Posted by ?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Just to put a matter right that has been quoted above.

The police did assault an african american man a few years ago for nothing substantiated. He suffered problems with his knee(s) for which he did need surgery and recovery treatment. There was an enquiry in the PAPD. He received a settlement in the case.

This gentleman has since died. The two events are not connected. His death was not connected with the injury. He died after playing basketball which indicates that he had recovered enough from his injuries to be able to play sports.

Please do not try and make this incident, bad enough as it was, any worse to those who cannot remember it or did not live here at the time.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 9, 2008 at 3:03 pm

?,

Don't forget that the gentleman in question displayed a real 'attitude' with the police offices, the officers were relatively young, they were both Asians (not white), and they were not convicted in court. They were both reinstated for regular duty on our police force. This case was not, really, about race. It was about police-citizen interactions. Mistakes were made on both sides of that interaction.

This case has nothing relevant to say about the current PACT investigation.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 9, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Parent/Another PA neighborhood provided some good info on youth Sports. Thanks for the background!
Speaking as a Music parent, I can tell you that community and school music activities are equally valuable for youth in our city and region. Most of us pay fees and also donate a large amount of time supporting these activities, the organizations also seek grants and donations. Thousands of youth participate in music, it's very active in SF Bay Area and we wish this experience to be perpetuated, too.

Hey, youth theatre is great, too, some of us are now curious about your particular group and wondering why PACT is city subsidized but other very similar youth music organizations also headquartered in PA are not(I can think of 3 off the top of my head)
I also do not approve of a city official (who has/had? a child performing in PACT) speaking up on behalf of that youth organization under investigation by police. Let the police do their jobs unfettered, please.


Posted by R. Walsh, a resident of another community
on Feb 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm

I find so many of these posts disturbing. How did the investigation morph into a political debate about how to spend tax dollars? Isn't it obvious that we can all find things in the budget we don't agree with? I have to pay property taxes for public schools that I don't send my kids to, but that's the system.
Not only do the kids benefit from participating in productions, but the community benefits as well (and by community I mean PA,MP,ATH,RWC,MTNV)in their ability to attend the plays. I began taking my daughters to Hot Dog Theater events when they were in pre-school. They could sit outside on beautiful warm summer nights, eat a hamburger and brownie, and delight in each and every production. These events sold out every night. We met old friends there, and made new ones. All this for a reasonable price. And for the record, not all families that live in this area are dripping in money. We were on a very limited budget. I believe that this exposure to theater was life changing for my kids. My youngest went on to participate in PACT and my oldest is studying film/theater at NYU. Palo Alto is an amazing city and I hope it stays that way. Our communities share many resources, for example: police, libraries, parks and roads. Unless cities begin asking for resident ID's in order to use these resources, we will continue to share. I hope we do.


Posted by H. R., a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 4:05 pm

"Don't forget that the gentleman in question displayed a real 'attitude' with the police offices, the officers were relatively young, they were both Asians (not white), and they were not convicted in court. They were both reinstated for regular duty on our police force. This case was not, really, about race. It was about police-citizen interactions. Mistakes were made on both sides of that interaction."



Time and time again we were told that the beating was not racially motivated since the officers were Asian and only whites can be racist. That makes no sense at all.

The only reason that they were not connived is that the jury was unable to reach a veridic and the DA didn't want to start the trial over again from the beginning.

As for mistakes being made on both sides, truer words were never spoken. Someone made the mistake of being born Black.

P.S. I guess "attitude" is the new word for "uppity". As in "Uppity......" well you get the point.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 4:12 pm

R, I think the discussion is morphing because the publicity has brought more visibility to the fact that PACT is a city program funded by tax dollars, and that the budget is in excess of $1M. That's a surprise to me and it seems to others, since similar youth programs are not subsidized (in fact, sports programs pay field maintenance fees). It's worth a discussion.

You are right, we can't pick and choose what our tax dollars go for. That's why, in general, cities stick to providing infrastructure (often for a fee) but let others run programs - as with sports, music, camps, etc. That way the beneficiaries and their supporters bear the costs of the programs they choose - which of course leads to more choices.

PACT is a good program - no one is against PACT. The question is why PACT, among all the good youth programs, receives $1M in city funding and is run by city employees vs. zero for others. From what I can tell, it is just an historical accident from many decades ago.

If the city wants to fund free or low-cost summer shows (just as they do summer concerts), we can set a budget for that and all enjoy them. The city does not need to run a children's theater program to enjoy that benefit.

I hope this visibility will foster an informed debate about how best to treat this program in the city budget going forward.


Posted by wondering, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 9, 2008 at 4:33 pm

I always thought PACT was a clique, and parents have told me that they gave generous donations, not just cash, to procure parts for their children. I have no way of knowing how common this is, or whether the children would have gotten the roles anyway, but I am wondering if part of the investigation may be related to off-the-record transactions.


Posted by James, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Terry,

Excellent post.

The "smugness" issue is about PACT supporters thinking that they are special, compared to other youth acitivities. They are so used to their special privilege, that they just assume it is a natural thing.

There was a post by someone, on this subject, about costs per participant. I think the issue was that, if each PACT participant paid an amount approximatley equal to that paid by other participants in other youth activities, the entire budget of PACT would be covered.

The fact that PACT supporters refuse to even consider a pay-to-play model is what makes many of us think of the term "smug".

There might be a silver lining on this dark cloud. PACT supporters could take a breath, step back and look at their operation. If it was run like other youth operations, there would probably have been more oversight, if only because most youth organization have a healthy turnover, as new blood enters their doors. PACT was allowed to get too comfortable with the same leadership, which was further encased in city bureaucratic stone.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I always try to teach my kids that there is very little in life that is free.

Many think that PACT is free. False, we all pay for it. In fact we all pay doubly for it. First the taxpayers of Palo Alto are paying for it in property taxes and secondly we are paying for it because the money that is spent on it is money that could be going on the potholes in the street outside my house or the adding of traffic lights at the main entrance of Paly or many other things that the city could be paying for but are not.

I used to feel guilty allowing my kids to go to The Drop at Mitchell Park, because I thought of it as free babysitting for those who worked after school. It took me a while to realise that I was paying for it whether we used it or not and if my kids wanted to go there, they might as well. They think of it as free, I think of it as something I pay for whether I like it or not.

We have attended story times at the library when my kids were young. These were fine for the little ones, but don't think of them as free as they are paid for it our property taxes like the rest of the library services.

What I am trying to say is that these things are not free, they are paid for somewhere. If we charged for them at the point of using them, we may actually appreciate them a little more. Something that we get for nothing is often not thought of as value for money but as a freebie we are lucky to get. Why not actually charge for some of these things and then see just how many people are really willing to pay money for these services.

I am not actually advocating a charge per library book, but it would make sense to me if we charged for some of these services. We pay for the camps the rec. dept. put on in summer, and when we use the pool at Rinconada. Charging for our kids to be part of PACT may actually be a good idea.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 6:19 pm

For those of you posting above that you don't benefit from the Children's Theatre because your kids do not participate, I'd suggest you pull your heads out of the sand (or wherever!).

