Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 28, 2010

Fees ahead for Palo Alto Children's Theatre?

Council committee backs plan to institute participant fee at theater

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's young actors could soon face fees ranging from $50 to $300 to participate in plays at the Children's Theatre — a budget-balancing proposal that critics say could reduce diversity among participants and create a new access barrier for low-income residents.

The "pay-to-play" scheme, which the City Council's Finance Committee endorsed Tuesday night, would establish a participant fee for the first time in the 78-year history of the theatre. If the full council backs the committee's recommendation, the fee would take effect in July and would raise about $35,000 in fiscal year 2011.

The committee instituted the registration fees despite an outcry from Children's Theatre supporters and participating thespians. Some, including the theater's Artistic Director Judge Luckey, argued that creating the new fees could discourage some of the city's low-income residents from taking part.

"I do think it would reduce the number of users," Luckey said, who said he personally opposes the fee. "I think it would reduce the socioeconomic diversity we've seen in the past year."

But after looking at a list of other Bay Area children's theaters, which charge participants from $65 to $265, the committee voted unanimously to institute the new fees. Councilman Larry Klein, who played and coached football as a youth, argued that the theater shouldn't be treated differently from local sports programs or children's-theater programs in other cities, all of which charge participants fees.

Committee members also observed that low-income participants would receive subsidies from the city, as they do in other recreational programs. Under the proposed fee plan, costs to participate would vary by productions, with the most elaborate productions requiring the highest fees.

"I don't see why Palo Alto's Children's Theatre programs should be so unusual and unique, as compared to anything else," said Klein, whose two sons both participated in Children's Theatre programs.

But Sylvia Sanders, co-president of the Friends of Children's Theatre Board of Directors, said parents who enroll their children in baseball or soccer programs typically don't have to pay for admission to games. She also said she was concerned about the effect the new fees will have on low-income residents and on the atmosphere in the theater.

"I suspect charging actors' fee will be destructive to theater's sense of community," Sanders told the committee. "Those paying the fee would expect a better part."

The fee proposal is part of Palo Alto's broader effort to reduce subsidies and require more cost recovery from local programs. The city is facing a $7.3 million budget gap in fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1.

The Finance Committee had already voted to raise ticket prices for Children's Theatre productions and has recommended a new "suggested donation" policy for the Palo Alto Art Center. Parking-ticket fines are also expected to go up by at least $3 in July as part of the cost-recovery effort.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Ann, a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I fell that much has been lost since Artistic Director Judge Luckey started working for the Children's Teather. There has been no musicals and not too mention this new emphasis in auditions for television?!?! And now they will charge for kids to participate.... it's a sad turn. The little diversity will be gone.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm

PACT participants should have to pay just like any other activity around here. Anyone whose kids are in sports, music, dance, swimming, etc. knows that these things require fees. I'm sure the fees can be worked for low-income kids, just as they are in some of the other areas.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

It is definitely time that this was introduced. And as for paying for performances when sports don't, this certainly doesn't happen at high school sports although not at other levels. It still makes participating in a production a bargain compared to youth sports when you consider that some sports require equipment, footwear, etc. to participate.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Yes, in sports and music, one frequently must pay for participation, pay for equipment/instruments, pay for coaches/teachers, and pay for admission to events.


Posted by not so bright, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 26, 2010 at 6:29 pm

"But Sylvia Sanders, co-president of the Friends of Children's Theatre board of directors, noted that parents who enroll their children in baseball or soccer programs typically don't have to pay for admission to games. "

Those that enroll in dance or theatre programs do have to pay for admission. That's a bit disingenuous.

"She also said she was concerned about the effect the new fees will have on low-income residents and on the atmosphere in the theater."

Then introduce bursaries and raise funds for them as other groups (eg: PTAs) do to ensure everyone has access.


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2010 at 7:16 pm

About time.


Posted by finally, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm

"But Sylvia Sanders, co-president of the Friends of Children's Theatre board of directors, noted that parents who enroll their children in baseball or soccer programs typically don't have to pay for admission to games. "

thats a silly objection, just have them pay to participate and include 2 complimentary tickets to a performance. Since the fee they are discussing is up to $300, somehow I doubt the parents are buying a $300 dollar ticket.

"She also said she was concerned about the effect the new fees will have on low-income residents"

A lot of programs have low income assistance oppportunities. Model of those programs.

"Those paying the fee would expect a better part."

