Posted by kay, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 12:47 pm
jill,they surely did more than bungled it again. i guess they lost common-sense.maybe they spent more time in an outhouse instead of listening to what pat did for the theatre.we need to pray that they learn from their mistakes,or pay for what they have done to pat.
Posted by Derek Wood, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 1:18 pm
The whole stumbling, disgraceful "investigation" into the Children's Theatre was a premeditated hatchet job by a lame-duck City Manager. After 47 years of making the Children's Theatre the jewel that it has been, Pat isn't even afforded the *benefit of the doubt*. Now that's community.
Posted by Lois, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 3:04 pm
The City is cleaning house before the new City Manager takes over in September. He will then set up his own team and move the City forward. Many other senior staff have left or retired, Ms Briggs is not alone.
Ms Briggs is 71 it's time to retire and move on with your life. Meanwhile PACT has a great opportunity to hire some new, young, and vibrant talent with some innovative ideas. Look forward not backwards.
Posted by plenty of blame to go around, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm
City management should have prevented the financial improprieties allegedly committed by the theatre employees. Specific management personnel should also be held responsible. But, if Ms. Briggs did what she is said to have done, she deserves to be fired. I don't care how wonderful she is in her job. None of us is above the law. If I tried to get away with what they apparently did, I'd sure be fired by my company.
Posted by Seth Yatovitz (CT Kid since 67), a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm
I think some thanks to Ms. Briggs for all the positive things she did are appropriate. However I also think she is simply fortunate that the statute of limitations expired before criminal activity (intended or not) came to light.
Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to return the money in question. It's the right thing to do. 126 double billings is not a mistake in my mind.
Posted by Too Sad, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 3:26 pm
The City continues to clean house, but the new ones are not any better. Yes, lots have 'retired' from the City and there are still a few top ones to get out the door. I hope Pat does not lose out on her retirement benefits and medical because she was fired. If she does, it is a dirty shame. Benest still gets to live in Palo Alto with a City purchased home. Pat is already a senior citizen and the City surely dumped on her. But she is not the first they have done this to. The list is a mile long.
Posted by Brandon Savage, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 4:29 pm
Pat Briggs is one of the kindest, and most dedicated people I know. She has committed the past 47 years to serving Palo Alto and children of the Bay Area, giving, literally, ALL of her time to the PACT (47 YEARS!). She is an exceptional leader and was able to stretch the amazingly small city budget into 15 or more productions every year - which anyone who has produced theatre will know is a nearly impossible feat.
The city has thrown away an invaluable asset.
Doesn't someone who has served the city loyally for nearly half a century, who has touched the lives of thousands of local children, who has gone above and beyond the requirements of her job description to create a program that is unmatched anywhere in the world, deserve better than THIS?
I am outraged and saddened by the actions of the city.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm
Is it just a coincidence that Yeats, Erikson, Harrision & Benest all changed jobs after the CT investigation got started? All of the above have some oversight responsibility for what's been going on at CT.
At a recent council meeting Schmid & Yeh wanted to audit to focus on the processes, not just the police investigation; it's unfortunate that the rest of the council didn't want to go there. The public would than have an opportunity to understand much better how the city is being run.
Posted by Sally, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm
"She is an exceptional leader and was able to stretch the amazingly small city budget into 15 or more productions every year"
Brandon, the amazingly small thing is your sense of imagination! Palo Alto has funded the operational budget of PACT to the tune of $1M per year. It is long past time that PACT fund itself, without operational support from the city. The real scandal is that PACT has been funded by the city for so long.
Posted by Diane Savage, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jun 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm
I have had the honor of knowing Pat Briggs and Rich Curtis for more than twenty years. I trusted my children with them on many of the disputed trips, and my confidence in them is unshaken. This investigation has been a travesty of justice, and Pat's and Rich's termination is beyond belief. Pat Briggs is a wonderful woman who has given her life to the children of our community. I hope that she will appeal and that she will be vindicated.
Posted by Brandon Savage, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 5:18 pm
I am well aware of PACT's budget, and believe me, this is amazingly small for the number of productions, classes and children the theatre supports each year. In my opinion, it is a very small price for the city to pay to support such an exceptional and unique extracurricular opportunity for the children of the Bay Area. Without the city's support, and extraordinary leaders like Pat (and Michael, and Alison and Rich) programs like this could not exist.
Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 5:19 pm
Now let us audit the value to the city of senior officers attending conferences out of town. Convince me that these conferences are not just an opportunity to spread the resume around, live it up [How come no conferences in Trona or Weed, both areas where expenses would be lower and distractions fewer] or just get away from the kids. I suspect the total Ms. Briggs is supposed to have defalced would not sustain our conventioneering budget for a month.
Posted by Sally, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 5:39 pm
Brandon, try to get a grip! There are other youth theatre productions in this valley that are privately funded. PACT has been on the tit for so long, that it cannot recognize a real budget, if socked in the face with it.
PACT, as a city sponsored entity, is an anachronism. It is a dinosaur that should already be extinct.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 5:50 pm
All this griping about money is like my kids arguing.
Grow up, the lot of you.
PACT has been funded by the City and as any taxpayer funded entity the money has been spent without the right sort of oversight which would never have happened if it was run like a business. Organisations which are run by volunteers and is privately funded do a better job of being accountable.
Perhaps now the accountability in the theatre will start and realistic funding and budgets will evolve.
I hope we do continue to have an excellent theatre for those kids who prefer the arts to other pastimes but, I hope that they no longer get the free ride they have been having. I also hope that there will be a scholarship fund set up for those who truly need it.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 7:07 pm
I don't believe that the issue should be whether Briggs " is a wonderful woman who has given her life to the children of our community" or not. Others who knew her from their PACT times and posted on some of these forums considered her a vindictive terror. It's a matter of experience and opinion. That Briggs was committed to the theater in her own terms and only those seems to me indisputable. That she didn't perform her duties in her fiduciary financial capacity I think it's a charitable view of what she seemed to have done. She deserves, of course, fair and careful consideration for having worked for the city ( and apparently mismanaging) for so long.
No doubt Briggs supporters will want to continue their financial support of her in these troubled times. They should also consider endowing her with the means to pursue her best work-as a great artistic director without financial management responsibilities.
They shouldn't demand that the rest of us shoulder their choices and only their choices.
Posted by Wabergal, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 7:22 pm
I have not been a supporter of the PACT myself. Several of the children I have worked with in the past HAVE been members of the CT, so I've gone to see shows to suport them. Many a time, when I was a child, I would "attempt" to audition for a show, or volunteer in other capacities. Each and every time I was utterly disgraced and embarrassed by many members of the CT, which seemingly every one else adores. The "administration" was continually rude to me, even when I was adult. To me something was always fishy about the whole group. As I said, other people seem to adore the upper tiers of the busines. I just don't see it. Whether or not people are guilty of a crime, no matter how bad it was, I can't say that I will be a backer. <shrug>
Posted by Oscar Nunez, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 7:28 pm
New blood sounds like a good idea, but new blood without the advantage of having experienced and seasoned blood working with it to help guide it along is not.
Seeing the nearly simultaneous departures of Briggs, Litfin and Curtis may seem like a fresh coat of paint, but it will also create a vacuum for the successors; political and otherwise. Smoother the transition would have been with Patricia in a non-accounting advisory position.
Putting an end to funding all city arts programs may seem like a wise maneuver 100% of the time, but to do so discounts the numerous success stories over the years. After all, wonderful things can and do happen when money isn't the bottom line and when the children's ability to "pay to play" isn't a factor. To paraphrase Chris Ritter, it played a factor in raising the property values of homes and also accentuated the quality of education in the town's elementary schools.
Perhaps the pros and cons can at least agree that Pat and Michael and Rich's support system was based commensurately on those who knew them best, whereas their most vehement detractors remained distant and anonymous.
A lessons has been learned:
The ability to seem innocent is of greater benefit than actually
Posted by outraged, a resident of another community, on Jun 30, 2008 at 7:55 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] How shallow can a community be to not see the hours, heart, time and talent that has been given to the children
of the area for so many years. Wihout art, we will all perish. We will have no choice but to succumb the machine...the same machine that is complaining theat theres "no free rides" What a shame that you people cant remember what it might be like to give unselfishly, and wish the best for children and the community. Shame on all of you and shame on the city of Palo Alto for firing a human being that could actually help these children stay conscious and aware in what seems to be a shallow,selfish,community without a soul.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 8:13 pm
Excuse me outraged.
The fact that many of us do not want the free ride of PACT to continue has nothing to do with us lacking to give selflessly.
When I was a young single adult, I volunteered for camps and youth clubs for kids. I paid my way on every single activity and spent many a week of almost sleepness nights looking after other people's kids. I still did some of this even after I was married before I had kids.
As a parent I have volunteered in schools, sports programs (not coaching) and Church activities, and sat on many committees to oversee kids activities.
I do wish the best for the children and the community. I don't think that in this affluent area we should be giving free babysitting to kids who prefer arts rather than other activities, unless there is real need. I always support scholarships for those who want the activity and truly can't afford it, whatever the activity unless it is one of those really costly ones that not many of us do anyway.
So please get down from your high horse and realise that we are not against helping children in need, but are against some of our neighbors getting a free ride for their choice of activity while we have to pay for ours. The city should not be in the business of funding a money pit but in the business of running a financially sound budget and letting the charities do the charity funding.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 8:16 pm
And one more thing, we would not perish without art. It may be nice to have, it may make life pleasant, it may bring us peace and serenity, but it is not a need, it is a luxury. We may find that it is good to have it in our educational curriculum for our kids, but it is there without the PACT and any more is an extra not a necessity.
Posted by Former Palo Alto Resident and Parent of PACT Participants, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 9:02 pm
Doesn't anyone care that the institutions which make Palo Alto special are being savaged? Nothing in the Community Center, Cultural Center, etc. is safe. I'm glad we were there in the 80's and 90's so my three children could get the benefits of the former Palo Alto. We were not part of the Palo Alto elite, paid dearly to live in four rental houses in eight years, and were treated well by Pat and Michael anyway. Michael and Pat were (and Pat still is) two of the best individuals with whom children could work in theatre. Enjoy your new Palo Alto: it's becoming no different than any other avaricious Yuppie Bay Area community.
Posted by Bud, a resident of the The Greenhouse neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 9:03 pm
Yet another investigation. How much money and time have been wasted in years of these unendng Palo Alto investigations. Hundereds of thousansds of dollars in investigator and staff time. Does Mountan View have these investigations? Or Menlo Park? Investigate the investigators!
Posted by Disappointed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 9:03 pm
No More Pact and all the other blogs that say they don't want PACT funded with taxpayers money. It's too late, Council passed the annual budget for 1008/09 a couple of weeks ago. Tucked away in that budget is another $1M. for PACT for the coming year. PACT will continue to be funded into the foreseeable future.
I don't agree with it, but the City Council obviously do.
Posted by Bob Smith, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 9:58 pm
As the Assistant District Attorney noted, the fact that the City did not keep adequate records made it impossible to know whetheer or not a crime had been committed. He said he actually did not himself know. Given this, it seems to me that it is very hypocritical for the City to take such an action given that the City is considerably responsible for failing to keep those records.
I did not expect the City Manager to put on stage shows; nor did i expect Pat Briggs to be capable of setting up and maintaining an accounting system.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 9:58 pm
I'm very much an outsider on the PACT business, but I'm familiar with lots of other little theatre groups.
A couple of thoughts. PACT sounds like it was a fiefdom--46 years with the same director? Not at all surprised they were doing thing in their own peculiar way.