The fact that Palo Alto has this fabulous community base where many generations of youngsters have learned the values of integrity, honesty, discipline and community has ensured that we are a community where violence and vandalism are at minimum. Would you prefer to live in Oakland where children learn their values from drug pushers and gang leaders. Get a clue!

This is a community and we rise and fall together, just as we are all impacted by the public way that this self-sacrificing staff has been publicly shamed for something they would never do. Hello, is this Salem?

Johnson's reference to tens of thousands of dollars is, when put to scrutiny a pathetic attempt to justify this witch hunt. I did the math and based on the plural, chose to calculate on the high side with a base number of $90K. The fact is that Pat has led this team for 45 years! Do the math. At the most this would be $5.48 a day. hmmm lunch? Horror of horrors! The fact is that this staff lived at the theatre almost 24/7. It was their life. They did not live lavishly and they gave an immeasurable gift to the City and EVERY SINGLE PERSON in it.

It's fairly common knowledge that the City Manager, who himself has been so ineffective as to be at risk of being fired when he chose to give notice to "retire" in June, was not an advocate of the threatre and was adversarial toward the staff. Only he could order the closing of theatre, and that based on no new evidence after four to five months of investigation.

It makes a lot more sense to start with the assumption that this ineffective individual (or someone like him) has a vendetta and used what little power he had left to drag the reputations of four wonderful, caring people through the mud that he wallows is.

One doesn't have to have children in the theatre (disrupted schedules are the tiniest detail in this saga) to care about what is going on.

Palo Alto and the newspapers are most likely being played by this smaller than a gnat individual, whoever it is.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Wow

PACT prevents vandalism,gangs, drugs and violence?

Actually my kids are not involved in PACT and get their lessons in integrity, honesty, discipline and community from me and many other after school activities. They are not involved in vandalism, hooliganism, drugs, gangs, violence and are respectful, tolerant, and work hard at their sports.

Please do not be so pious.


Posted by Lorene, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 7:16 pm

I think this discussion about PACT illustrates the value of a community forum. In the past, only activists and insiders were allowed to have their voices heard. Today, we can all express our views.

I would like to thank the Weekly for hosting and sponsoring this forum.

PACT has the opportunity to reform itself. The critical voices heard on this forum are like the canary in the mine. My children participated in PACT, as they did in Little League. I have to say that Little League was a better experience for them. However, they also liked PACT. Little League paid its own way, and PACT does not. Something is amiss here.

I would like to thank Little League, and the other youth sports leagues for doing what you do. I was "forced' to become a team "mom". I dreaded the idea, but I truly grew into a more mature adult for having to take on some volunteer responsibilities. I also met some some very good people, and I now feel like I am part of the community, even though I am no longer part of LL.

I think PACT would become a stronger and more vital coummunity resource, if it emulated the Little League model.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 9, 2008 at 7:18 pm

well, when this whole thing erupted, many theatre parents started posting immediately in very strong terms that the show must go on, the children must proceed with their theatre activities, and while that is nice, it did appear to not acknowledge that there was a police investigation that prompted the shutting of the place that day. Some of us are outsiders who have no idea of theatre operations but we have learned something from all the posts...


Posted by To Wondering, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 7:33 pm

We have had a child audition several times for parts to no avail who was crushed. We had no idea that there was a patronage system and that you say donations were suggested. You are leaving us in the dark how the theater itself really works.

Perhaps the outsiders are unaware that one fills out a detailed audition card with address and that sort of thing which would give the reader some interesting socio economic background on the participant.


Posted by Surprised, a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 9, 2008 at 7:51 pm

That last post took me aback a bit. This is a city program that doesn't have a space for every kid that wants in, and the directors had discretion to choose whoever they want to participate? That just seems wrong.

How can a service we all pay for be restricted to just the talented or connected? It seems un-democratic and just wrong - why not a lottery?

PACT folks, please clear this up - this isn't really now it works, is it?


Posted by theater-parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:05 pm

We were not offered backstage work or other options. The difference in the PACT audtions with other local programs is that the bio data was submitted to one person in the office at other companies, then a number is given to auditionees to keep the process somewhat blind. At PACT the director keeps the bio card in front the entire time. We were told at auditions that behavior counted in the auditioning process, yet several talented appearing children who had acted before we contacted were not cast. Curiously, a boy who seemed to have no interest in the theater and ran all over the stage socking and yelling got a nice, though smaller part. He was not one of the regulars that gets most of the lead roles, however.
It appeared that some of the productions could have included a larger chorus at PACT to accomodate more who auditioned, wanted to be in the plays yet were not selected.


Posted by T.D. Widow, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Elizabeth,
Your post is the most perceptive thing I've read during this whole ordeal. Could you write a letter to the editor of the Merc. or Weekly?


Posted by Orin Scrivello, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:26 pm

In a fair and just world, perhaps those who advocate the decline of the Children's Theatre would best convert those who disagree with their viewpoint by doing one of two things.

One) Search through and find an example where a public children's theatre was shut down somewhere else in the world and then report upon all the upsides experienced by the community.

Second) Put forth a comprehensive missive that explains the perils of placing too much community money into the hands of programs that benefit children.

I've been unable to find examples of this myself, but perhaps someone else will be able to carry the torch here so that we Palo Altans can keep a little more money in our pockets.









Posted by Shocked, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:40 pm

TD, what impressed you the most - the part about how any theft couldn't add up to much on an hourly basis, how theater is what stands between us and rampant youth violence, or how everybody knows this is all city manager's fault?

I like PACT, but shocked at the mindset of some of the supporters.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Orin, I think you are setting up a straw man to attack. No-one has advocated shutting down PACT.

Instead, people are questioning why it is funded and run by the by city vs. run and funded privately, the way pretty much every other youth program in the city is funded. Almost all other children's theater programs is a private non-profit, funded by donations and the participants (I have not been able to find another city-run program, though I imagine there must be one somewhere). PACT could be that way as well and still serve our community as it does today.

You seem like a smart person Orin. Do you think the city should fund this program but not all the other local youth programs? If so, how come?


Posted by T.D., a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Elizabeth,
You eloquently point out:
The fact that the alleged crime is unsubstantiated, and puny, that Benest has an axe to grind and is out to destroy the reputations of people who have contributed so much more than he ever could. How can you explain the PAPD's and Human Resource's over the top actions? Benest's ire. (I guess BYU, where he got his doctorate, isn't big on ethics). You've provided the only plausible explanation for this witch hunt.


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Ok everybody, simmer down!

I am glad that I live in a community where people take the time to read each other's posts and keep informed. I regret that some people feel the need to take everything personally.

I was pleased to hear from some of the sports parents, that is a world I have never done well in.

As far as funding goes, I hate to mention it but there are levels of involvement that involve ability, and levels that do not. This goes for sports and theater. For instance, there are 'cut' teams at Palo and non 'cut' teams. Some teams are, sign up, and play. For other things, ability is a factor.