Large contributors and volunteers to the Friends of PACT already do, so how is this different?


Posted by Ann, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2010 at 11:57 pm

I was astounded that the Children's Theater has an audience of 21,000 and that this was the highest grossing year in the theater's 78 years. We should be proud of the existence of this unique organization in our community and in the life of our children. It was heartwarming to hear the teenagers express their feelings about what the theatre has meant to them and other teens. The Director made a good argument against charging participants a fee to perform; however, considering the budget deficit, I think the council made the right decision.

I attended an event where the director, Judge Lucky presented the new vision at Children's Theatre. I was impressed by his vision and the focus on arts education. After 2008 it is great to hear that the theatre is experiencing a resurgence. I have heard from several moms and grand moms that the theater is once again a gathering place for children.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 6:35 am

Ann writes that Children's Theater "has an audience of 21,000". But the theater contributes $1.3 million to the deficit of $7 million. We the taxpayers are subsidizing each ticket by $60.

Or if you look at the cost per participant, each child is being subsidized $3,000 - $4,000 to act.

And the City Manager wants to cut school crossing guards, and make us pay for sidewalk repairs, and close the libraries one day a week, and charge for parking for verious parks. All things that serve more people and most people would place higher priority.


Posted by Quality of Life, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2010 at 7:49 am

Common Sense writes that "the taxpayers are subsidizing each ticket by $60". The director suggested that the ticket price subsidy be reduced so the theatre could earn more revenue. The earned revenue that was posted by the theatre was $240,000 last year and there was mention of an NEA grant. A quarter of a million dollars even in this economy is still impressive. Its good to see they're making an effort at cost recovery. The participants should pay or they should find sponsorship for the $35K.
We should preserve institutions like the Art Center, the Junior Museum and the Theater that contribute to quality of life here in Palo Alto. As a parent, I place a high priority on the quality of life of my family. In light of tragedies in this city we should place a higher priority on maintaining and supporting valuable institutions that provide shelter and sanctuary for children. It was obvious from the statements of the teens that the theater has a positive effect on them and I would assume that is the case for the families and children who participate in the programs offered to the most vulnerable segment of our community.


Posted by Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 8:17 am

Quality of life--what about sports activities? Do those contribute to the quality of life in Palo Alto? Do crossing guards contribute to quality of life? What about code enforcement?
Parents pay for their children to take part in sports activities. Why shouldn't parents pay to take part in PACT. The city of Palo Alto is giving the PACt $1 million a year. Time for that to stop. Especially given our financial state. No other activity geared towards children in this city is given so much money. While I understand the PACt is a "treasured city institution" it should not get any city funding and especially not in light of the fact that other activities for children do not get subsidies and participant shave to pay. Sorry, the free ride has to come to an end.
BTW, how many children from outside Palo Alto take part in PACT? Do they pay or do we subsidize them as well.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Cuts have to come form somewhere. Everyone has their pet program that "cannot" be cut for a variety for reasons. I say sorry. No more money for the PACT from our city coffers.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

Quality of Life

Our wonderful Palo Alto institutions should definitely be preserved - but they should also pay their own way. I assume the City does not charge them rent or hold a mortgage for the space they use, that is a subsidy in itself.

We live in a generous community, full of people who are willing to support the arts. I don't expect the city or taxpayers to pay for my son's piano lessons or his NJB basketball team. I should not be expected to pay for another child's extracurricular activities, no matter how worthwhile.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 8:53 am

Sylvia Sanders is "…concerned about the effect the new fees will have on low-income residents and on the atmosphere in the theater."

The sense of entitlement is staggering!

The CT is subsidized by all of us taxpayers to the tune of $1.3M/year. Is it our responsibility to pay for "atmosphere in the theater?"

Only 5% of the city's kids participate in the CT. How many of these could not afford to pay?

While CT participants are bemoaning the fact that they might have to pay for their favorite program, the Finance Committee has approved the proposal to have residents pay for their own sidewalk repairs. This would save the city $500K/year.

Is anyone asking about the "atmosphere" in the homes of seniors and low-income families who won't be able to afford fixing their sidewalks?

>"We should preserve institutions like the Art Center, the Junior Museum and the Theater that contribute to quality of life here in Palo Alto."

Whose quality of life?

We are subsidizing the Junior Museum and Zoo at a cost of over $1M/year.

The city could save over $2M if the CT and Jr. Museum are turned over to private organizations. If they are important to enough people, they will survive and thrive.