1 million is, indeed, generous for 15 children's theatre productions.
I take it, though, that some of this was kicked back to the city as rent, however.
I don't think, however, you can equate children's theatre to babysitting. A lot of the biggest parts requiring the biggest commitment go to kids who are past the age of needing babysitters.
Also, frankly, older kids with talent don't need to pay to perform--there are other venues at that point.
One of the issues with pay-as-you-go is another kind of fiefdom--basically, big donors expect to buy their kids the leads. And if you're financially strapped, which most little theatre operations are, that kind of temptation becomes very hard to resist.
So, ideally, the city money should create a more fair and independent children's theatre system. However, it sounds like the management got more than a little, er, entitled about everything. A damned shame.
Posted by JA3+, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 10:16 pm
It's now time to privatize PACT; of this, there's little doubt, in my opinion.
The City has an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate PACT; an open bidding process -- run in compliance with relatively standard and common public bid procedures -- may bring in some excellent talent here.
Posted by So Glad, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 30, 2008 at 11:17 pm
$1M and no accountability - simple hand waving accounting methods.
I am glad the burglary took place - which led to the investigation which found that there was a lot more JUNK going on in the CT. Briggs had a ride for 46 years. All news to the Palo Alto residents, most were not aware of how the CT really functioned.
Glad this is all in the open now.
Folks should now question why are we funding CT to the tune of $1M.
Posted by Howard, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 12:09 am
This does not look like sloppy bookkeeping by an absent minded artistic type. It has all the appearances of a carefully constructed scheme to siphon off money. You may not be able to convict someone of a crime based on what turned up in the investigation, but firing is subject to a "more probable than not" standard and appears justified.
Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 1:08 am
Regarding the starting of the Children's Theater beginnings~ how it all began?? Seems I remember that there was a woman who donated the building..
"Palo Alto Children's Theatre
The Palo Alto Children's Theatre program began in 1932 with a performance of "The Perfect Gift," directed by Hazel Robertson, the founding Director of the Children's Theatre. With a gift to the City from Lucie Stern in 1937, the Palo Alto Children's Theatre became one of the first and only children's theatres in the nation to have a fully-equipped theatre just for the young people of the community. Since 1932, the Palo Alto Children's Theatre has gained world acclaim as a model for theatres by and for young people.
The Children's Theatre program serves children and young adults ages four to twenty four years. Throughout the past 75 years, the Theatre has provided programs for audiences and participants including radio, television, film, and video as each became a special interest. Guests and scholars from around the world have been welcomed and told about the Theatre. It is included in the textbooks and history books on Children's Theatre in America and in 1998 the Children's Theatre programs were the subject of a Doctoral Dissertation by Bryna Rifkind through New York University."
. THIS THEATER WAS A GIFT TO THE PEOPLE OF PALO ALTO...
SURE ARE A LOT OF UNGRATEFUL PEOPLE COMPLAINING...
Posted by Wally, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 4:59 am
> The Palo Alto Children's Theatre program began in 1932
> with a performance of "The Perfect Gift," directed by
> Hazel Robertson, the founding Director of the Children's Theatre.
Unless there is binding language in the acceptance of this "gift" by the City of Palo Alto, then this "gift" can be "re-gifted" to a private owner, or leased, or even made available for a reasonable fee.
While the ownership issue might possibly complicate the transferal of this currently City-owned property to a private entity, the $1.3M a year in subsidy is the real issue on the table.
It's time to stop subsidizing this operation, which actually is utilized by almost 15% non-residents.
Since there are so many passionate souls in this time who believe in the Children's Theater--then let them dig themselves out of this hole by digging a little deeper into their pockets and finding the money to operate this entity. Certainly by tripling the price of the tickets a significant amount of money could be raised without a lot of imagination being expended.
Posted by Unhappy with Payment Schedule, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 6:04 am
Through this whole process it has been revealed that many of the children that participate in the PACT actually come from nearby cities. The taxpayers of Palo Alto are actually subsidizing children who come from some of the wealthier communities around us like Menlo Park and Portola Valley.
This should end. Non-resident children should pay considerably more to participate in the PACT to offset this subsidy. I'm hoping that our new City Manager, and his team, will look very carefully into the future financial arrangements for the PACT and in particular revising the contributions from these non-resident children.
Posted by thearts, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 8:47 am
If Pat was so good, why not create a rival private chidren's theater around her? All you supporters are so gung-ho about how she walks on water. You should be able to get all the support you need, hire the halls, etc. Go on, put your energy where your mouth is.
Unfortunately, I think we will find you are all just after the free ride and aren't actually willing to put in any effort.
Posted by Privatize or bust, a resident of another community, on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:05 am
Great idea, all! Let's privatize PACT so that only children who can afford to participate will be able to. After all, who wants to give city-funded opportunities to poor children in the Bay Area? I can't believe that the city of Palo Alto would even consider such a thing!
You're right, let's get that money of the city's books ASAP. Brilliant!
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:52 am
A troubling aspect with the PACT fiasco is that I have learned we need to monitor our city council members much more closely. I was disturbed to learn of the close relationship two have with PACT.
In a city that holds itself above other neighboring communities, take a look at the terrible streets of old Palo Alto - take a look at our unsustainable branch libraries - I would think basic city infrastructure ought to be prioritized above PACT. Especially since there are various other fine children's theatres in the region. Some of us cannot afford more taxes. We are seeking competent prioritization/management.
Posted by Paul Wanless, a resident of another community, on Jul 1, 2008 at 10:06 am
Thearts, to create a "rival" children's theater would cost so much more in high property taxes and permits than it did when this one was created in 1937, and even then it was only opened because of a generous donation from Lucie Stern.
New blood is not going to fix the city's screwed up accounting system...it's only going to get worse when they bring someone else in who won't have any power to change it.
Several years ago a new computer system was installed and Michael was hard-pressed to learn it, but obviously it didn't fix the problems from before, and they won't be fixed now simply because a new director takes office.
Even if Pat decides not to come back, she has earned a comfortable retirement several times over...she kept working well past the time she could have retired, for her love of the theater and the benefit of the children. If she had retired at the time she'd legally earned it, she would have been gone long ago and none of this would have happened. She had absolutely no reason to stay those extra years and steal money when she could have left at the same time and lived a comfortable retirement if she wanted to. Instead she stayed and continued her hard work because that's the kind of person she is.
Pat didn't steal anything, nor did any of the other staff. Firing her with nothing was very wrong of the city to do. Pat deserves better.
Posted by Sue Ellen, a resident of Portola Valley, on Jul 1, 2008 at 10:16 am
My kids all were PACT kids. My husband keeps his airplane at Palo Alto's airport. I used to swim at Rinconada. Despite the controversy about Palo Alto's libraries, it's a great source of free DVD borrowing for anyone who wants to avoid rental fees.
We probably are better off than most families in Palo Alto. But do I feel guilty about the (probably thousands of dollars) subsidies we've received from Palo Alto over the years? Not really: subsidizing the rest of us is the price you pay for living in a city trying to be a regional leader.
Palo Alto has the employers and jobs that my husband worked at while we were raising our family. You got the taxes from that. (And I guess you have to deal with the ABAG rules that we don't as part of the bargain.)
Maybe we get a pretty good deal. But should we turn it down because some of you think it's unfair?
In any event, I get to live in a very nice quiet suburb and have all the amenities of Palo Alto for free. Not a bad deal
Posted by why-not-take-the-time-to-read-the-budget, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 10:29 am
> Palo Alto has the employers and jobs that my husband worked at
> while we were raising our family. You got the taxes from that.
The reality is that the city of palo alto gets very little from the technology-based companies that are located within the palo alto city limits. The city gets only about 9% of the property tax collected from the increased assessment associated with these companies. If the companies do not generate sales, then there are no sales taxes associated with their being here. These companies are utilities customers, which does bring in some "profit" to the Utility.
in addition to property tax, money comes to the city via retail sales tax (hugely from the Stanford Shopping area), fees/fines paid by residents (and to some small extent, non-residents), some pass-thru from the utility and real estate earnings.
(The airport, by the way, is a total loss of opportunity for the city government.)
Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 10:48 am
As expected, Ms Briggs, has been fired by the city. We may never know all of the real reasons. The city cannot make that known and Ms Briggs probably will not make public the letter the city sent her.
I do find her lawyer's comments (typical lawyer speak, btw) :
""We are disappointed the city has not accepted responsibility for its part in this situation," Parsons said. "
It is also disappointing that Ms Briggs accepts no responsibility for what happened either. She was in charge, the head honcho. I have my feelings with regard to her culpability concerning money issues raised recently.
Of course Ms Briggs can appeal and can also sue the city at some point. I think it is time for her to bow out and let the city get past this mess.
And yes, things need to change with regard to the way the city handles money and other issues. This is not new. our council is busy chasing after their own special interests and our manager was busy milking the city for his own good to deal with these things. This must change.
It is now time to move on. If people are so concerned about PACT it is time to find a new leader and move ahead. trust me, PACT will survive MS Brigg's departure.
I am sure her acolytes at Friends of PACT and the City Council will disagree. They will continue to label the police as evil and vindictive, they will shower abuse on Benest and they will label those that dare to disagree with them as trolls or worse.
But as we all know, no one, not even Pat is irreplacable.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 11:03 am
Why are posters equating the PACT with Briggs? This forum became two questions to be answered separately:
Should Briggs have been fired and should the PACT be a department of the city of Palo Alto?
Pat Briggs is not PACT. Only dictatorships confuse its leaders with its institutions.
It is a dangerous confusion: it leads one to believe that an institution that was created for a specific purpose cannot fulfill its purpose without one person and his/her entourage and will perish without him/her, who, of course, has been spared mortality. History, even contemporary history, has seen some of these examples.
Briggs could have retired if she wanted to. She elected to continue to work, be decently payed for it and continue her pension contributions. Nobody has forced her to do this. It has not been a favor on her part. She was probably an exempt worker which means that she accepted to work as necessary to fulfill her contract. As professionals many of us have such contracts. Volunteers work without compensation and many did just to be helpful to PACT. Briggs was not a volunteer. I believe she has not fulfilled the terms of her contract and her dismissal was appropriate. She can fight it and ask to be reinstated. It's up to her and her union now.
2nd question is about PACT. It is absurd to suggest that those who think that PACT shouldn't be a city department means that it should be "privatized". I can only assume that they don't know the meaning of "private" or they stretch it to impose a vision of a PACT unaccessible to poor children. The proposal is that PACT should become a non-profit institution (501(c)(3)) regulated by the IRS. Those institutions serve the citizens,
they are not private commercial enterprises , they are public social partners. They get their funds from a variety of sources be it private or public and they do a lot of development. They are fully accountable. In the case of PACT it wouldn't even mean that the city wouldn't necessarily not contribute some.
Many leading America institutions hold such non-profit status ( TheatreWorks for example). Surely this is something to think about without fear that it would compromise quality, goals and accessibility of PACT.
Posted by wow, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 5:50 pm
Hey "did ya know"
If you can't abide by the terms, then your posts get deleted. It's got nothing to do with whether anyone agrees or not with your point of view, as you can clearly see from the lack of agreement between the above posters.
So read the terms and comply with them if you want to post here. Or go to the Daily. It's really not that complicated.
Posted by JA3+, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm
..."PACT should become a non-profit institution (501(c)(3)) regulated by the IRS. Many leading America institutions hold such non-profit status ( TheatreWorks for example). Surely this is something to think about without fear that it would compromise quality, goals and accessibility of PACT."