This is true in Little League to a degree; not everyone makes it into the majors. For kids new to the theater, I suggest the 'playing along' and other seminars, which are paid and accept all children.
I felt sorry for the mom who's kid was 'only on crew' and not invited to be part of the group; this happened to my husband, too. My daughter has crewed with varied success; it depended on so many things. But the these days the crew is recognized as critical and should always be invited to parent-sponsered cast parties.

I have to say as a high school student at Paly, I was jealous of the amount of campus time and money devoted to sports when theater seemed to have no funding at all for anything. We borrowed money and made enough to cover our performances most years; we did a big show every other year and had to save up. Meanwhile there was equipment and buses and uniforms and bleachers and all for the sports.

I am sure the experiences aren't so different for the parents; no matter how much is provided we always have to dig deeper. I do feel that some of the newer parents have been a bit off-kilter about the investigation, but I don't blame them. Please don't imply that any of us have 'interfered' with the police process by excersizing(sp?) our right to free speech! We are just bewildered by what seems to our extended theater family an attack rather than a simple investigation, and I think the police may not be the cause of this feeling at all.

I thank the Chief of Police for posting her letter to us; I have been waiting to be addressed directly and not merely through the mouthpiece of the media.

Let me say that some one certainly seems to 'have it in for' the theater. And also that there have been misdeeds by teachers and coaches in our town that are far more serious than anything indicated by this investigation, at least as far as we have been told. Those institutions were not held responsible for the acts of one or two individuals like this.
One person doing something wrong is sad, and very possibly someone has taken advantage of a lack of oversite. I'm glad to have this looked into. But somehow the way in which information has and has not been released and the manner in which the senior staff was put on leave seems odd to me.

Next time lets get it right! When my daughter's P.E. Teacher was not at school the first day, and was arrested by the police, we didn't say, 'the P.E. Teachers are bad!'and close down the P.E. department.

I am happy to say the Children's theater is alive and kicking! 'The Giver' was a triumph, the skeleton crew is being eked out by help hired by Richard James, the kids are acting their hearts out, and only one play has been cancelled. I am proud of our 'kids' (Mike and Emmika, who are holding everything together, are both alums in their twenties).

Finally, of course good will come of this adversity, but only because the people involved are committed and engaged. I have been in closer contact with other alums these past few weeks than I have in years, and this is some comfort at this difficult time. But all of this cloud over the theater is only so much buzzing compared to the loss of our dear friend. I hope those who post will try to remember that those being investigated and those holding down the fort, as well as many who post here, are in a time of great grief.

I am proud to be a part of this community.

Katharin Christman


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:55 pm

I'd thought that verbalizing my distress and perception of the drama at hand might help me to make peace with the fact that justice is an aspiration, but not always a given. If it were, none of this would have occurred to begin with. For it is an injustice that Pat and Michael, and Allison and Rich were so publicly brought to the papers with anything other than the highest praise.

But having expressed my heart and mind in chorus I find there is more that I'd like to respectfully say to those parents of the young athletes.

Sports provide wonderful lessons for our young, how to develop skills and strive for greatness. It's an important lesson plan for the young. Being one who would take cooperation over competition every day of the week, my personal preference is the arts, but I'm just one person among many.

What the theatre brings is equally as important because it too teaches skills, and that drive to excel. And while many sports teach team relationship, the theatre teaches the many ways that cooperation & family can come together and create something meaningful for many.

The theatre isn't only for the children who aspire and who perform. The theatre is for everyone who is wise enough to recognize this is the best entertainment deal in town. ($4 for kids and $8 for adults as mentioned above.)

These productions put on by this staff and its collective junior members are always inspiring, with fabulous sets and costumes created by the staff and children. Are they as polished as Broadway? No, but impressively delivered! And they are all performed by children, and they've been deemed good enough consistently that they've more than once produced the premier Junior versions of Broadway hits like Le Miserables' to standing ovations nightly.

These kids deliver. And for those who's children didn't get in when they auditions, we learned quickly that the way to remedy that was to sign up for the summer workshops (a real commitment, and there are scholarships for those who can't manage the fee) to learn the skills. From that point on, the child has developed sufficiently to audition into parts and to perform and continue to grow in skills and community.

I'm not saying one is better than the other. I am saying they are both critical elements of the development of a future adult to retain excellence and compassion in the community.

I would even go so far as to say that Palo Alto Children's Theatre is the Soul of this city. And I respect your right to disagree, but understand why people are stepping forward so strongly in support of Pat, Michael, Allison and Rich. They are the guardians of this Soul and the Magic Castle has been breached by the infidels. " )

All the best to you!


Posted by theater-parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 7:24 am

In reviewing all these comments, it appears that they divide along two groups: PACT members and those who question the tax paid funding of the theater.
I am not understanding why those who love the theater would not allow it to be run by a board separate from the City. The Children's Musical Theater of San Jose performs at the city run Montgomery Theater but the organization is privately funded and based upon donations and a small fee $100 or so for each cast member. EVERY CHILD WHO AUDITIONS IS CAST, and there are scholarships for needy students. There is an operating board that processes the cash and administers the group, which is TOTALLY SEPARATE from the director and casting process; directors rotate in and out for each play and a group conducts auditions, not just one person who has total control.
My children play sports at Mayfield as well as try out for the plays. There seems to be a wider range of participation on the sports teams, than the amount of children who make it into the play group. Two Days of PACT auditions narrow down fifty or so children to one day of 40-50 or so callbacks, and then a smaller group in the PACT plays that are actually selected.
I am not understanding why some people would be so opposed to changes in the present management of the theater.


Posted by renee deutsch, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2008 at 10:36 am


Elizabeth, thank you very much for bringing up the point about competition versus co-operation. My kids did both sports and theater, and I had completely forgotten how much I as a volunteering parent disliked having to be part of the competitive atmosphere and how grateful I was when they preferred the Theatre. I wanted my kids to learn how to work with others, not to try and "beat" the other guy at whatever it was, but I also wanted them to have the freedom to chose.

Katharin, I share your feeling of something being wrong somewhere, and I suggested to the Weekly that some investigative reporting might not be amiss, but did not receive an answer.

I hope you will both be at the Memorial, Renee.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2008 at 11:05 am

Terry: "Do you think the city should fund this program but not all the other local youth programs?"

Palo Alto prides itself on offering its citizens unique opportunities for educational and cultural enhancement. By tradition, PACT has been funded by the city. It was the first municipal Children's Theatre in the country. Palo Altan's, and the THOUSANDS of parents and children whose lives have been made immeasurably more rich because of the Children's Theatre, in addition to the 10's of thousands of other Palo Altan's who want to continue the PACT tradition, are happy to contribute some small amount to its operation.

Unfortunately, when the rare occurrence happens - and something untoward occurs within a cultural institution in our city - a determined minority of residents (usually the same persons) come forward with ideas about how to close, remove from our city's municipal responsibility, or otherwise constrain our great tradition of providing a superb compliment of cultural, educational,, and other necessary services to our citizens.

Palo Altan's are bigger than, more magnanimous than, more gracious than, and more filled with largess than the minikin propensity in some to want to measure every service in terms of its cost, whilst conveniently forgetting its benefits.