With the ongoing budget deficits in our city and our state, we can no longer afford to pay for services that are used by only a small percent of residents.


Posted by Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 9:58 am

""I suspect charging actors fee will be destructive to theater's sense of community," Sanders told the committee. "Those paying the fee would expect a better part.""
Then let the PACT be ""destroyed". I cannot believe some of the excuses these people come up with for their favorite pet projects to be continued being funded by taxpayer dollars.
Does Ms Sanders really believe that her pet project is so critical for the city that it cannot have it's overly generous gift from the city cut?
Give me a break. I agree with Pat--the sense of entitlement is indeed staggering


Posted by Theatre parent, a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

We'd be willing to pay, but I do agree that parents should get 2 tickets with the package. I also suggest that the ticket prices be raised as well, as they are quite low at $4 - $8 per. Double them! As the quality of the plays improves (and it seems that it is improving!), people will realize the value of these tickets. This would also bring in more badly needed income.


Posted by community center, a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2010 at 10:52 am

"We'd be willing to pay, but I do agree that parents should get 2 tickets with the package."

No problem. Just increase the price of the package to cover the cost of the two tickets. Everyone's happy!


Posted by mamima, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 27, 2010 at 10:58 am

I think this is so wrong! The Theatre makes money off the shows the kids are in.They are already getting free talent. This would be a shame and our daughter would not be able to
participate in a show if a fee is imposed : )


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2010 at 11:21 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

Mamima - The City does not make money off the shows, they only partially offset the cost of the program for the City. Since you live in Menlo Park, you should be paying a larger fee than a resident (very common practice).

I do think a couple of tickets included in the cost to sign-up for the show makes sense, though I suspect the middle and high school theater parents pay for their tickets.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

$1 million dollars, folks. Find another children's theater anywhere that receives that kind of taxpayer subsidy, in additional to a free prime-location facility. The participation fees, while laudable, still make a mockery of fiscal common sense - $35K is a drop in the bucket (and still they complain).

$1 million dollars for PACT. And we are cutting police. And crossing guards. And library hours. And charging admissions to Foothill Park. And almost certainly skipping the infrastructure investment we were already behind on.

When will we wake up and get our priorities straight?


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2010 at 11:44 am

I agree that participant fees are long overdue.
One of my friends has a child who is a longtime participant. She was laughing as she told me how little the conservatory program costs. Meanwhile, comparable private programs are hundreds of dollars per week.


Posted by Rod, a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2010 at 11:49 am

Please put this in perspective - the fees are estimated to provide only $35,000 annually, small money, giving no noticeable assistance to the City budget difficulty. It seems to be part of City Management making proposals with little effect such as out-sourcing the lower pay jobs and other minor steps to appear to be doing something positive. Leave the Children's Theater alone, if you even had a child participate, you would understand.


Posted by Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

"Leave the Children's Theater alone, if you even had a child participate, you would understand."
But $1+ million I assume is considered to be big money. That is how much the theatre is costing taxpayers. We nee dto get over the idea that the PACT is some kind of sacred cow that cannot be touched.


Posted by Entitlement, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Rod says:"Leave the Children's Theater alone, if you even had a child participate, you would understand."
There's the sense of entitlement once again....how sad!


Posted by My Kids love theater too, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Although it saddens me to say so, I think this is a necessary change, given the state of our overall city budget. I am glad to know that consideration and support will be given to low-income residents who want to participate. That is a good and thoughtful compromise.

This is a program that serves a very small segment of PA population, and many of the participants CAN afford to pay, so they should.




Posted by me, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

They should charge and for the record, the ticket prices are insanely low...so there's no comparison to a sports match.

Time we all chip in for what we want...it may be a way to show what is truly valued. If people don't go, then it's not something that the community in general wants...so I say, go for it. Charge a fee, charge for ticket and keep a sponsorship fund (like they Rec Dept already does) for low income students.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I'm wondering why everyone thinks the Children's Theatre "serves a very small segment of PA's population". I'm not sure that is at all true. PACT does outreach shows at each of the Elementary Schools (I think they switched back to 6 schools per year, that means every two years they do a show at each school). Then, there are all the shows at the theatre. I know a ton of kids that have done at least one show, either in school or at the theatre.