Narnia is spot-on here; well-stated.
A number of well-regarded theater companies long here in the Bay Area hold non-profit status.
PACT has much to be proud of; but, change is necessary in light of clear mis-deeds here.
PACT will likely thrive as a non-profit funded by sources other than the City of Palo Alto; PACT will join the ranks of other top theater companies financed by a diverse mix of financing sources.
Posted by Mom by Gunn High, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:46 pm
"It's time to stop subsidizing this operation, which actually is utilized by almost 15% non-residents"
There already is a private string around all of Palo Alto for religous reasons...Maybe we should also put up huge cement pillars with walls that encompass' the city so we can keep out the young intruders..........
This is no longer the Palo Alto that my grandparents and parents helped shape. Selfish, clouded spirits are emerging~
What ever happened to "Love thy Neighbor" ?? Has this town gone MAD??
David Packard was the giant hero of mine since childhood...THERE was an Icon. He and his partner gave back to the community. That continues on way after his demise. A selfless man. A Palo Alto MAN. He took great care of the employees who worked for him, which in turn made this town what it is today................Let's not tarnish reputations of all of those who came before us by belittling the youth of the Palo Alto area. The rest of the world is watching.
Posted by so letdown, a resident of Mountain View, on Jul 1, 2008 at 10:08 pm
I grew up in Palo Alto in the 70's, and spent all my afternoons and weekends at the PACT. My parents were poor, yep - poor. Shopped at goodwill for clothes, no car, the whole enchilada. PACT opened up my whole world - to art, music, drama, even literature. I majored in theatre, and have spent my whole life working in the arts. I can assure you, the arts are not a luxury. Look at the research - exposure to art and music increase grades, SAT scores, and overall self esteem.
PACT has always been one of the greatest gifts of Palo Alto.
It is truly a sad day when so many residents do not see the value of that gift.
Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2008 at 11:09 pm
Just what kind of mischief do you think that the kids are going to get into if they are denied access to something that keeps their minds busy??? Ms. Stern had a vision, just like Martin Luther King...and it's been carried out by those who care about the children. Before going up on stage, many kids were afraid of their own shadows, introverted a bit, very unsure of themselves. This type of role playing has brought many, many of them out of their shells and blossom into adulthood. How can you really put a price on that??? Those of you who would rather pave a bump on a city road rather than continue funding the Theater are #$%^&*().
Posted by Oscar Nunez, a resident of another community, on Jul 2, 2008 at 3:02 am
Going 501-c-3 is problematic and in my opinion, a bad move in this instance.
What works for Theatreworks would not necessarily work for a theatre where the actors are not professionals and who are, in fact, largely minors.
The PACT is already non-profit via a different legal definition
but by being linked to both the City's recreation department and school district, it is currently streamlined best to provide the children of its community with a superior experience.
Going 501-c-3 would place the theatre in a position to where a significant part of the entire process would need to revolve around fundraising.
Time and energy would need to be employed towards getting corporate sponsorships.
The temptation to rename the outdoor stage after a sports drink could be strong.
The pressing need to dress kids up to Christmas carol at various corporate functions in Silicon Valley (to help raise operating money) could become prevalent.
The need for funds also creates the difficult position where a scenario of payola is more likely to happen; the angel donors
kids getting increasingly better roles.
Such a payola practice exists routinely in free market children's theatre but has NOT at the City of Palo Alto / Briggs and Litfin
model in part, because doing so was never essential to the ongoing survival of the theatre.
Also, in case someone in charge started to play Robin Hood, I think it's beyond apparent to any impartial outside observer that it would be much easier to play financial hide and seek against the IRS than it would be than within a system where the City of Palo Alto itself would have constant oversight (something we expect will be happening almost immediately in the wake of the discovery that the system
Ms. Briggs had to deal with was not on par with the internal control policies employed by other departments in other muncipalities).
I'm not in agreement with Narnia here.
To me, it's the equivalent of taking a solid house with a leaky roof and trading it in for a newer house that has the onset of termites
and dryrot within it.
Looks better on the surface, but it is destined to crumble.
Posted by ResponsibilityToChildren, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 2, 2008 at 4:28 am
You may consider this beside the point, but I find the following comment of yours quite troubling.
"...And one more thing, we would not perish without art. It may be nice to have, it may make life pleasant, it may bring us peace and serenity, but it is not a need, it is a luxury..."
Art is an intrinsic part of any culture. Can you think of any civilization, past or present, whose historical course has not been shaped through artistic expression? These abstractions, when channeled in specific ways, have formed the basis for government, research, healthcare, and whatever else you deem a "need." (Plato, da Vinci, Verdi, Montesquieu, etc.)
Theatre, in its almost-inevitably representative nature, is perhaps the most accessible of the arts. Considering it as a service to society (which even seems dismissive of its own reflexivity), it is inadvisable and irresponsible to view art as a luxury, a diversion. Furthermore, it is essential to society to raise our youth as holistic individuals, capable of-- and comfortable with-- expressing themselves in a constructive manner.
The PACT issue aside, I hope you're able to make these connections, however broad they may seem. I understand what you are trying to say, I think, and I hope that, as a "Parent," you misrepresented yourself.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 2, 2008 at 8:43 am
My comment on its own could be interpreted the way you have taken it, I agree.
But in context I was supporting this comment with the fact that there are plenty of artistic educational opportunities in our schools already and the extra of the PACT experience for children is indeed the luxury.
We have music in our classrooms from kindergarten to 6th grade as given. We also have art in the classrooms for the same grades, sometimes with classroom teachers but sometimes with specialised spectra art teachers or a devoted art 6th grade teacher. In grades 7 -12 we have excellent opportunities for many type of art electives including drama (which actually starts in 6th grade), orchestra/band/choir, and various types of art classes and crafts.
On top of this in the middle and high schools there are after school drama performances. I think this covers many of the ideas you point out.
To me, having this rich art curriculum available to our students does put the ability of artistic expression in our kids' lives. I myself had nothing like this in my own education although I did have some and I went to a private school.
There are many ways of obtaining artistic groundings outside of our schools without the need for PACT. Classes and camps abound and many of our local churches have excellent music experiences for our kids who attend them and these are also free, paid for by the congregations (or parents) not taxpayers.
Hopefully now you will see where I am coming from. You did say that you understand what I was trying to say. I hope we are now more in agreement.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 2, 2008 at 12:59 pm
I agree with Parent that art is a luxury – compared to the necessities of life. Think Maslow’s Pyramid.
Art is wonderful, glorious, enriching and we would all suffer without it. But if your roof leaks or you have to pay your mortgage and your insurance, that’s got to come first. On the list of priorities for the city, e.g., public safety, infrastructure, PACT comes near the bottom of the list.
Why should taxpayers subsidize a children’s theater vs. a children’s music camp or art school or dance studio? I agree with Narnia that PACT should be a 501(c)3.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 2, 2008 at 1:28 pm
Can anyone point out another primarily government-funded childrens theatre anywhere? All the ones I can find are independent non-profits (501-c-3).
As someone correctly pointed out above - privately funded orgs need to spend time fundraising and be responsive to audiences and funding sources. Take Palo Alto Girls Softball - yes, it would be great to hire professional coaches (no nepotism, better coaching, less work for parents) and not have local business names on the uniforms (girls with Fish Market on their backs always brings a slight twinge). But somehow the League soldiers on, parents accept the responsibility of paying and volunteering, and everyone enjoys the product. If the League proposed a $1,000,000 city subsidy to hire coaches and buy uniforms - the proposal would be dead on arrival. The arts, including theater, are wonderful, but are not different in this regard.
Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jul 3, 2008 at 9:58 am
How about CLOSING this world famous Childrens Theater and then all the kids can just do puppet shows with their soxs. (No more elaborate costumes, no stage backdrops, or lighting...no more butterflies and big bright eyes from the anticipation of walking out onto a REAL stage..all done in tune with the live music from the stage pit when the curtain goes up.)
Posted by Derek Wood, a resident of another community, on Jul 3, 2008 at 1:07 pm
Truly wearying. Here as elsewhere, the central issue has been derailed by those who would have us believe that any problem connected to government at any level could have been avoided through the panacea of privatization. As if privatization had actually worked for, say, the health care industry.
"Not with my tax money," they squawk, "and not in my backyard. Take it private - if you want it, you pay for it." OK, what would you have us do? Give every single Palo Alto taxpayer a line-item veto over his own tax contribution to every city budget? I'm sorry, but it's never, ever going to happen, so I suggest you get over it.
Posted by not-the-taxpayer's-problem, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm
> Going 501-c-3 would place the theatre in a position to
> where a significant part of the entire process would need
> to revolve around fundraising.
Aw .. the people behind the Children's Theater might actually have to prove its worth to people who know the value of money--rather than the City Council that is only interested in spreading money out to their friends and well-connected special interest groups.
> Time and energy would need to be employed towards
> getting corporate sponsorships.
Whose time, and whose energy? Right now, the taxpayers who have no intersect with this very badly managed operation are being wasted. If there are parents who feel that this is a good idea--then spend YOUR time and energy promoting the ideas that you think are important. How much would it cost to hire a funds raiser--even a part timer? There is no reason that Portola Valley, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Menlo Park should not be the home base for a children's theater. There has got to be more than enough "spare change" in these communities to pay the $1-2M a year needed to pay for this operation.
Posted by public-libraries-are-history, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 3, 2008 at 1:43 pm
> How many taxpayers benefit from the maintenance and operation
> of SIX libraries?
Actually, not that many. To make matters worse, about 20% of the library patronage can be attributed to non-residents. On the "arts" side, as much as 80% of some programs provided at the Art Center show enrollment from non-residents.
> of SIX libraries?
Actually, the number of city-operated libraries is only 5 (the Terman Branch was closed a few years ago).
Most people don't use public libraries in Palo Alto.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 3, 2008 at 6:57 pm
My opinion (as above):
"Many leading America institutions hold such non-profit status ( TheatreWorks for example). Surely this is something to think about without fear that it would compromise quality, goals and accessibility of PACT".
Apparently the suggestion to think about making PACT a 501 C)(3) institution is enough to make someone be Anti-Narnia. Feeling threatened just by virtue of someone wanting to discuss and think about a possibility is one of the reasons why it is not possible to have much consensus in this town. Ideas are a very difficult concept for people whose primary goal posts seems to be :"against others and long live brick walls, blindly we go"
Anti-Narnia , you really must apologize to Clive Staples Lewis.....or his ghost.
Posted by Ricky Steamboat, a resident of another community, on Jul 3, 2008 at 11:05 pm
For what it is worth, I grew up in Redwood City and as a kid I was unable to make the cut for the football and baseball teams
I tried out for.
It made me feel angry and empty.all at once.
I also was unable to make it into the two school plays I auditioned for in junior high school. Really wanted those.
Found out of a pay to play operation but my Aunt couldn't afford the fee and the word was that they preferred the kids whose moms would help out with sewing and other craft and my Aunt couldn't help out due to circumstances.
There was an acting program in San Francisco I was interested in, but the money wasn't there.
I'm not suggesting I'm typical, but casual drug use and shoplifting and graffiti sure helped pass the time for me. I also got pretty good at some other things that I won't mention here.
Once I enrolled at Sequoia, I still couldn't crack football or the theatre either. It was kind of hard because I was entry-level whereas others had SO much more experience.
Ended up dating a girl who went to Paly and who did shows
on occasion at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre. She raved about the children's theatre. She said Palo Alto was a city that was one in ten thousand and likened it to what happened in Florence during the Rennasance.