Palo Alto is a great community; we have proudly supported PACT for generations, and will continue to do so; no matter the occasional protest from those who appear without appreciation for the goodness and pride that our citizens gain from their voluntary support of PACT. There is a goodness in giving.


Posted by anonymous taxpayer, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2008 at 11:55 am

In other words...I got mine


Posted by John, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 1:03 pm

A photograph on the front page of the Palo Alto Daily News today (Sunday) shows a 6 year old girl holding up a sign "Children's Theatre Rocks"

She is identified as living in Menlo Park. If she is a member of Children's Theatre does this mean that the taxpayers of Palo Alto are subsidizing a resident of Menlo Park to belong? Or does she, in fact, pay more than PA children?

I believe if you live outside Palo Alto and join a soccer league here you pay more.


Posted by eopact, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2008 at 3:12 pm

it will be interesting to see what fopact has to say when the police wrap their investigation, arrest members of the staff, book them, strip-search them and throw them into a cell


Posted by Paul, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 3:38 pm

The only substantial difference between Little League and PACT is that LL pays for itself.

PACT, like LL, is competitive, within a praticipation environment. In LL, the top player is the ace pitcher or shortstop; in PACT, it is the leading actor. In both LL and PACT there are major disappontments for both the kids and the parents; there also major joys for some kids and parents. In both, there are alternative participation roles.

I understand why some posters on this site are using the word "smug", when referring to PACT. There seems to be a notion of supremacy by some PACT supporters (e.g. "Mike", "Elizabeth", "renee"). This is uncalled for, although I do understand that there is a "circle the wagons" mentality at play here. It would probably be the same thing if Little League was under fire.

There have been some very good suggestions that PACT fund its own operations, instead of using city employees. This would make PACT a stronger, not a weaker, youth activity.


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 10, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I would like to thank Mike for his comments, as well as the other level-headed folks, not just those I agree with. As for the 'I got mine' comment, hey, person, (not even your gender is indicated by your tag of 'anonymous taxpayer'), for Pete's sake, let the community know what you are interested in, that's the point! There are probably lots of others who would like to work on whatever you are into, if you are into co-operating with others for a greater goal.

I think it is telling that the most divisive and caustic remarks (and those least on-topic) always seem to be made by persons who decline to divulge their names.

Actually as far as sports go, the Children's Theater fielded a softball team at least two summers running; we played against the city council! Michael insisted on halftime which he called 'intermission'. It was one of the few times I really felt included in a team sport, as I have never been very coordinated on the playing field.

I have mentioned this before, but WE HAD NO MONEY when I was a kid, and I grew up here in Palo Alto from 3rd grade until college. My parents rented a three bedroom, one bath house (we had four kids) in south Palo Alto so we could go to good schools. They were loving and busy, but not busy getting their nails done. They were working hard all the time, and we never went hungry while we were living here. But let's face it, kids weren't nearly as carefully supervised in those days, whether from a percieved 'safer' community or blissful ignorance (my contention). Though occaisionally snubbed (I have Asperger's Syndrome and had the social awareness of a flea, and was very shy), I was never bullied or pushed around at the Children's Theater, and that sense of an extra home or family helped me in so many ways!

Also, although I highly respect and support San Jose Children's Musical Theater and have attended several performances, 'a hundred bucks' is a lot for some Palo Alto families, believe me! And check out their ticket prices! The Children's Theater's four bucks is achievable even if you don't have an allowance, just from babysitting, recycling, or what-not. And, the parents had to make the costumes when my sister's kid was in one of SJCMT shows. Also, not every child can deal with a 'cast of thousands' approach. The suppertime shows in the summer are an amazingly inclusive venue, I watched as the entire group patiently waited for an eight-year-old, trying out for the first time, burst into tears and had to be coaxed to try again. She made it through the audition, sang sweetly and very quietly, and was cast and did a great job in the ensemble of a relatively small cast.

And I paid my eight bucks, four for my baby, and sat out in the sweet evening warmth, feeling a genuine love for my city. I love the little league games too, and they are free, but certainly not always entertaining. Also, sometimes I have seen coaches exhibit a very bad competitive spirit and no sense of what children should be getting from a game.It's like anything else, you get out what you put in, if you're lucky. The amazing thing about the Children's Theater is some kind of synergy that makes it much more than the sum of its parts. And if you have a coach or a teacher who is fantastic, you know what I am talking about; some people are just amazing with our kids. This is why the alums, parents and current participants of the Children's Theater are so vociferous; the program is amazing, and has been so for seventy-five years.

As far as being 'in loco parentis' I guess I meant more of the 'it takes a village to raise a child' type of thing, and certainly coaches can be role models for kids too. As for Mr. or Ms. 'eopact', I guess you never had a children's theater or a great coach for your role model, judging by your lack of tact and empathy, not to mention civic awareness or punctuation.

I would never vote to get rid of the playing fields. I feel they are another wonderful resource in our town. I'm even for lights in the tennis courts, though I do not play tennis. I often find myself dissatisfied with the way the council or various groups in town behave, but in the end I trust that it will all come out o.k. more or less. I find the degree to which my priorities are met is in direct relation to how much time I take to make them known and work with others to make it all happen.

I humbly request that people who contribute to these forums remember that ichor and spewing of ugly ideas, while protected by freedom of speech, are not particularly good ways of making your point. You are more likely to be ignored as a 'crank' if you can't say anything nice or useful about anything.

Well, I have my own faults, one of which is long-windedness, but I have truly benefitted from this exchange of ideas and a chance to get a bearing on other perspectives. So, keep writing, everyone, but in the words of my brother's old coach, "Play Nice!"

Katie


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Re: "it will be interesting to see what fopact has to say when the police wrap their investigation, arrest members of the staff, book them, strip-search them and throw them into a cell."

God forbid that should ever happen to these incredible people. In the event that should happen it would most certainly be an indictment of our society rather than the staff. Have you met these people you seem to be judging?

These are caring, loving true public servants whose lives are inextricably bound to the theatre. They give everything to those children and to creativity and take nothing. I repeat THEY TAKE NOTHING! - Except the satisfaction of doing work they love, living their passion, and making a genuine, valuable difference in this world, and the paychecks they more than deserve!

They may not have quite as much charm as the Dalai Lama or Gandhi, but in the theatre world I'd say they're comparable.

And for the person who yesterday suggested that the theatre could be run by a variety of people producing and directing plays. I'm sure that could be the case and I'm sure it would be the demise of the theatre. It is the consistency that has created this award-winning success and the same consistency that has earned their respect both with the many, many adults who know them and the many generations of children.

I saw Rich in town yesterday and the only concern he voiced was not for this scrutiny of himself and the rest of the staff, but that in this very stressful time, the kids could no longer congregate and obtain the support they have always found at the theatre. They've lost their emotional home-base and extended family at a time when they've also lost a well-loved leader to cancer.