On the other hand, I don't know a single person who says they use either the Art Center or Main Library. This is probably because I know a lot of families with young kids (who apparently aren't very arty). I'm not suggesting at all that we don't fund things I don't use, I understand that there is probably some segment of the population that uses them a lot. I'm just questioning the assumption that PACT doesn't involve/affect a lot of people.

That said, I think a use fee could be a reasonable idea. But I'm not sure it solves the problem.


Posted by lina, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

To Ann from Barron Park: Children's Theatre with Judge Luckey at the helm has produced these musicals: :Tom Sawyer", "Fabulous Fable Factory", "42nd Street", and " How I Became a Pirate ".
They are not involved with TV and have presented no TV shows.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Palo Alto eyes bond to fix aged infrastructure
New task force to review city's estimated $510 million infrastructure backlog, propose ways to close the gap Web Link

But let's not cut cherished services like the CT.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

"I'm just questioning the assumption that PACT doesn't involve/affect a lot of people."

Youth sports involve/effect a lot of people, too, but they pay their own operating expenses. Why do we accept that kids who play Little League and are also part of PACT have to pay for LL but not for PACT?


Posted by PACT Supporter, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Please show your support for PACT by buying a ticket to see Fahrenheit 451 tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday. This is an amazing show, quite different from the usual Children's Theatre productions. Teens and adults will find it an incredible theater experience.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Jim,
I just wanted to make the point that a lot of people benefit from the Children's Theatre, that it isn't a "small segment" that benefits, which a few people asserted. But, that is just like the Arts Center, the Parks, the Libraries, the Jr. Museum, the Rec centers, and every other public funded "activity" which only benefits a certain segment of the population, not everyone.

So, are we going to cut funding to all of them, or only the ones that serve the children? Seems like everyone (on this board) is eager to cut the kid-friendly stuff, but never mention all the other things that serve only adults. We have a lot of places we can cut, including, but not only PACT. And we have a lot of places which help make Palo Alto a great place to live and so we want to keep. Tough decision.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

>"… a lot of people benefit from the Children's Theatre, that it isn't a "small segment" that benefits,…"

How many is "a lot"? Show me the numbers. How many of that "lot" are Palo Alto residents?

Is it fair for the city to pay for kids who are interested in theatre, but not subsidize piano lessons, art lessons, sports, martial arts, … ?

Whatever you think about the CT, please look at the financial reality. The city has a $510 million dollar infrastructure backlog.

The city cannot afford to fix the streets, which EVERYONE uses. We cannot afford to fund the CT, the Jr. Museum, …. And isn't the city supposed to serve the entire population, not just children?

There are not a lot of places to cut. The reason the city has a STRUCTURAL budget deficit is because it has been spending money on non-essential programs for many years, while neglecting the roads and buildings.

If the city was your house and your income wasn't covering all your expenses, what would you cut? Your mortgage payments? Your insurance? Your kid's college fund? The money to fix a leaky roof? Or would you let your kid worry about tuition payments, the roof leak and cause even more damage so you could buy a new car, take a vacation and enjoy the luxuries?

I don't know what your answers would be, but I think the city council should be responsible for providing ESSENTIAL services to ALL residents.

We can't have it all.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 10:45 pm





the idea to charge non-residents a higher fee makes sense.


Posted by Friend, a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2010 at 10:48 pm

The Children's Theatre is not just for 5% of the Palo Alto population. You're forgetting the audience it serves. The audience was 21,000 for the theatre much more than 5% of the population. Think about the 4 year old who sees their first play and begins to appreciate the arts and then wants to read the book because they loved the play. Think about all the kids that were brought by their teachers during the school day to see "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie." Think about the tremendous service the talk-backs after the " Secret Life of Girls" were to the community. Kids and adults shared their thoughts, ideas, and solutions about bullying to each others. They were CT participants although they weren't actors in the plays. CT has also been going to the schools during the school days teaching creative movement and dramatics to the children of Palo Alto. One single teacher has taught more than 400 students this last school year. Many of you don't realize all the services the theatre provides. It's not just about kids performing. It's about providing a well-rounded education to the next generation. This budget deficit will turn into a surplus before we know it. To start a precedent and charge children, many who can't afford it, to participate in shows is completely short sighted. We pay outrageous amounts for our city owned utilities. Take the money back from their surplus and we wouldn't have to worry about any of these cuts.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm

"This budget deficit will turn into a surplus before we know it. "

Friend, I am sorry that you are so naive, but this kind of unfortunate thinking that has led us to where we are. How about you loan the CT the $1m a year until that surplus comes in?