I never did shows there because she had like ten credits to my zero and it's never good to be an outsider with no experience but I saw her there twice and it was nice.
I was happy for her, but also so jealous that she had so many opportunities presented to her and that she never once felt shut out of anything in her life.
Palo Alto, at least back then, seemed like an oasis to me.
A place too good to tag. A place where kids had a voice.
It's trending away from that now you know.?
Maybe if you save money by cutting this theatre off from public funds, you can all continue the process to its logical conclusion and put an end to all taxpayer funded arts and sports currently within the elementary school systems as well and Gunn and Paly as well.
Think of the money you'll save. Maybe you can buy your kids X-boxes and videos of other kids fulfilling their dreams with all those juicy tax savings you'll get.
Posted by not-the-taxpayer's-problem, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 2:01 am
> Think of the money you'll save.
Actually, not being from Palo Alto you probably don't understand the need for:
1) Fixing San Francisquito Creek
2) Funding the $445M in Infrastructure Needs of the City.
3) Fund a Long-term facilities upgrade over the next 50 years.
The yearly $1M CT subsidy is diverting needed public money to something that has nothing to do with the reason that cities exist--which is to deal with the needs of the "commons". It sounds like you probably didn't spend much time studying civics, and/or economics. Spending money "giving children a voice" is not the reason people pay their taxes. The expectation that most people have is that the money will be used for the needs of all--not the benefit of the few.
Posted by Mavis, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 6:56 am
There is a butterfly effect to having a Children's Theatre that many bean-counters can't fathom.
This model has serviced Palo Alto beautifully throughout its 47 year history.
Had the theatre been a private entity, it wouldn't have lasted as long. If it eventually goes private, it will risk extinction on an almost annual basis.
Those private children's theatre models often grow and die like so many dandelion weeds. I don't think Narnia gets this because her role model is Theatreworks (a professional theatre company with adults)
and not an average startup children's theatre somewhere else in America.
Sometimes, a children's theatre can be utilized to put on plays that unite entire communities, such as if a local playwright were to use the theatre and its talent pool to highlight the history of Palo Alto, or to perhaps let people know about the needs of the community, whether it be fixing a creek or keeping a city modernized.
The tone of whether a city grows or stagnates is often determined by how well the publicly funded arts in that city are allowed to flourish.
Have you not studied the reasons certain cities and neighborhoods
go into decline?
Have you ever noted how restaurants and shops like to be near artistic centers?
Just because you may not eat at them or shop at them doesn't mean that you don't benefit from the economic stimulation they gice to your city.
The Children's Theatre budget sounds like a lot, and it is, but it is a drop in the bucket and a bargain in the grand scheme and anyone reasonable who studies civics within a larger context understands that.
Having a top flight children's theatre (one of the ten best in the country) brings tremendous advantages to it.
It helps attract better civil servants to the city, it helps attract better business leaders, it lessens the strain of what public schools need to do in order to make up for the loss of an Outreach program (that is taught by experts, not by teachers spending time in drama away from their own areas of expertise).
Much has been made about how each show costs $70K, but that's ludicrous.
That's assuming that all the theatre does is produce shows.
It also runs a conservatory, it also runs an Outreach program, it also instructs children, it provides moral guidance and it is in fact, a sort of working trade school that has produced dozens of skilled craftspeople and artists over the years.
The truer civil servant out there should spend less time trying to stop the cause to kill the arts and to instead work to create a pure atmosphere where the millions of dollars needed for infrastructure
and upgrades end up being spent as wisely, frugally and efficiently as possible without any sweetheart or insider deals being a part of the accounting.
To do otherwise would be to plug a small hole in the dyke when there is a massive hole leaking 50 times the water just to the right.
That's where the watchdogs should be keeping their eye on and not on the less than 1% of the city budget that actually goes into programs that benefit thousands of Palo Alto children..and in a greater sense, their future decades and quality of life as citizens.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 4, 2008 at 6:58 am
"Many leading America institutions hold such non-profit status ( TheatreWorks for example). Surely this is something to think about without fear that it would compromise quality, goals and accessibility of PACT".
Since Narnia implies that Theatreworks is a model of a 501c3 arts organization that can exist and thrive without the support of taxpayer dollars it is only fair to point out the following: Theatreworks was born only because of City support. If that support had not been forthcoming you would not have been blessed with thirty some years of extraordinary theatre in Palo Alto. In fact, Theatreworks still relies heavily on City subsidy (i.e. rent free use of the Community Theatre.)
Oddly enough the poster named Ricky Steamboat has it right. In short, should Palo Alto undercut its remarkable and historic support of all of its arts and science programs and services then Palo Alto will be indistinguishable from Mountain View, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.
By the way, if I owe anyone an apology it would be Paul Diroc, not C.S. Lewis.
Posted by not-the-taxpayer's-problem, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 8:56 am
> Had the theatre been a private entity, it wouldn't have lasted
> as long. If it eventually goes private, it will risk extinction
> on an almost annual basis.
This is an interesting point. If "the arts" can not sustain themselves as a commercial entity--then what is the intrinsic value of "the arts". People will pay for just about anything.. from cotton candy (which contains nothing of value to the body) to hundreds of dollars for jogging shoes. So, why is it that something that has generated this much "passion" on the part of its supporters is guaranteed to die if THEY are asked to support it with THEIR dollars entirely?
> Have you ever noted how restaurants and shops like
> to be near artistic centers?
And how many restaurants and shops are near the Lucy Stern. Reality is that virtually all restaurants and shops are NOT near art centers.
> It helps attract better civil servants to the city,
Oh yeah! This whole mess has developed because Palo Alto's civic servants were NOT of the highest quality and failed to do the jobs that were entrusted to them by the taxpayers and property owners.
> it helps attract better business leaders
You have got to be kidding! Carley Fiorena came to HP because of the Palo Alto Children's Theater? If this is true, why aren't there millions upon millions of dollars given to the CT by all of these "business leaders" who only came to Palo Alto because of the CT, and not because of the opportunities available to them through their companies?
> it provides moral guidance
Yee Gods! If this mess is the basis for "moral guidance"--what a disaster the future of Palo Alto is likely to be!
> Sometimes, a children's theatre can be utilized to put on
> plays that unite entire communities,
Can you provide even ONE example of a city that has been UNITED (whatever that means) by a children's theater?
There are no ends to which some people will go to justify the public subsidy of "the arts".
There must be a full moon out all the time over Palo Alto!
Posted by Other CT's?, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 10:07 am
I asked on another thread - are there any other city-funded childrens theatres? I have not been able to find them. And I don't mean where the CT uses a city venue (I assume many do, and that is a subsidy depending on what they might pay) - but I mean where the city pays the staff and operating budget the way we do in Palo Alto. As far as I can tell, asking and looking around, we are the only one. If true, that suggests we are either smarter than everybody else, or maybe just started this way a long time ago and never changed. But it would be helpful to know if in fact there are other city funded CT's. Anyone?
The Children's Theatre Company (CTC) exists to create extraordinary theatre experiences, and to advance theatre as a means of educating, challenging and inspiring young people.
Established in 1965, CTC has grown to become the leading professional theatre company for young people in North America, and among the three largest in the world. Recipient of the 2003 Regional Theatre Tony® Award and numerous other honors, CTC is committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in our community, state and region. CTC is held in high esteem by its peers nationally and internationally, and serves as a catalyst for the field. CTC serves 275,000 to 350,000 young people and families annually in five key program areas each year: stage productions, new play development, community partnerships, theatre arts training, and an annual regional tour.
There is no mention of this organization being operated as a department of the city government of Minn. So -- there is at least one example where a privatized CT has survived for almost 50 years without city government funding.
Posted by PA resident, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 4, 2008 at 11:39 am
You cannot compare the Minneapolis Children's Theatre to the PACT. The Minneapolis CT is mostly adults performing for kids. Yes, it has educational programs and some shows performed with children as do other Children's Theatres but the awards it has won are for the adults putting on plays to entertain kids. What makes the PACT unique is from it's founding over 75 years ago it has been a theatre by and for kids. Meaning that kids act in the shows, kids run lights and sound, kids usher, etc. etc. The idea is to give kids greater responsibility and sense of accomplishment so they can grow up to be successful adults who contribute positively to society.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 12:48 pm
It seems to me that reading other's posts should be minimally necessary in order to comment. I said "
In the case of PACT it wouldn't even mean that the city wouldn't necessarily not contribute some."
"Many leading America institutions hold such non-profit status ( TheatreWorks for example). Surely this is something to think about without fear that it would compromise quality, goals and accessibility of PACT. "
I didn't imply that TheatreWorks is any model for the PACT. It's just an example of a theater company with lots of fee waiving outreach programs.
I'm afraid I don't know who Paul Diroc is......care to tell me?
But I do know that the number of children directly involved in the PACT is small and many times (I don't know if that's still the case) the same children performed over and over again (why ?).
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 4, 2008 at 1:38 pm
Some additional information regarding Minneapolis's Children's Theatre Company:
Their budget (in 2004) was 9.1 million dollars, which is nine times more than the PACT. They rely on government funds to cover 4%, or $360,000, of their operating budget. The population of Minneapolis is 369,051 making the CTC about $24 dollars per capita. Comparing Palo Alto with a population of 59,000 the per capita cost of PACT is only $17. In my opinion quite a bargain for all the good things that the PACT brings to Palo Alto.
You should also note that The Minneapolis Children's Theatre comes close to a breakeven operating budget, but still falls short by $179,076 or 1.8%.
Narnia, thank you so much for asking about Paul Dirac. That you are inquisitive gives me hope that you are open to listening and to considering new ideas, even if you are coming from a place of opposition. Maybe it is possible you can reconsider your position on the Children's Theatre. In any case Paul Dirac was a theoretical physicist whose work predicted the existence of antimatter.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 4, 2008 at 1:43 pm
Narnia, the 1 million dollars that keeps being cited does, in fact, include all the salaries of the five regular employees of the PACT. All salaries combined, including temporary salaries and overtime, represent about 60% of the total budget of the theatre. If anyone took the time to really explore the theatre budget they will discover that the funding of the theatre is relatively small and, considering what Palo Alto gets in return, there is big bang for the buck.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 1:45 pm
I didn't ask about Paul Dirac whose work I know a little. YOU wrote Paul Diroc. I thought you were referring to some obscure theater person whose name you had spelled correctly.
In case you cannot go back to see your own post here it is:
""Many leading America institutions hold such non-profit status ( TheatreWorks for example). Surely this is something to think about without fear that it would compromise quality, goals and accessibility of PACT".
Since Narnia implies that Theatreworks is a model of a 501c3 arts organization that can exist and thrive without the support of taxpayer dollars it is only fair to point out the following: Theatreworks was born only because of City support. If that support had not been forthcoming you would not have been blessed with thirty some years of extraordinary theatre in Palo Alto. In fact, Theatreworks still relies heavily on City subsidy (i.e. rent free use of the Community Theatre.)
Oddly enough the poster named Ricky Steamboat has it right. In short, should Palo Alto undercut its remarkable and historic support of all of its arts and science programs and services then Palo Alto will be indistinguishable from Mountain View, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.
By the way, if I owe anyone an apology it would be Paul Diroc, not C.S. Lewis.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, 6 hours ago"
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm
I'm confused. Minneapolis city government spends $1 per resident on CT, but we spend $17, - how are we are getting a bargain? It seems they are able to obtain $23 per resident in non-government funding. Since I imagine we are as wealthy a town as Minneapolis, that strongly suggests PACT could quite easily become self-supporting. Do you agree, AN?