You can tell yourself that their parents give them that, but I remember when one of the theatre students on Accutane walked in front of a train one Monday. Those kids didn't run to their parents for comfort, they headed to the theatre to be with their peers, and Pat & Michael knew they would and opened the theatre on a "dark day" so they'd have a place to find comfort and understanding.

And now when Michael has died suddenly, messy politics has robbed them of a place where they are accepted (and many of these creative kids don't fit the formula minds of the school cast systems) and know that they fit, belong and are valued.

"The world's just inside out and upside down."



Posted by a renter, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Strange, these articles. Could the police chief be more specific than saying they are looking for "tens of thousands of dollars"? Are they talking about $20,000 or $90,000, or what? What exactly is missing? If it is money, why would police officers, and not auditors be looking for it?


Posted by Renee, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Katie, good message, thanks.
Hello Katie, thanks for a good message.
Theater parent, no, at $100 per play per child we would not have been able to participate very often, certainly not regularly. In fact very few families would be able to do that, I would think.
Why are some people so unwilling to sign their message with their real name? A conversation becomes much more pleasant once you have at least"met".
Renee.








Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Renee, I agree regarding the $100 fee. I never could have afforded that when my son was growing up. When he exhibited a real propensity for performance and couldn't do sports because of a heart condition, he got into the summer program on one of the Friends scholarships. The entire program was a wonderful gift for him and me. He continued from age 8 on through Wing Spread and then worked for the theatre for years, learning a wide variety of skills and an incredible work ethic.

Later when I worked for a high tech company that contributed to organizations in the community, I was able to write a letter of recommendation and the Friends benefitted from several years of contributions that more than made up for his scholarships.

I was so grateful for the opportunity that my son was given and for the opportunity I was given to give back.

In this land of the affluent, not everyone is, particularly those of us who come with a full set of artistic genes. Making money while being true to oneself, is more often than not a challenge.

I can't keep ignoring the reference to "smug" postings. It is so easy to read into email and text, intentions that are not there. I've read everyone on these posts and didn't get a feeling of smugness from any of them. I do recognize people that care passionately about the Children's Theatre and know first hand what an incredible gift it is to the participants and to the community.

Michael left the bulk of his estate to the Children's Theatre. Doesn't that speak to how much he cared about it and how much he wanted to keep on giving?


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2008 at 5:36 pm

p.s. Katie, I don't think you are long-winded. Thoughtful topics call for contemplation and more than a few choice words.

True, it's a digital age with concentration about a nano-second long, but I've read every word you've written, actually every word on this forum. And consider all of them worthy of respect and most of them worthy of consideration.


Posted by Paul Wanless, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 10, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I personally think the proof of the value of supporting the PACT with tax dollars has been repeatedly demonstrated, manyfold. Very few theaters in the nation can boast as many highly successful people that emerge from the valuable programs of PACT. One only need to look on the Internet Movie Database to find names like Assaf Cohen and Amy Stewart, both of whom I did Wingspread with. Shawn Emamjomeh, who also did the program, is now acting professionally on Broadway in the musical "Chicago." And NONE of these people have gone the route of Britney Spears.

And the PACT has also earned the honor of being among the first selected for regular participation in Atlanta's Junior Broadway Festival...one of the 100 out of the 10,000+ theaters that applied. There's a reason they always had first access to the highly restricted Disney shows. Some I know have gone into the entertainment business in other ways or became drama teachers themselves. And I pride myself on being a successful musical director all over the bay area with a penchant for young talent, thanks to people like Pat and Michael. I've done about 30 musicals over the past 5 years or so, and although I may never fully measure up to Pat and Michael, they were my ideal role models. I could name a slew of other successful people, whether in the entertainment business or otherwise, who came out of that program, thanks in whole or in part to the PACT.

I wonder if bigger names like Kate Hudson, Harrison Ford, or Jennifer Aniston to the PACT if there would be quite as many protests.

Let me tell you though...with the way the program is currently run, I have absolutely no doubt that there remains high potential for several of these "big star" actors to emerge...ones that will continue to uphold the values I learned while there.

As for those who are comparing the PACT to sports programs...just how many famous athletes can you name who started in the programs you cite?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2008 at 8:23 pm

As a sports parent, I do not enroll my kids in sports in the vague hopes that they will become big sports stars. In fact, I hope they do not turn out that way. Similarly, I feel sure that many if not all the theatre parents enroll their kids in theatre that they may become the next Harrison Ford or Jennifer Aniston.

No, these activities are not for the reason of making future stars. These activities are however for making future adults with values. In this I think we can all agree.

If our sports or theatre programs were all about making future stars it would give the wrong message. If these sports or theatre programs were judged solely on how many stars of screen or green were produced there, then it would be the wrong place for many of us to send our kids.

Sports, theatre, whatever, the kids are there for enrichment and pastime. Anything else would be a detriment to any.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2008 at 8:25 pm

On re-reading the first paragraph, I meant to say that many if not all the theatre parents do not enroll their kids to make them future stars.

Sorry for the way that came out. I think we all have the same motives.


Posted by just can't believe this town, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2008 at 9:48 pm

> God forbid that should ever happen to these incredible people.
> In the event that should happen it would most certainly be an
> indictment of our society rather than the staff.

This is why this situation, and town, is so screwed up! Employees of the city government, working in the children's theatre are investigated by the police and subsequently indicted for what will likely be some variation of "theft". And this poster claims that rather than having been a personal choice to steal from the city--and the children--which was criminal, and most likely a felony--that "society" is at fault here. That there indicted people should go free and continue to steal from all concerned --- because it's "for the children".

God .. how screwed up!!!


Posted by Take-It-Private, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2008 at 9:55 pm

> Theater parent, no, at $100 per play per child we
> would not have been able to participate very often, certainly
> not regularly. In fact very few families would be able to do that,
> I would think.

According to data released by the city on the auditor's web-site, between 1,600 and 1,800 kids participate in these productions. The cost-per-kid at 1,600 kids per $1.3M (yearly budget) to participate is about $800.

That is a lot of public subsidy for a little "exposure" on the stage.

Parents and kids need to be handed a bill so that they understand just how much public money is going into running this operation so that they can spend a few minutes on the "stage".

And, many of these kids participate in more than one of these shows every year--so the subsidy increases as the number of shows increases.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2008 at 11:12 pm

anonymous taxpayer: "In other words...I got mine"

Thus, anonymous taxpayer reveals hie/her true measure of things.

Projection can be a dangerous thing, especially when you make the first assumption about another's motives.


Posted by alum, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 11, 2008 at 12:21 am

For what it is worth, when I attended the conservatory as a child my Mom had to scrape up to to pay additional fees because we were not Palo Alto residents.

If you think about it, children NOT from Palo Alto might, on at least a subconscious level, might have a disadvantage toward being cast in larger roles--both because they lack the essential experience Palo Alto children gain in Outreach productions and also because there might be the presumption that they do not have transportation that isn't nearly as reliable.

I realize that I am possibly an anomaly, but if I hadn't been with this theatre program, I would have been spending my summer in a city without youth programs anywhere as evolved as those of Palo Alto. In fact, they were little more than jokes. Only middle-class kids had the fun opportunities where I lived.