Posted by Friend, a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Me too - And how many years have their been surpluses and how many deficits? I think are community is usually on the plus side. As I said, this is a short-sighted idea with very little gain.


Posted by friend, a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Whoops, I meant our community...


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm

>"This budget deficit will turn into a surplus before we know it."

I despair.

Friend, is it possible for you to get beyond your special interest in the CT and your emotional attachment to it to consider the realities of the financial situation?

From Web Link
The city's proposed capital budget for 2011, which City Manager James Keene unveiled in April, estimates that the gap between how much the city needs to spend on infrastructure over the next 20 years and how much it plans to spend is currently about $510 million. This "staggering estimate," Keene wrote in his budget transmittal letter, illustrates the severity of the city's structural budget challenges.

California is a fiscal disaster. Education and social welfare programs are being cut. The world economy is a mess.

Where do you think the "surplus" is going to come from?


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Friend, is that really how you think about it? How about factoring in the state of the economy (the Great Recession) and the outlook for the slowest GPD growth since the 70's, the likely stagnation of housing prices, and the erosion of our local sales tax revenue base through lost of auto and other retail? Plus the permanent uptick in our cost base through wildly expanded public pension commitments.

What, do you think the Federal & State budgets will be in surplus again sometime soon too??


Posted by Theater, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 28, 2010 at 12:36 am

PACT is wonderful institution that contributes to quality of life in Palo Alto and I am more than willing to pay for my child's participation. It is only fair. All other children's theaters in the Bay Area and the entire country charge a participation fee. I would much rather pay than feel that the taxpayers are subsidizing us.


Posted by Stop discrimination !, a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2010 at 3:35 am

PACT is great! Let it be self sustaining. Why argue.
Why discriminate and subsidize it.
Isn't discrimination un-American.


Posted by Dado, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 28, 2010 at 11:53 am

As a member of the AYSO in Menlo Park I don't mind to pay for my child's participation in the sport, but if something happens to him/her it covers the medical bill. Is The City of Palo Alto, PACT going to cover the medical expense if my child gets injured during the production of a show? A few years ago my son got injured during the production of a show and our insurance and pocket book covered the expenses of the medical treatment.
On another note; by charging a fee the city would be discriminating against low income families from participating in PACT....is this the message the city is trying to give to the community, that Children's Threatre is only for the elite?


Posted by Enough, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Dado:
"On another note; by charging a fee the city would be discriminating against low income families from participating in PACT....is this the message the city is trying to give to the community, that Children's Threatre is only for the elite? "

You should read the article since it clearly states:

"Committee members also observed that low-income participants would receive subsidies from the city, as they do in other recreational programs."

and what about sports and other programs that the city runs--they charge a fee.

The subsidizing of the PACT by the taxpayers to the tune of over $1 million has to stop. The sense of entitlement by some people whose children take part in the PACT needs to change. The PACT may be, to some, a city treasure, but it is an unneeded burden on our city during these tough economic times.
I, personally, am still not satisfied that the financial shenanigans that occurred under the tenure of Pat Briggs have been addressed.


Posted by 1254C, a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm

So what does a real taxpayer in the community get for their money if there are no longer any services that benefit the residents. While a 1 million Theater budget may be reduced back to a more low-key production for the theater, the proposed fees will not put a dent in that budget, so they do not really address the core issue.

I strongly push-back to those people who want to stop supporting the Children's Theater, Art Center, etc. because those people don't want the taxpayers to fund it. Most of the younger families that are the evolution of PA today are the very taxpayers that are carrying this city since the older home owners barely pay any property taxes. We pay thousands in taxes to their nothing!!!! So Yes, some of us are already paying big time for the theater and everything that this city has today.

The focus should be how to bring greater tax revenue to the city, improving the management of the current services and enbracing private funding. With the wealth our neighborhoods why don't we have a new main library, or beautiful Art center. We need to rethink how we can be more efficient and stop dragging our feet on private donations...just make the right choices and move into the 21th century.


Posted by Fix the finances, a resident of College Terrace
on May 30, 2010 at 7:13 am


PACT gets $1M subsidy. Forget about charging for participation fees. The subsidy needs to be eliminated.

We cannot afford it.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 30, 2010 at 9:04 am

1254C

I totally agree we should be bringing in more revenue, yet we seem to be geared toward building unattractive housing developments in the place of luring revenue producing retail (think of the great stores that could have been at the corner of El Camino at the old Hyatt Rickys site instead of really ugly housing).