I don't dispute the benefits and attractions of CT; it's a fine amenity for our town. But it seems neither necessary nor fair to other acitivites to fund it, and it alone, with tax dollars. As we propose bonds and pass even more expensive COPS to fund things we need and only the city can provide, it is puzzling that we fund such a large item that other towns do well funding privately.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm
What I can agree with, Me Too, is that continued municipal funding of the PACT (and other arts and science programs) is a civic choice. I happen to believe it is a right choice and it has been a choice that helped to define the spirit and unique character of Palo Alto.
It seems to me that, when all is said and done, the question at hand can be reduced to whether or not the arts are essential or non-essential services. I believe they are essential. All who disagree with this point of view I ask you to take a moment and think what Palo Alto would look like, feel like, and be like with out the PACT. Do not think for a moment that the PACT would survive without continued municipal support. It will not.
Since this is the 4th of July it is also fitting to recall George Washington's Farewell Address of 1796. He said "Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened."
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 5:25 pm
Thanks AN. It seems sad that you think PACT would die without city funding. With 75 years to build up program, reputation, supporters, and alumni, I'm sure it has as strong a base as it possibly could. If that is not enough for it to support itself, then in fact it seems that Palo Alto already does not have the unique character you would like. I actually disagree with your assessment - if Kepler's can be saved, then funding PACT would be pretty easy.
I definitely must say that "the arts" is not an essential city service. There are some services that only a city can do, or do practically - infrastructure (roads, sewers), public safety, schools, libraries, parks. These must be the top priority of a city, since private options are difficult or impossible. But youth arts, like other youth activities, can and in fact are funded privately in just about every other city.
The arts are nice, but they are not everyone's, or even most families', choice as an important youth activity. Putting on a show is really no different, in my view, that participation on a sports team - both are potentially excellent experiences for a child. Neither are "essential city services" and it is unfair, and perhaps even elitist, in my view, to place one above the other. The learnings from a child's theater performance (or concert or art class) are not superior to those from many fine youth activities.
Well, here's hoping to you are wrong - I sincerely hope that PACT can do well as a privately-funded organization and enjoy another 75 years of being an excellent city amenity. Happy 4th!
Posted by no more city subsidies, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jul 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm
> The operational costs of PACT are budgeted at $1M, but
> the cost is much higher.
Actually, it's closer to 1.3M a year. The CT generates about $300,000 in ticket sales and other revenues--making the city subsidy about $1M a year.
If there are funds spent (such as "in-kind" gifts of clothing, time, money, hardware) this would drive up the operational expenditures. If any of these "gifts" are off-the-books, then the true cost of running this operation might never be known.
Posted by Outraged, a member of the Terman Middle School community, on Jul 5, 2008 at 1:09 am
This is just completely stupid. its one thing to blame them for this whole mess, but to fire Pat is just completely idiotic. she has devoted her life to the theatre and there is no reason that she should have to be fired for it. the city should really think about what they are doing to the theatre right now and how its not only affecting the staff but the children
Posted by Drama, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 12:55 pm
It was very fortunate for me that one of my children was interested in playacting and theater. At the age of eight she auditioned and got a bit part in PACT show – it was wonderful, I would drop her off at 3:45 and pick her up at 6:00. FREE ACTIVITY for almost two and a half hours – a parental bliss. I only wished my other child had interest in a theater rather than having me write three and four hundred dollar checks every couple of months for her interests. When my thespian wanted to try other theaters around (PYT, Hope Musical Theater, and Theaterworks) I simply asked her why should I pay when she can do it for free at the PACT. Why are we as Palo Alto taxpayers subsidizing an after school extracurricular activity outside of the school grounds – why is this one free??? Why is it FREE to a few little thespians while little clay makers, and brush stockers, and swimmers have to pay? Besides, arts and drama are offered at the school level, especially middle school. I know that my car is full of Spectra Art projects my kids generate and I have attended a few plays they did at the elementary school level coordinated by PACT outreach and Theaterworks. I would like to see more money going towards these programs and the Brigg’s theater productions be treated as any other arts and rec paid activity.
Also, why are Palo Alto residents subsidizing all the participants of the PACT, shouldn’t the non-residents be asked to pay to participate in the PACT productions (arts and rec fee)? It seems that many of these children come from affluent communities that chose not to use their tax base to subsidize thespian arts for their residents. I met several families that drive their children from Mt. View even though they have many (pay) options much closer to their community.
Posted by Kit, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 1:02 pm
All this talk about Pat depositing left over funds from the trip into her account – there should not have been any extra funds left. The children complained about being hungry the entire trip and not being allowed any seconds of the awful food offered at the hotel. Pat should have used the money to feed these growing kids.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 5, 2008 at 2:01 pm
Ms. Bourgardis I do not believe that Pat's supporters are blind to her faults. From the comments I have read they simply asked that justice, which should be blind, be applied fairly and with due process. That has not happened in this case. Pat's supporters have nothing to be ashamed about. Rather, the people in Palo Alto who exhibit a lynch mob mentality are the ones who should be ashamed.
Posted by Drama, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 2:05 pm
It was not for the love of the children; Pat lost connection to them years ago and spent most of the rehearsal time cackling at them to “Be Quiet”, we as parents could hear those nonstop as we exchanged glances with each other. Many children did not echo kindly of Pat’s directorial style, but she was as much an institution as a theater itself so she kept the legend going. It was for the glory of a legacy and a forthcoming government pension.
I don't like how it all came down at the end, a forced retirement would have been kinder to a long term city employee. The theater subsidy has to be reevaluated by the city of Palo Alto and fees should be charged for this and other parks and rec activities.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm
The "investigation" was flawed, resulted in no prosecution or criminal charges, and is now going to be investigated itself. During the "hearing" responses to the City's allegations, which included very weak references to evaluations more than 20 years old, were completely ignored. The "due process" to which you refer involved leaping to an immediate decision to terminate without going through the usual early steps of discipline. And if you can not see the lynch mob mentality then you are in denial. I accept that many people do like Pat, and that many others do not agree that the PACT should be municipally funded. But not liking Pat and not approving of the City policy to fund the PACT is not sufficient reason to call for her termination, particularly since most of the posters are responding to slanderous and speculative allegations that would not hold up in a court of law. It is especially disheartning to witness this public lynching since Pat has proven to be a hard working City employee, loyal to her employer and loyal to the people of Palo Alto for more than 47 years.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 7:29 pm
You know there are lots of cities that don't fund children's theaters, libraries, zoos, etc.
And yet you're here.
You know, Palo Alto isn't a spectacularly beautiful place. The lots are small, the architecture ranges all over the map. We're not a cultural center like New York or a foodie haven like San Francisco.
But a lot of us have worked very hard to live here. Yeah, you can say it's the school--but Cupertino's and Saratoga's are just as good and even better.
So why are we here? I know I'm here, in part, because Palo Alto has had a tradition of going that extra mile in creating programs and places that benefit the community. Yeah, we don't *need* a Children's Theatre, but man, it's nice to have it--and the theatre's adorable.
We don't *need* a Children's library. We don't *need* Foothills Park or our 26 other parks. We don't need city summer camps or an interpretative center at the Baylands. We don't *need* the fields at Cubberly. We don't *need* Winter Lodge. We don't *need* our funny little museum at the cultural center.
But all of these things make Palo Alto an exceptionally nice place to live--even the ones I've never used and never will use.
Yeah, we pay more for living in a place that provides these extras. If you really don't want to pay that extra, you really can move a town or two over and not pay for it--nice houses, good schools--there may be no downtown, let alone a bunch of stuff just for the kids--but you won't have to worry about paying for it.
Remember, you'll even be able to sell your house at a premium because some family's going to want what you don't.
Posted by Drama, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 9:58 pm
I don't mind if Palo Alto pays for PACT as long as they pay for all other extracurricular activities, we can become like Denmark – a socialist city. Please remember, drama, music, and choir are offered at the local schools, even PACT does an outreach program. As far as the Children's library, the voters chose to pay for it, was PACT expense ever up to the voters? As far as summer camps, they charge a fee and the rec department simply administers collecting that fee and then mostly outsource the administration of the camps. The Winter Lodge charges users admission and for all the lessons, the "funny little museum" charges for all the classes at the museum. I don't get your point, all others do charge, PACT is the only one that expects and gets a total subsidy, are all the residents OK with that or should it be put on a ballot like the library? Perhaps, we should all move to Cupertino or Saratoga. One out five participants at the PACT is not a PA resident, so according to you, if we chose to live here and pay a premium because the town goes the extra mile for its residents, then how do you account for 20% non residents. Should they move here to enjoy our social town or should I move to Cupertino and then come here to take advantage of the freebees? I did not move here because of the ice rink or the Children’s Theater but it is nice that they are here; I just don’t want to pay for the select few activities that benefit only a small number of children. I would rather pay for all activities offered through the rec department, so that all of PA residents enjoy all the extra activities at no charge or I would pay for none.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 10:44 pm
I am happy to have PACT too - but it is just unfair to give a $1M subsidy to one activity when all the others have to pay their own way - and PACT could too. Libraries, parks, playing fields - these are universal city services, though they can be dialed up or down. Other towns have children's theaters - just not by taxpayer subsidy (or much less subsidy than ours).
I think you are off-base, OP, to infer or imply that people want private-funded PACT because they don't want to pay the money. I doubt many, if any, feel that way. The question is whether it is the right thing to do - is it fair and is it a good use of the city's limited time, energy, and management bandwidth?
It is like having free MI for a few, while all other families have to pay for their language education on their own time, right OP? Is MI just another quirky amenity that you are glad we have even if you never use it? Or is is just unfair?
Posted by Drama, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2008 at 11:48 pm
Here is my situation: (1) I have one daughter who loves theater, lucky for me her participation in PACT is free, (2) My other daughter wants to have nothing to do with theater so I spend over $1,200 on her extracurricular activities during the school year. This is just not fair. I opted to send my daughter to PACT not because of its excellence and great reputation over PYT or TheaterWorks, but because it was free. I bet PACT would do just fine if they started charging a fee and accepting less of a subsidy because it really is an excellent institution that will only get better as new, young and enthusiastic managers and directors take over.
Posted by to OP, a resident of another community, on Jul 6, 2008 at 1:06 am
I love Palo Alto and I find it beautiful. I am very glad that you are up and positive on how the city is run. Your statement, "I know I'm here, in part, because Palo Alto has had a tradition of going that extra mile in creating programs and places that benefit the community" is upbeat and positive, thank you for that, we can use some positive comments about the city and its government.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 6, 2008 at 4:08 am
"As far as the Children's library, the voters chose to pay for it, was PACT expense ever up to the voters?"
"but it is just unfair to give a $1M subsidy to one activity when all the others have to pay their own way "
PACT expense is reviewed annually by the City Council, who represent the voters. The Council has approved the theatre budget annually for 75 years. The Council also approves the fee structure of all City run programs, including the PACT. Even though Children Theatre staff have periodically recommended increases in ticket prices (as just one example) the Council has purposefully, and consistently, voted to keep prices low so that as many children and families as possible can take advantage of the PACT.
There also seems to be a huge misunderstanding of the relationship of the PACT to the City, to other City programs such as the Children's Library, and to other privately operated non-profit resources in Palo Alto. The PACT is a City program, pure and simple. The facility is City owned and operated. The staff are City employees. All that is to say that the Children's Theatre DOES NOT receive a subsidy. Subsidy is defined as a direct pecuniary aid furnished by a government to a private industrial undertaking, a charity organization, or the like. The PACT receives no more of a subsidy than does the Police, Fire, Public Works, or Library departments.