When I joined the theatre program, it spelled the end of my juvenile delinquency problems with the police and severely cut down my violent tendencies. Know what else it did for me? It taught me how to speak and be emotionally open with girls my own age. Before I hit the theatre, I was all action and few words with the girls in my hometown. I have sometimes wondered if being immersed in such a structured and disciplined atmosphere kept me from doing all sorts of recreational activities during what would have been boring summer months that would have burdened or addicted me for years to come.

Some children's theatres exist with fees, some without and some like Palo Alto operate with fees pertaining only to non-residents. If you were to begin charging fees, you immediately invite a caste system. If I were a director in charge of casting and had to mount productions where such a system of payola was in place, then I would be far more likely to leave your program in the hands of someone less caring. Directors realize and understand that for a theatre to work, they need to draw from as many diverse people in the communtiy as possible and putting a fee on your program diminishes your return.

I love sports. Make no mistake about that......but theatres for children are places that should run on the same principle as libraries. Think back to high school. If yours was anything like mine, it cost parents a pretty shiny penny if their sons were on the football or baseball teams but conversely, being in the school plays were free.

The gridiron or diamond or courts are where children learn survival skills and strength and toughness. It suits that activity to make kids and parents pay to be in the program, especially since their expenses are so much higher.

Children's theatres however --> are places where the humanities are taught. This is why it should be free. Certainly, no one is suggesting that we start charging children a fee every time they enter a public library. It is exactly the same thing--and it's a wonder that more libraries don't have children's theatres attached to them being that it seems like such a natural extension.






Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2008 at 8:37 am

Dear "God .. how screwed up!!!" (hmmmmm)

You clearly are not reading carefully. I know these people and know in my heart that they did not take anything!

They were the ones pushing the police to look into a theft in June. That is hardly the strategy of a thief!

Clearly you are comfortable in the roll of judge and jury without even the tiniest bit of evidence. How is it living in that glass house?

Stanford alum, thanks so much for chiming in. You've shared an excellent additional perspective and substantiated some of my claims.


Posted by EOPACT, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2008 at 8:49 am

Elizabeth--besides the "knowledge in your heart", do you have any of the facts?
Aren't you playing judge and jury with out any evidence as well?
Why don;t we let the police finish their investigation and then see the results.
Then we can either be relieved or outraged.


Posted by Sam, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2008 at 9:07 am

According to Police Chief Lynne Johnson search warrants served on bank accounts have an average turnaround time of "six to eight weeks". That's not right. Is someone stalling?





Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2008 at 9:25 am

Fact: The staff was generally in residence at the Children's Theatre from about 9:00am to sometimes 2:00am or 3:00pm a minimum of 5 days a week.
Fact: They lived very modest lives and drive/drove modest cars.
Fact: Their wardrobes were adequate, but certainly not upscale.
Fact: They took occasional vacations, but that was pretty much the extent of it.
Fact: They worked hard to obtain good equipment for the theatre so the productions would be effective and the kids could learn how to operate the equipment. Why would they see value in taking away some of that equipment (discovered missing after the June break in) when their lives were lived at the threatre?
Fact: One of the newspapers referring to inappropriate amounts of money paid to Michael for overtime. Well is that a crime or is it a crime that the City kept the man for 35 years on an hourly rate of pay rather than salaried when he was the assistant director.

There are probably many more that will come to mind later, but I'm still operating under the basis of our government that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty and there is certainly no proof of that or even a reason to believe it if you really know the people and situation.

I still say this is a vendetta and lots of people are being played for another's dubious gain.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2008 at 9:27 am

oops... that was meant to be 3:00am. sorry.


Posted by EOPACT, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2008 at 9:38 am

Elizabeth:

You seem to know quite a bit about the private lives of the staff members. Of course, we do not know where you got your "facts" from.
Yes, they are presumed innocent until all the facts are in. However this is a two way street--the police must be allowed to conduct their investigation and release their conclusions.
Having people, at least in print, trying to hinder the investigation or complaining loudly that they did nothing wrong, without knowing the facts, does no good either.

So who is the one with the vendetta and what does this person have to gain.
Since you are privy to all these facts, please provide us with this person/s name.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 9:43 am

Elizabeth

I respect your opinion, I really do.

I also respect the fact that the theatre staff appeared to be wonderful people, I did not know them and from what I read here I know there are lots of people who feel the same as you.

However, you do not have the same facts as the police. Many people who appear to be right and honorable do embezzle for reasons unknown to many and that may not make sense.

I am pleased that the staff have supporters like you. I don't think anyone wants anything other than justice in this case.

But, with all due respect, we are waiting for official channels and police reporting to do its work. There is no evidence of any type of vendetta. If everyone is as innocent as you purport them to be, then they will be cleared. Just be patient and we can all wait and see.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 10:29 am

I don't suppose I am the only one who finds some of Elizabeth's "facts" worrying. As far as I can see, these "facts" are still only opinion, but the fact that she supports her heroes is plainly evident.

In actual fact, I find it worrying that anyone should spend as much time as appears doing their job, however committed. I find the fact that they appear to have no lives outside their job, worrying.

People who become workaholics, at whatever type of job even if their job can be called a vocation, tend to get a warped sense of reality. People who appear to have no family life, no extended family commitments, no other interests in life, no hobbies or pastimes, are not necessarily good role models as well rounded adults. In cases like these, there are often hidden motives, hidden lives, or secrets that they are replacing with commitment to their jobs and therefore their job becomes their addiction.

When people appear to work 24/7 for so many years at a job which they appear to love and have no other life, then questions are inevitable.

I am glad that the PACT have faithful followers and hope that they are rewarded for their trust. I am also glad that the police are looking into what they see as possible crime and are opening up what may be a can of worms.

I am glad that the facts in this case are being investigated by the professionals and the truth will out. I hope the innocent will be reported as such, but if there is something else going on, I for one will not be surprised and I hope that the parents of the children involved in PACT are strong enough to help their kids deal with the outcome.

For anyone who thinks virtue can cover up sins, they need to re-evaluate their ideals.


Posted by just can't believe this town, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 11:33 am

** I know the people and know in my heart that they
** did not take anything!

Best to let the police finish their investigation and provide us the results. It's a sure bet that the police are using their "heads" and not their "hearts" to drill through all of this.


Posted by Palo Alto renter, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 11, 2008 at 12:54 pm

What is interesting is three to four supporters of the PACT here continually saying that they could not or would not pay $100 or so participation fee for their child to do the plays. Many neighborhoods I see multimillion dollar homes, although there are some rentals. I have struggled to put most of my paycheck as a single parent towards the 2000 rent I pay monthly. Still I have managed to scrimp and budget for my childrens fees whether they be 400 for sports or 100 for a play participation fee.