Reducing PACT funding is somewhat symbolic. It is a drop in the bucket but we do need to expect some expense sharing as many services as practical.

We don't have a beautiful new library at Main because we have 5 mediocre ones instead, although Mitchell Park will be great when it is done.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

The $1M per year subsidy to PA children's theatre needs to stop NOW.
Children's theatre should be self-supporting like all other youth nonprofits. There are numerous outstanding youth opportunities around here in music and the arts. PACT is NOT "more special" than those - SORRY! PACT can and should apply each year to City of PA for a minor grant (for that year), if they continue to be headquartered here. I am OK with that. They can apply for other grants and donations - like everyone else does. Charging a ticket price and participation fee commensurate with other youth activity groups makes good business sense. Low income children can apply for a grant or scholarship. Children from outside of Palo Alto should NOT be subsidized in any way by Palo Alto taxpayers, though.


Posted by Roger, a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2010 at 7:50 pm

The city council for too long has been kotowing to the PACT, the Friends of the Childrens theatre group and it's vocal supporters. Maybe it has to do with the fact that one former member and on current member have deep conflicts of interest when it comes to the theatre. Maybe that is the reason Pat Briggs was allowed to get away with gross mismanagement. Maybe that is why the coundil spent two sessions apologizing to her and singing her praises!!!
Either way, the new council needs to stand up to the PACT and it's vocal supproters and cut off funding. of course this is a council that thinks that having people pay for sidewalk repairs is not a big burden (read Greg Schmidt's comments on that issue)--they think everyone has plenty of money to waste so why not shower it on a mismanaged city "institution" that has a massive sense of entitlement.


Posted by Jonathan Erman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:51 am

"I don't see why Palo Alto's Children's Theatre programs should be so unusual and unique, as compared to anything else."

I think having such an "unusual and unique" program is something we should cherish, not condemn.


Posted by Palo Altan at heart, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:56 am

I honestly do not feel it is right for home owners to pay for side walk repairs since the side walks belong to the city or municipalities where we live....God forbid we should prune their trees and something goes wrong....then we have to replace it!

I have mixed feelings about children having to pay to participate....that would certainly make theatre an activity for the elite and not the middle class or those from families who's parent's have been unemployed ( not by choice ) for almost over two years.
I did not have a problem paying for Summer Conservatory at PACT for my son because aside from participating in a show, the kids were also provided with classes prior to rehearsal.
If we have to pay for our kids to participate we better hope they get a good part and they
aren't just hanging out in the wings waiting to get on stay to say a line.



Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:39 am

This is part of the problem. As Palo Altan says," If we have to pay for our kids to participate we better hope they get a good part and they


aren't just hanging out in the wings waiting to get on stay to say a line."

The same could be said about a sports participant who spends most of the season as substitute on the bench.

Paying to participate does not follow that a participant gets to have a big part or has maximum playing time in the sport. Playing to participate means participating at whatever level provided that there is a minimum which is stated at the beginning of the season. We can't sell the best parts to the highest bidder, just like we can't sell the starting positions on the team.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm

"I think having such an "unusual and unique" program is something we should cherish, not condemn."

It is this "let them eat cake" sensibility that grates me about our town. Yes, a $1 million city-funded children's theater is "unusual and unique" - but I for sure don't cherish it. It is a marvel of system where the pet projects of the elite trump the basic needs of the many middle class families in town.

PACT is a relic of an age when the town was smaller, more homogeneous, and run like a country club. If the program can become self-supporting - after 75 years of subsidy - then God bless it and I wish it well. But otherwise, we cannot go on funding "cake" at the expense of the basics that serve the many.


Posted by One Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Of course nobody wants the program their children are benefiting from to be cut, but these are tough times. Everyone has to make sacrifices. I for one am shocked at how costly this program is. Why? In my day we made or found our own costumes, brought props from home, used donated lights, build our own sets and did our own publicity. As someone pointed out, the 'talent' is free so what is left is the theater itself and the paid staff. If I have to pay for the sidewalk repairs in front of my house, and escort my kids to school because there are no crossing guards, this theater can operate on a much smaller budget. Also, they can charge the fortunate participants as we are charged for all our children's activities.


Posted by One Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm

By the way, the acting in some of the threadbare shows I saw growing up was so good you forgot all about the trappings. I'd be impressed if our local children's theater could do that.


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