Posted by on government, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 7:10 am
As part of this discussion, the phrase, " by the City Council, who represent the voters. " popped out at me.
As I understand it, the City Council is elected by the voters, but does not represent the voters in theory or practice. Rather, once elected, council members do what they think best, based on their own perspectives and moral compass (sometimes including anecdotal input from voters).
Is this a misconception of mine? I think this is related to the PACT private/public discussion, but a much bigger issue.
Posted by not-the-taxpayer's-problem, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 7:34 am
> Subsidy is defined as a direct pecuniary aid furnished by a
> government to a private industrial undertaking, a charity
> The PACT receives no more of a subsidy than does the
> Police, Fire, Public Works, or Library departments.
Good Gauud ..
The defined purpose for "government" is public safety. Therefore .. the police and fire departments are the main reasons for "government". Public works benefits all residents, who use the roads and sidewalks for transportation. The police, fire and public works are a "defined" aspect of government--and are not given "subsidies" when these services are provided by government. As such, the whole idea of a "subsidy" for these fundamental aspects of "government" is nonsensical.
Unfortunately, the definition is not as flexible as it ought to be. Particularly since government has expanded into the area of entertainment. Libraries, zoos and theaters are clearly for entertainment--and generally not considered as a part of the "public safety" envelope for which most are willing to pay taxes.
While a better definition would help to clarify this matter--certainly rational people understand that core elements of government services that benefit the community as a whole are not "subsidized", while those that benefit special interest groups (such as the airport or a theater for some children) do qualify as being called "subsidized".
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 6, 2008 at 8:06 am
I know that their is a belief by many that the role of a City is to "catch the crooks, put out the fires, and pick-up the trash" It is a belief but it is not codified. My understanding of the definition of government is "the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration: Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society." There are many reasons for government to support Libraries, Zoos, and Theatres that extend way beyond mere entertainment. I maintain that it is for those reasons (economic vitality, enhanced property values, investment in children and youths) that Palo Alto has, traditionally, done just that and it is the reason that Palo Alto is known as a great City. You, as a concerned taxpayer, do have the opportunity to change all that. It is, after all within your power to make Palo Alto a mediocre city.
Posted by Carol Bougardes, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 9:47 am
" The "due process" to which you refer involved leaping to an immediate decision to terminate without going through the usual early steps of discipline"
But that decision to terminate is permitted--there is no requirement for steps of discipline prior to termination. Just like with any other job, a person can be terminated for misconduct without being disciplined beforehand.
There was no leap to judgment and no lynch mob.
Ms Briggs has the right to appeal and to sue--she has been afforded all the elements of due process with regard to her position with the PACT
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 10:12 am
AN, I think it is too bad that you think those who think it is unfair to subsidize PACT (yes, it is a subsidy, sorry) are somehow for a mediocre or weaker city. I'm not sure where you get that impression from - it is far from the case.
Right now, we have a city with hundreds of millions of unfunded infrastructure requirements; decrepit libraries; inadequate storm drains; serious under-managed flood risks for part of the town; a totally inadequate public safety building; an imperiled sales tax base; a mini-crime wave; the list goes on. Our city, in my opinion, has been declining for many years, as I was somewhat shocked to learn when I moved here several years ago. We are, as our up and coming neighbors like to point out, in many ways mediocre already, despite our airs.
PACT can and in my opinion should be funded and managed privately. Personally I think there is zero chance that it would not be able to survive and succeed. So there would be no loss. And, as I pointed out above, if in fact after 75 years of subsidized operation it can't make it - well, clearly the character of Palo Altans is not what you hope it to be. Perhaps Pat would come back and volunteer to lead it in her retirement?
I too love Palo Alto and want it to be a great city, as do probably all other posters. City-funded PACT is not necessary for that vision to succeed in my view. What is necessary is re-examining some of the historic priorities that have gotten us to the declining state we are currently in. I hope that we all can do that, without the acrimony that is so often present here on all sides.
Posted by d, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:05 am
Please let me point out something for the third time in my postings: drama/theater, music, and choir are offered at the school level. PACT is just an additional after school extracurricular activity. We don’t seem to subsidize other after school activities for our kids at a tune of $1,000,000 from the city budget. Why not? Why just this one? Inertia …. Tradition …. Politics? Lets be fair and good citizens and subsidize all the interests our children have. Why not subsidize basket weaving since it is excellent for fine motor skills, or gymnastics, or Mandarin, or architectural drawing all are excellent activities as well. I am constantly attending productions and concerts my kids do at school. Every town around Palo Alto and even Palo Alto offer theatrical experiences that are not subsidized by the city taxpayers. How many Palo Alto children (20% are not Palo Alto kids) participate in the PACT experience – maybe 50 or 60 a year, it is mostly the same group of kids doing many of the shows? Just think, what can be done at the school level drama department at our three middle schools with a million dollars, several hundred children would enjoy the benefit. Please, lets support our schools, this is for our children, our town, and our property values. The theater is adorable and I enjoy having it in Palo Alto, but come on, a million dollars from our tax base.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:19 am
I agree with the bulk of your comments and observations, Me Too. We still disagree on the definition of "subsidy" and, of course, on the critical point of managing and funding the PACT privately. My position on that issue is clear which is for the City to continue funding the Children's Theatre. I also never meant to imply that those who wish just the opposite are somehow "for a mediocre or weaker City." I do not believe anyone would truly want Palo Alto to become mediocre, not given what it takes to buy a home in P.A. My point is this: some of you are willing to risk the future of Palo Alto because of your position that municipal funding of PACT is inappropriate or unnecessary. Perhaps, the Theatre would survive if it were privitized. No one will know for sure whether it would or would not unless that were the actual case. Perhaps, even if the PACT did not survive, Palo Alto might still be a great City. But beware-that is a huge gamble you, and those who agree with you, are taking. I, for one, do not think the risk is worth losing a valued community resource.
On a final note, I strongly agree with you that this is a good time to have this discussion in Palo Alto and to review the historic priorities. I too, hope it can be done civilly, and without acrimony.
Posted by PA resident, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:23 am
There are many more than 60 kids involved in PACT per year. There were 60 kids in the production of Wizard of Oz this last winter plus kids on crew. The next show, an outreach show, had 40 kids involved and only a few of them had done a PACT show before. I could go through each show that was performed this last year and count kids but I won't. Suffice it to say that in every production there are always many kids who have never done a show before. PACT also has classes and camps for ages 4-high school all year long. There are thousands of kids involved, not 50 or 60.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:24 am
Me Too and not-the-taxpayer's-problem: Thanks for your posts about government and subsidies. Well put!
For too many years “our” city council has catered to the special-interest groups: PACT, Zoo, branch libraries, art center, traffic calming in specific neighborhoods, etc. All it takes is a small number of dedicated residents – preferably with children – to go to the city council meetings and plead for their special interest. All these are “nice to have,” but absolutely not essential and certainly not the top priorities of a city government.
Council has spent more time talking about PACT than about the city’s budget!
Meanwhile, we get annual utilities increases (with a percentage automatically transferred to the general fund) and crumbling infrastructure. It’s hard to figure why there is such incredible outcry over Pat Briggs’ firing, yet hardly a whisper about the major problems that affect ALL of us.
We just voted for a huge school bond, Council has taken it upon itself (no vote from residents required) to use COPS to pay for a police building and we’ll soon be asked to vote for a library bond. Has anyone looked at the economy lately? At oil prices? At the jobless rate? At the financial markets? At the state budget? At our national debt? These are the things we should worry about when we think of "the children."
Where is Council’s sense of priorities? Where is OUR sense of priorities?
Posted by Jim, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:37 am
I stopped by the Little League park yesterday, and watched a couple of all star games. It was good entertainment, and spirited. I look at it as outdoor theatre, without the scripts.
Little League raises its own opertions budget. What is wrong with putting PACT on such a model? Clearly, LL is very successful. Why is there such little confidence among PACT supporters that they could actually support PACT? I don't get it. Maybe the PACT friends can talk to the LL Board, so they can understand how it is done.
If PACT had been run as a private entity, like LL, none of this sad affair would have happened.
Posted by not-the-taxpayer's-problem, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 12:13 pm
> My understanding of the definition of government is "the political
> direction and control exercised over the actions of the members,
> citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states;
> direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political
> Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society."
Well .. that is one definition to be sure--it certainly outlines the functions of the government of the former Soviet Union, or Mao's Communist China.
But does it outline the functions of limited government under the US Constitution?
> There are many reasons for government to support Libraries,
> Zoos, and Theatres that extend way beyond mere entertainment.
And those reasons are?
> It is, after all within your power to make Palo Alto a
> mediocre city.
Given the $445M in backlogged infrastructure improvements that have been documented by the City Manager (and probably a lot more because this inventory is not on the City's web-site), and the $100M needed for the Creek fix--spending money on entertainment can only be seen as the actions of people who are generally blind to anything that they do not want to see.
If the current subsidy to the CT is only $1M a year--if the ticket prices were doubled, this would mean that about $600M a year would be needed to operate this entity. If the size were scaled down a little, then the subsidy might even be less.
Taking it private will allow those who current benefit to demonstrate the value of the arts to themselves and their families by financially supporting the Arts completely.
Fixing up the Creek, and the outstanding infrastructure deficits will insure that Palo Alto does NOT become a MEDIOCRE city.
Posted by Diogenes, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 12:50 pm
It may be true that the city's infrastructure is not what it once was. But do bricks and mortar matter when it comes to describing what makes a city great? The question answers itself when put in context of the many more noble and important things a city does.
What are our aspirations: to become the city with the smoothest streets and the best flood control? Of course not. We are defined by our example on the substance or our example to the world. Thus we consider the Children's theater, something lesser cities cannot even dream of, much more important than a few potholes. We have led by example on Global Warming, while lesser cities focus on parochial concerns of their relatively small-minded residents.
We must continue to be a city worthy of being respected the world over as the home to a great university, and as the cradle of creative initiatives like the CT. A few million dollars and some extra potholes are a small price to pay for keeping this municipal treasure in town.
Posted by d, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 2:07 pm
Come on ... Are we really perceived as a righteous town that others envy or a spoiled rich town with screwed up priorities. A MILLION dollars is a lot of money when people who support our privileged lifestyles in this well to do town are lucky to make $25K a year and live seven to a room in Redwood City. We bought a house here because of its proximity to a work place and a good school system, the theater program was never mentioned by our realtor. Lets assume that 400 children benefit by PACT, most likely the number is half, that would be $2,500 per child a year subsidy. I would rather see that money go to our schools that already offer arts, music, theater, voice, etc. A MILLION DOLLARS is a lot of money that we badly need for our schools.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 6, 2008 at 2:27 pm
The following, documented in the City of Palo Alto budget, states: "The government of the City of Palo Alto exists to promote and sustain a superior quality of life in Palo Alto. In partnership with the community, our goal is to deliver cost-effective services in a personal, responsive, and innovative manner."
Seems to me that the City leaders, elected by the community, have a broader and more enlightened view of the role of government than the one expressed by not the taxpayers problem.
Many posters have also expressed the idea that some of Palo Alto’s amenities, such as the PACT, are nice to have but can no longer be afforded during these hard economic times and with respect to the City’s backlog of infrastructure needs. Even so, let me call your attention to the ever growing reserve recorded in the City budget. In FY 2006 the total reserve was 34 million dollars. Compare that to the 37 million projected reserve in the FY just completed. I am no expert in these matters but it seems to me that growth of an average of 1.5 million a year in reserves is pretty healthy.