While my children like to do the plays, just to be fair to everyone else in the community from musicians to seniors to other sports lovers I think it would be fair to have child actors pay a fee to be in the show like all the other theater companies do. I don't think it is fair that just because you personally happen to love PACT your child should get a free ride there, while other children who want to do something else do not. Also, I have seen plenty show up for the auditions who just seemed to ride there bike down and had nothing better to do. Rather than serving as a babysitting service, the theater should be reserved for those children who truly want to act.
Also, in other companies the parents take turns watching the children, leaving the directors to actually direct. The function of Cubberley should not be as daycare for children who have nothing else to do, let it be for those who really want to be in the theater.


Posted by Susan, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2008 at 1:13 pm

The sense of entitlement among the PACT fanatics is amazing!


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Palo Alto renter, I know many PACT people can easily afford fees consistent with what the rest of us parents frequently pay for sports, music, school sports...and other youth theatre programs.


Posted by Just a caring neighbor, a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Blah, blah blah! You all are a bunch of citizens of Palo Alto. $$$$
Hey, we all know you need that to live there. Yes, I think they are going overboard on the investigation, because I do know that the Children's Theater did not keep organized records. Hey, they were artists, not accountants. So I think the City of Palo Alto should be the ones to blame. So all in all, if the senior management in that group did not realize, he should be put to blame. He is retiring, but it seems that all the senior management are going out the door. They have the City Attorney, & I am sure he is totally involved again & will probably not make it this time; the City Clerk is safe, the Police Chief is in trouble over this; I am not sure of Public Works; the City Auditor is leaving her OWN City; we have a new Director of Finance, okay Lalo..Good Job!; the City Manager has been axed; they have Nick in Fire, does his job..cool. i do think Steve Emslie is doing his job, I do not know; Public Works seems to be doing good with Glen Roberts; And last but least is good ole' Utilities. Yes, they have had their scandals & unfortunately Ms. Fong had to come amongst all of them and to be continued. That is not their forte. Unfortunately they had previous admistrative staff that did that also.

Live and learn. You are a rich community, so fight for your rights.

Good luck!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Perhaps the reason PACT regs are so adamant about not changing the status quo of management or fees is this way they keep a lockdown on their families getting all the parts over and over again, at no cost to them. We saw some friends from San Mateo High school, the performing arts magnet high for San Mateo County do West Side Story. While some of the PACT players in lead roles are talented, overall the children at SMHS displayed a higher level of talent in their show.

Why are PACT people so opposed to letting some new blood direct and manage the theater at Cubberley?


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 12, 2008 at 11:07 am

"** I know the people and know in my heart that they

** did not take anything!

Best to let the police finish their investigation and provide us the results. It's a sure bet that the police are using their "heads" and not their "hearts" to drill through all of this.


Posted by just can't believe this town, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 23 hours ago"
--------------------------

Thank you! This is a CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION that does not rely on HOW POPULAR THE SUBJECTS ARE.

He who has the most friends, gets away from investigations???

Some people!


Posted by Just wondering, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2008 at 11:11 am

Once upon a time, I was a middle manager at a large retail store. One day, a sizable amount of money went missing. Two things were for certain. It had to have been theft.
Secondly, the theft had to have been perpetrated by one of the four people who had access to it, with myself being one of the four.

I was not placed under administrative leave. Sure, there was a cloud of suspicion over me, but that simplywasn't how it was done back in the corporate culture because if the real thief was ever found out, I would have been entitled to all sorts of benefits to right the wrong that was done to me.

So, I just walked around like a suspect with no one trusting me for a while.

Well, after an intense investigation, they found that they needed a scapegoat and they fired my best friend. In my humble opinion, he was the only one of the other three left who couldn't have psychologically done it and I knew I hadn't done it. I left the store on general principle even though an intense investigation after he had been fired turned up the nugget that the crime couldn't have possibly been commited by me since they were ble to pinpoint the time of the theft. The investigation also cleared my best friend, but that damage was done.

The primary difference between this one and the scenario at the Children's Theatre is that it has not yet been established that even one of the four suspects has necessarily committed a crime.

It has also yet to be proven to satisfaction that this isn't a bureaucratic screw-up in search for a scapegoat.

For those of you that think the police are just doing their job, please understand that police are not always given fair and judicious orders to carry out.

This is no different than if each and every one of you saw that the police had obtained a search warrant to look at your private belongings and your bank accounts simply because they discovered that you had heightened access to an object that was stolen from your neighborhood.









Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I have a suggestion for those who question the value of the Children's Theater. I think perhaps you have forgotten that the theater is a facility at which people PERFORM PLAYS. All people in Palo Alto (and yes, all people who do not live here, sorry isolationists) can plunk down their four-to-eight bucks and see a play.

If you support the arts at all, as a patron or artist, you know how expensive many venues are. I even had to pay to see my daughter perform in her ballet recital at the Performing Arts Center in Mountain view! She was three years old! I also had to pay for her costume and the classes. It was a fun experience. But at the price we had to pay for tickets, I didn't feel comfortable inviting many people to come see.

Every since my older daughter was born, she has seen plays at the Children's Theater. We also attend the free Shakespeare in the park and brown bag concerts, but with one huge difference; The Children's Theater plays are performed by children, for children, and with the help of still more children. The stage managers are children. Children make props, run sound, sew costumes. In the summertime, some kids direct and assistant direct.

To be a child in the audience and realize that the whole show is done by kids is an amazing thing! Not every child is cut out to sing, or act, or dance. But most of us can appreciate a good show when we see one! I took our new daughter, two, to see 'The Wizard of Oz' in December. As a performance it was pretty good, though not as amazing as last year's 'Snow White'. A few kids missed a few lines. The special effects weren't perfect (after all, it was opening night).

But my two year old sat there, quiet as a mouse, mouth wide open. She was captivated. Actually, she sat there quietly until her sister came on stage; then I was embarrassed to hear her crow, 'Thats my sister! She's up there! She's in the PLAY!'(Yeah, she's a big talker for two. Ask anyone).

I also had four other kids with me (four bucks a pop, remember?)
My antsy seven-year old nephew was likewise captivated, mostly silent and completely still, with an occaisional sotto voce 'wow...'
The other kids were ten, fourteen, and sixteen. They don't do children's theater...from the stage side of the curtain. But they have seen MANY plays over the years, and it is a joy to be able to
take them so often.

City funding and a city-funded venue (the building) make these prices possible. Even if you don't have kids, the summer Wingspread shows are of a caliber to warrent checking them out; the 'kids' are as old as twenty-four and seasoned performers. I still haven't figured out why those shows aren't sold out every time. Their performance of 'The Scottish Play' (Macbeth)was actually one of the best I have ever seen; the current Technical Director who was still a 'kid' back then bowled me over with his performance, and Lady Macbeth was nothing short of brilliant.

So, scoffers, check it out. Enjoy the fruits of your taxes.
Be proud to be part of a city with so much to offer.
You might like it.
Katie


Posted by Gosh Katie, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 12, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Katie, you just can't get past us dumb philistines not getting how awesome children's theater is and if we just opened up our tiny minds for 2 seconds to the mind blowing power you have experienced we'd be so glad our wise government paid for it all these year.

Katie - news flash - we get it. We all like kids in shows. We all like cheap ticket prices. We're dumb, we not "artsy," but we do get it.