So lets assume, therefore, that Palo Alto’s amenities continue to be affordable. Let’s assume further that even if they are affordable they are not an appropriate expenditure of City dollars. If that is the case the City officials can easily eliminate 8.6 million dollars from the annual budget (in arriving at that figure I have left in the budget the Golf Course which is an enterprise fund, Cubberley, Parks and Open Space, and the Libraries.)
I have eliminated all the arts and sciences (4.4 million,) recreation programs (1.8 million,) Human Services (1.2 million,) and Community Services administration (1 million.) It is worth noting that the 1.2 million in Human Services represent a true subsidy with funding going to non-profit organizations such as Avenidas - Senior Services, PACCC - Child Care Subsidy and Outreach , Second Harvest Food Bank - Operation Brown Bag, Adolescent Counseling Services, Momentum for Mental Health, Community Assoc. for Rehabilitation - Disabilities Services, Community Technology Alliance- Subsidized Housing Website, La Comida - Senior Nutrition, 33 MayView Health Center - Health Care Food Bank for low-income, and
Senior Adult Legal Assistance to name just a few.
Imagine Palo Alto without any or without some of these wonderful programs and services. Imagine these programs and services continuing without the support of the City. I doubt if it is possible.
Posted by d, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 2:34 pm
Come on ... Are we really perceived as a righteous town that others envy or a spoiled rich town with screwed up priorities. A MILLION dollars is a lot of money. We bought our house here because of its proximity to a work place and a good school system, the theater program was never mentioned by our realtor. Lets assume that 400 children benefit by PACT, most likely the number is half, that would be $2,500 per child a year subsidy. I would rather see that money go to our schools that already offer arts, music, theater, voice, etc. A MILLION DOLLARS is a lot of money for one select (special interest of our mayor) after shool activity, be kind and spread the wealth around to other worthy arts and sports activities, or just fix my mainline that I've been waiting for over a year and half to be repaired.
Posted by d, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 3:32 pm
Comments by Diogenes are either sarcastic or arrogant, sorry, but I don’t get it. The way I read it (and I hope I am wrong): we are the best, we are elite because of our social responsibility through tax dollars in supporting the arts, and we are the envy of the word, while other towns are small-minded. Actually, we are not supporting the arts, other than a political special interest called Palo Alto Children’s Theater. Each town has its special character and we have, had, and will have Stanford that put us on the map, otherwise, we were a town along the railroad tracks with a toll tree. A rich lady donated Gamble house to the city, which is now run by the garden club; why not turn the PACT to the Friends group and have them run it independently. They can even hire Pat back as a non-city employee. It will compete on an equal level with PYT, TheaterWorks, Mountain View Art and Music Center, San Jose Children’s Theater, etc., as well as other such programs offered around the Bay Area. PACT will do just fine because it is a wonderful place for children, except that they would have to pay to participate in this activity as they do in all other after school activities.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 7:53 pm
The PACT serve very very few Palo Alto children. There are about 5,000 school age students in PA. If 100 PA children participate in the after school activities of PACT we are talking of a mere 2% (approximately) of the school population or about 0.02 of the population of PA.
In contrast the institutions cited by AN serve directly many many more people ( never mind many are not children, non-children are people too). The city could rethink on how to achieve savings in those but that's another forum. PACT doesn't serve anyone food, it doesn't provide emergency services and it doesn't have the character of a necessity. But my main criticism of it is the fact that it seems to serve few in the community (and some outside of it), at a high per capita cost. Besides, PACT doesn't seem to have any oversight whatsoever of who gets to participate in its programs and who is invited to perform.
Posted by response to Narnia, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2008 at 10:20 pm
There are a lot more than 100 children who participate in PACT each year. It numbers closer to a thousand. And that doesn't count the hundreds who attend the performances. The HotDog shows which hold 250 audience members have been sold out since the second week the shows went on sale. Every performance has a waiting list. These shows are full of kid audience members. For the outreach shows EVERY SINGLE CHILD who tries out participates and those who don't want to be onstage help by running lights, sound, props, and ushering. Even the main shows at the theatre have been trying to cast everybody so that as many kids that want to participate can. Then there are all the acting classes, Playing Along, Summer Conservatory, Second Saturday Shows, etc. etc. The story acting class for 4 & 5 year olds is so popular that they've had to add additional sessions because they fill up so quickly. The PACT serves the kids who attend the shows, and enroll in classes, as well as those who perform. It's pretty amazing actually.
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:47 pm
O.K bean counters, take a deep breath. You may have a point, but at least work from honest rather than imagined data. I am certain that if you had access to the annual number of participants (actors, technical crew, volunteers etc.) and the audience numbers of youths and families the expenditure per would be appropriate and reasonable. Unfortunately, the "new" way the City presents performance measures in the budget no longer reflect those specifics. They probably exist somewhere so ask for them. It is a fair thing for you all to know.
Posted by Theater, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 12:57 am
PACT is fantastic, PYT is excellent, Theater Works is great, San Jose Children’s Musical Theater is amazing, Menlo/Atherton High School, Gunn and Paly all produce excellent shows – I’ve seen them all. Theater Works, PACT, Mountain View Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA), Berkeley Repertory Theatre, etc., are all involved in outreach programs. I tried researching BRT and SJCMT status and was not able to figure out if Berkeley and San Jose are supporting thier theaters as well. Is PACT the only one in the nation entirely supported by a city government?
Posted by where are they now, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 1:08 am
I read in some of the posts that salaries for the five full time employees accounted for 60% of the million-dollar budget. Does any one know how much Pat and Michael were making, I doubt that the other three staffers including Rich made much. I know that this is none of my business, I am just curious since these were public employees and $600,000 split 5 ways is a decent income but most likely the lion’s share of that amount went to Pat.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 1:30 am
Theater, those are good questions.
Berekley Rep - looks like the city gives between $5-10K; ticket sales cover 60% of costs. Web Link
SJ CMT - looks like the city gives $121K - Web Link
I am not an authority but by Googling around about 20 medium and larger cities, I could not find any that were city run and funded on the Palo Alto model. All the ones I found were independent non-profits; some got some amount of local or state funding. I expect there must be others, but that our model in fact is very unusual.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 8:44 am
response to narnia,
please don't be silly. For thousands of PA children to directly participate in PACT programs every year (or every period for comparison with other city sponsored venues) you would have that at least 2/5 of the PA children would participate. You know that's not true. btw, audiences don't count for direct participation. They PAY and the plays benefit them in the same way as any other show of any kind. Outreach programs exist in many communities and schools without a children's theater? Many many more children participate in other outreach activities. My son used to attend a stanford/49ers program (we payed dearly for the priviledge). Hundreds attended that program. Should it become a city department?
Please don't try to stretch the truth.
In any given year HOW MANY CHILDREN participate directly and actively in the theater?
One part of lack of accountability of the PACT is that Palo Altans are never told the numbers exactly. I am not about to believe that people can't make sense of the numbers.
Posted by response to Narnia, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 9:02 am
I said "a thousand" not thousands. This is not counting audience members. You have to count audience members for PACT because the City has purposefully left ticket prices down, $4.00 for Children and $8.00 for adults so that as many people as possible can be exposed to the theatre and the arts. The management at the theatre has suggested raising ticket prices in the past (this money goes directly to the City) but the City wanted the low prices. PACT isn't just for the performers and crew members it's for the audiences as well. I think it's wonderful to see audiences from all walks of life at PACT.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 9:29 am
One of the best children's shows I attended was in the Palo Verde school. It was a "scientific play" by ruth carleton ( at that time a teacher in the school) with wonderful props and it featured talking levers (the clever lever), Mollie O'wheelie and other simple machines. It was such an exciting play that those who attended it and are now teachers themselves, lawyers, etc still speak about it. It was a cheap production with Mrs. Carleton, her husband and her children I believe doing most of the ground work assisted by their "helpers". The performers were, of course, the students. I am not advocating inexpensive plays only and I am certainly not advocating that teachers shoulder one more duty. What I am saying is that the lavish productions with throwaway costumes is an expense that bears scrutiny and that throwaway pageantry is not synonymous with quality.
My youngest child attended a prominent independent school and their drama department with just one teacher, the school carpenter only when he could, and many volunteers put up plays of such caliber that they get regularly invited to national audiences and one famous international festival. Their travel expenses are payed by performing services, raffles, donations etc....
Posted by Anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 7, 2008 at 9:33 am
One part of lack of accountability of the PACT is that Palo Altans are never told the numbers exactly.
Do not lay the blame for the confusing performance measures at the feet of the PACT. They have always kept meticulous records of participants and audiences. The City (probably the Budget office) in a failed attempt to condense the Community Service department performance measures no longer presents those numbers in the annual budget. I think they should. Even without the numbers, however, response to Narnia is absolutely correct with his/her understanding of the history of PACT funding and revenue issues.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 9:37 am
response to narnia,
yes you said thousand not thousands but others ( for example, PA resident, a resident of Stanford). I just commingled the number because the arguments are similar -is it thousands or a thousand?. Even so, my argument is the same- you need 1/5 of all (K-12) students to participate directly to obtain the count you want. You know that's not true.
Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a member of the Palo Verde School community, on Jul 7, 2008 at 9:55 am
I would also like to say that even though it doesn't come under the heading of theatre, the annual Eaglesburg presentation is a wonderful example of how a school can put on a period/drama/presentation each year as part of the curriculum and gets no funding.
The 5th grade kids have seen the presentation many times in their pre5th grade years and look forward to this presentation as a rite of 5th grade. The whole class, teachers and aides work hard making the sets, preparing costumes, collecting props, baking period treats to pass out, learning lines, learning dance moves and even learning military drill. Then on the day, they present their work at least 5 times for the whole school and sometimes even visiting schools, and parents.
This annual performance is of equal value than any PACT performance, perhaps more so because it involves the whole 5th grade, not just those interested. It is a true learning experience because not only do they learn about colonial life which is the aim, but the art of putting on a performance.
There are many ways to give arts more berth in our schools and in the lives of children without the City having to subsidy $1m each year. I don't mind the City giving partial subsidies to many youth activities without completely funding them, but why just PACT which regardless of how many, reaches only a percentage of our kids. If the City really wants to bring theatre, arts, sports or anything else into the lives of our kids and to give them a place to do this, then they should be adding more playing space for our kids' sports, keeping the gyms open specifically for PA residents, putting all weather turf on our soccer and baseball diamonds, and helping out with scholarships or whatever for all youth sports/music/art/drama or whatever activities.
The City is narrow minded when it comes to PACT. It needs to spread the money around evenly and make the affluent families of PACT pay for their participation like all the rest, and sponsor scholarships for those less able to pay.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 10:12 am
my post should have read
response to narnia,
yes you said thousand not thousands but others did ( for example, PA resident, a resident of Stanford). I just commingled the "number" because the arguments are similar -is it thousands or a thousand?. Even so, my argument is the same- you need 1/5 of all (K-12) students to participate directly to obtain the count you want. You know that's not true.
How many ? The numbers please.
If "response to narnia" is correct then "PA resident, a resident of Stanford" is incorrect.
If AN is correct where are the numbers? Just saying so doesn't mean it's true.I don't really care who is to blame for the lack of records. Surely, if PACT has the records they can give it to Palo Alto. The records would have to be audited, of course, to make sure that each represent only a distinct child and which specific activity we is being referred too.
Every public show has audiences. It's not unique to have audiences, neither is it specially educative for audiences to have shows child/teenager actors. A professional acting children's play with adult actors has a quality guaranty that an amateur inexperienced crew performance can't provide.