Can you get that everybody agrees with that, but thinks, ON PRINCIPAL, that there are many other good things that parents, rich and poor, go DEEP out of pocket for - hundreds of dollars a year per kids - that are ALSO good. And it just doesn't seem FAIR that a some families (like yours) get their favorite activity paid for by tax dollars, while others have to pay out of their own pocket. Essentially we pay for our kids AND yours. Which we are happy to do for kids that need it (and do all the time in other activities), but less happy about paying for kids whose families want for very little.

So the next time your kid or someone else's is captivated by a kids sports event (the kids play all the positions! they even ref!), a music performance (they play every note! it's amazing!), a science camp, a dance recital, you name it - please try to think for a second - huh, I wonder how much those parents had to pay for that?? And gosh, that doesn't seem fair - PACT is pretty much free!


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2008 at 9:40 am

I second that.


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:27 am

I dunno. I think that you have to look at the history of the Children's Theater. It is part of that whole core at Rinconada Park, including the Junior Museum and Children's Library. I am certainly not against other forms of involvement for children. But don't we have fields at every school? And aren't they are used for AYSO and for Little League et cetera at no cost to them? And did you know that the children's theater does a play at every Palo Alto Elementary School every other year and every child that tries out gets in? And at the middle schools as well, at no cost to any student? If little league does anything like that I am ignorant of it. Also, the Friends raised money for an entire BUILDING which now belongs to the city.

I don't see why it has to be either/or. The money for the Children's theater building was donated many years ago, and let's face it, theater is more 'place sensitive'. I don't see that twenty-one dollars per year, which is what the Palo Alto Children's theater gets from your taxes, is killing anyone. If we have a need for more sports, go for it, get a grass roots group going, donate land for another field or what have you, I'm all for it. I'll pay the extra twenty bucks for your kid, no problem.

My point was that I couldn't do little league because we didn't have the money, and having some programs that don't cost means kids whose parents 'wont take charity' and fill out scholarship forms for whatever reason aren't left out. Actually when we had more money all my siblings did little league and my folks coached. I think that something that works well should be left in place. And that is all I was really pointing out; each of us is getting a hell of a lot of bang for the buck from the children's theater, whether we acknowledge or take advantage of it or not. Learning to work as a team is a valuable lesson, and each venue that teaches it has my support in these divisive and argumentative times.
Katie


Posted by Gosh Katie, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 23, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Tell you what Katie - let's have everyone direct their $21 (if that's what it is) where they want. You can send yours to PACT; I'll send mine elsewhere. My guess is that PACT comes out with a lot less than $1M, which is ok - the users and benefactors can make up the difference. And all the other good orgs will get some nice extra funds.

The point isn't that PACT is bad (you just keep repeating how good it is - really Katie, we're not that dense); it is that other things are good too. We fund PACT as an historical accident; let's get it off the books and put the tub on its own bottom.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Katie

School fields and park fields have to be rented from the City by ayso, little league, cysa and so on. They are expensive to rent. Basketball has to rent the gyms at the schools for anything other than school basketball. I expect the same for badminton and volleyball. These gyms are very expensive. Not only are these expensive, they are difficult to come by. There are adult leagues willing to pay a lot more for the use of fields and gyms than our kids' leagues are willing to pay. So, there is competition for these limited facilities. On top of that, the equipment has to be paid for, some by the parents, some by the leagues.

We do have scholarships for families that are truly unable to meet the fees. We do pay for kids to umpire at little league and y basketball and the "professional" umpires at some of the basketball leagues. Some of the uniforms that are used by our teams can be kept by the players and some have to be returned after the season.

We pay a lot more than $21 a year for our kids to do their sports. We don't mind that because we value something we have to pay for and we are willing to volunteer in many different sorts of ways to help out.

We don't mind that Theatre is valuable to some kids and their families. But, what we do mind is these families saying how lucky we are to have their hobby in our fair city. You can have your hobby, we don't mind, but please do not say that we are getting something valuable when we don't put the same value on it that you obviously do.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Katie

My point is that the fields and gyms are rented, they are not free gratis. The kids may go to the schools, but after school, ayso, y basketball, njb, cysa, pay money (lots of it) for the use of the fields. And, while we are at it, we don't even get locker room facilities or even bathrooms opened for the fields, though we can usually have a bathroom for the gyms, but not locker room facilities.


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Dear 'Parent',

I think that if we need better support for those sports programs, we should find a way to get it. This is, after all, Palo Alto. Your voice should be heard, and your concerns addressed. Recently an anonymous donor donated over two million dollars to be used for artificial turf fields at both high schools; of course the school district will be spending more money on the fields and sports now. This is how it works. The Childrens Theater, Library and Junior Museum were all the result of donations, but of course that is only how things begin. After that some money comes from taxes, some from more donations, and some from parents. Children's theater parents do donate money and time, and pay for the more advanced and involved programs. All elementary schools are provided with an outreach play every other year, as I understand it, as a service from the Children's Theater, with no cost to the students or school. All children who are in 3rd grade or greater at each school and want to be in the play are cast.

If you are concerned about not having facilities for your kids sports programs, ask for city funding, but matching it with donations is always the best way to get city support. The Friends of the Childrens Theater has coordinated the donation of millions of dollars to the Children's Theater including money for two major additions to the building which are now of course owned by the city. This means the city has to spend money for the upkeep of the buildings, which seems to have been a bit lax as the locks and alarm systems seem to have been not very sophisticated.

I believe part of what makes Palo Alto a great place to live is that people do donate and the city also supports such things as sports (tennis court lights for example... I don't play tennis but my taxes went for lit courts, and I'm okay with that). Also playground equipment (not everyone has kids) and the Art center (not everyone cares about art). Actually in some towns the city taxes don't even support a fire department, and our even own fire fighters raise money by selling hot sauce (at children's theater hot dog shows, for example).

These things are what make our town great, along with 'engagement', and all those trees, and let's face it, having Stanford University right here. If you really don't like it, you could pick another town to move to, but better than that, help start a drive to better fund those sports, including donations and, of course, more city involvement if it is needed.

Good luck. I actually heard the city has agreed to work on the baseball diamond at the little league field on middlefield...suprise, someone donated some money to get it going, and the city jumped in to help.

That is how it works in our fine town, and as a child growing up here, I benefited from it. One of four kids in a rented three bedroom house with one bathroom, with no extra funds at all, I made it through Palo Alto High and got a scholarship to the University of Chicago. And without conquering my shyness through the Children's theater, I don't think that would have happened. I now have a fourteen year old starting Paly next year, (did I mention my Grandmother went there and was born in Palo Alto?) and I am glad my daughter is in theater with kids of all economic levels. She is a special needs child she has always been accepted and included there.

Be proud of your city, including our Police force, and revel in our freedom of speech. Let us try to work together to build up the low areas of our city, not tear down its achievements.

Sincerely,
Katie


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Katie

Thanks for your concern. However, I think you will find that the city has not helped with the baseball diamond on Middlefield, but Little League has helped pay for some of the work on the baseball diamond at Hoover Park.


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