The ticket price is merely a reflexion of these circumstances.
The point is that other children activities in PA are not given the same attention and moneys that the city budgeted for PACT . That is not just unfair its divisive.
The point is also that there are other priorities that have been forgotten and other people's legitimate interests (even non-children people ) are forgotten with the excuse of lack of money. The basics have to be taken care of before the amenities and when there is enough for amenities they should be distributed fairly.
Posted by to narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 11:06 am
I applaud your brilliant comment, “The point is that other children activities in PA are not given the same attention and moneys that the city budgeted for PACT. That is not just unfair it's divisive”. Thank you very much. I agree with you 110%. I am sure many other soccer moms would agree when writing those $700 and $800 checks while a neighbor is playing a princess’s assistant’s assistant or an animal without speaking any wards on a city budget to a tune of $2,000 or $3,000 thousand dollar subsidy. This is not supporting the arts but simply subsidizing a special interest group.
“The theater has been led by Patricia Briggs since 1961, with Michael Litfin as assistant director for the last 32 years. Briggs earned $104,000 and Litfin earned $103,000 in 2006, according to city records.”
Jason: “For the children” is not a liberal mantra. It's chanted by anyone who uses children to get votes, e.g., bond measures, mandarin immersion, branch libraries, PACT.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 11:31 am
Just before I leave for work.
What is being called "obsession with numbers" exists because we do not live in PARADISE where presumably we don't have pay for anything ( though of course, it's even rumored that somebody had said : "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s....").
We all have to pay for our own expenses and a share of the collective ones. As you know if I don't pay my property taxes (which in turn pay for collective services) I cannot claim that the tax collector has an "obsession with numbers". We pay through our taxes for city services. Labeling those who want fair play and priorities set in a reasonable way as obsessed with numbers is either disingenuous or ignorant. Ignoring established and normative tell tale signs of effectiveness and usefulness such as numbers provides its proponents with any argument they so please without having to justify anything. When "numbers" they provide are improbable they say : ... but numbers don't matter.
I pay my taxes, I want accountability. Where are the numbers of direct services for PACT?
Indirect participation numbers such as audience don't measure usefulness and educative value anymore than those for an other spectator event. The educative mantra the same: know the rules, play fair and well, give the audience a good time .
What is it with PACTers wanting a free, only for a small number program? It is that they feel they are superior to the Little League and others that make do and they really don't want a process that serves ALL children? If they did they would take a hint from Palo Verde Parent about a production that involves all students. The PACT budgeted moneys would be better used in my view in the schools. Also, please remember that our two outstanding high schools have their own well regarded drama departments.
No, we don' need PACT in its present form. It should be a 501 (c) (3) program who is financially accountable to the IRS. Only then would we know if the students of Palo Alto are fairly served by this program. And , of course, you can "accuse" the IRS of being obsessed with numbers.
Posted by where are they now, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 3:58 pm
$104K after 47 years of service, this shows that Pat did not do it for the money; many PAUSD teachers earn more with half the years of service. I believe another post stated that she would have received a pension amounting to over 100% of her highest salary as a 30-year employee. It really is sad, I am tearing a little thinking of a 71 year old women devoting her entire adult life (we only get one life) to a little local theater just to end up a political punching bag.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 4:33 pm
I think the great majority of PAUSD would disabuse you of the notion that they earn more (both on average and singularly) than 104k/year after 23.5 years of service. Where did you get that fantasy ? PAUSD' s salaries are published. Go and check them.
Posted by where are they now, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm
All I can say is that our teachers are grossly underpaid, my mistake. I probably remembered reading about Weschester, New York teachers who make in some cases over $140K. I forgot that this is California and we don't value education as much here or the million would have been appropriated to our schools. Narnia, your analysis about "need to control" is most likely the key factor. You made a lot of excellent points in your posts.
Posted by Sherlock, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:38 am
To the poster named Theatre---
I quickly managed to find two children's theatres that are publicly funded.
One is local and goes by the name of the Los Altos Youth Theatre and that's actually been around since 1990.
Another is out of the Northern suburbs of Chicago and goes by the name of the North Shore Theatre of Wilmette. This particular organization has been around for 58 years.
We all sense that Narnia is 100% against all forms of publicly supported children's theatre, but in my experience, the public model actually serves some communities far better than a 501(3)(c) model could ever hope to.
The private 501(3)(c) has some serious disadvantages to it, none of which have been expressed by Narnia.
First off, fundraising, in short order, becomes the key focus of the organization. The experience the children have will often become secondary by necessity. Each and every year, the private theatre will have to meet goals or face extinction.
Generally, fundraising isn't a problem in communities where people are wealthy and looking to promote the arts, but there is some question as to how well a children't theatre would do in Palo Alto as it would be
in direct competition for the exact same dollars that Theatreworks tries to attract--and unlike Narnia,I'm not all that familiar with Theatreworks, but I'd venture a guess that they don't manage to attract a one million dollar surplus of funds every year
The second disadvantage is in oversight.
In a responsible public model, the city or one of its departments will manage the checks and balances.
What had happened with the PACT is an anomaly, and in fact, is something that actually happens far more often with the private model.
Almost everyone who knows anything about children's theatre knows that the people who run private models often have a most peculiar accounting system. Unfortunately, the industry has more
than its share of carpetbaggers and con artists.
The third disadvantage is political in nature. Even the most good and well-intentioned children's theatre directors may find themselves in a position where they must decide whether to cast the offspring of a large corporate donor in lieu of a kid who worked harder and who had more talent. Sometimes, that decision is the difference in whether the theatre stays open.
The fourth disadvantage is artistic. In order to reach a rate of profits that will mean survival, a company will often have to put on productions that have more box office appeal and less artistic merit.
That's why you will often see the private model put on annual shows like Oliver and Annie and Christmas Carol. So much for eclecticism.
In my experience, the public model attracts better personnel. They are attracted to the fact that kids are the priority, they have job security and they have some artistic leeway. In addition, and this is highly important, they have the leeway to isolate and ostracize
bossy, ignorant and meddlesome parents; a bonus that private directors don't always have.
The trend as to who has the public model seems to indicate something that some of you may find startling. They seem to flourish in areas that simultaneously have excellent school districts. In essence, they go hand-in-hand.
The theatre I previously mentioned in Wilmette, Illinois happens to be in an exclusive zone that some people literally move their families to just so that they will have the legal right to attend a highly vaunted high school (New Trier High School). That area is, in essence, an enlightened place to raise a child and part of that equation is in the philosophy of using a portion of the city's funds to fund such things as the children's theatre of Wilmette.
It is an investment in infrastructure and although it practically takes an economist to help explain why, it is apparent to many that this paradigm, in the instances of Wilmette, Los Altos and Palo Alto actually pays for itself. Even the waelthier childless couples there
understand this phenomenon.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It is my suspicion that Narnia is actually someone who is advocating that the children's theatre go private because by doing so Narnia understands that the PACT would likely be out of business within a year or two since it would have to fight Theatreworks tooth and nail for a share of the same amount of financial resources, and as we all know, Theatreworks has become a smooth running machine in that regard based on their decades of experience with the art of fundraising.
The plot thickens at this point because IF the private children's theatre model were to fail, it would pave the way for Theatreworks to expand into the wonderful facilities the children's theatre currently has. Of course, Theatreworks would then start a nominal children's program to appease the community, but in essence, I believe this is really a power play.
Like I said, I don't know anything about the current model of Theatreworks, but in the 1980's, I distinctly recall a story
that came out of there during one of their annual production's
The child they chose to play the lead, with just weeks to go in the rehearsal process, began to experience puberty, which led to his voice changing.
Unfortunately, this development would all but ruin the show. Had the director senses that this was an inevitability, he would have surely cast another. But the child was a trooper and so were his parents and they both realized how important the show was not only to the community, but to the coffers of the entire organization, and they took the kid to a doctor and flooded him with hormones (estrogen
and/or progesterone) and the kid's voice reverted to its earlier falsetto form and the show was a huge hit.
At the time, Theatreworks was simply known for putting on excellent theatre on an unparalleled level in the community so this development at the time was more amusing than odd and the kid and his parents were both lauded.
After the show ended, the treatments stopped and the kid's voice dropped down to the tone of a man, and everyone lived happily ever after, but even so, count me as one who is not a fan of the notion of injecting hormones into a child so that a theatrical experience can reach a higher degree of quality
consequently...count me also as someone who knows that such a solution would have never been thought up had Theatreworks been operating as a model funded solely by taxpayers.
That, in a nutshell, are reasons not to go private.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 1:50 am
Thanks for those useful data points. Worth checking out.
Los Altos - they have a total of 6 FTEs in their Recreation Dept, and a net spend of <$500K - that's for ALL recreation in Los Altos, so it seems they don't spend much on this program. But worth a look.
Wilmette - actually the North Shore program you mention is an adult community theater. There is a separate Children's Theater. I've emailed them to find out their budget and activity level.
There are other towns that have theater as part of their Parks & Rec program. The net subsidy (what they spend vs. take it) is generally not very big. San Jose, for instance, has a Young People's Theater Group in their city budget; but it is support to achieve 100% cost recovery through fees, tickets, and sponsorships. It sometimes does not quite make it, but 90% seems like a floor.
No doubt, there are some benefits to a city run and funded program. But the issue is fairness - it would be nice for a lot of youth programs (sports, arts, other enrichment) to have city funding and professional staff and oversight, but they don't. It isn't fair to spend big bucks on this one.
I don't know anything about TheaterWorks, but if in fact it is a 'well-oiled machine' and could step into PACT's shoes as a privately funded provider of children's theater in Palo Alto, I guess my question is - why not? That could resolve this issue in a hurry - a professional, scale local group providing a program that could be funded by fees and donations, a perhaps a much smaller city subsidy. Is that an option here?
Posted by anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 4:23 am
Every one of the Children's Theatre programs in the Bay Area have toured and explored the PACT, and attempted to model a children's theatre program in their cities after the PACT. Palo Alto, I imagine, was fortunate that the PACT program was kicked off by a generous gift of private philanthropy from Lucie Stern in 1935(she built the theatre and donated it and the land to Palo Alto.) Poll after poll inevitably indicates that the vast majority of American citizens value the arts. The fact is that they do not support the arts in any meaningful way, leaving the fate of various arts organizations to patrons such as government, industry, and private philanthropic foundations. Not particularly fair, but that is the way it is in this country. Palo Alto citizens also value the arts, both as audience and as participants, but there is no evidence that Palo Altans are any different from the vast majority of Americans who seem to be able to let the arts and arts organizations wither and die without the blink of an eye. Palo Alto has a wonderful gift in the PACT. The City and the PACT are the envy of other cities. Don't destroy what you have.
By the way, that was an excellent post by Sherlock. Perhaps you should approach the editors of the Palo Alto Weekly and, with a little shaping, turn it into a guest opinion piece. Your comments are worth a larger audience than this thread.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 7:06 am
For the n-th time, if you are referring to something I said please read my posts
I said that if PACT were to become a 501 c3 that wouldn't mean that the city could not contribute some funds. I am not and have never been against city run arts. What I am against is the unfairness of the funds distribution for residents' activities, the wasteful manner in which the theater run ( lavish productions, expensive costumes given away for a few dollars) and the notion that the PACT budget could be better spent on some projects that benefit all.
Being a parent I am very attuned to the needs of children (mine are grown now). Being a human being makes me attuned to the different needs of all Palo Altans. PACT serves very few children and offers a free after school activity. All PA children's parents should be so lucky.
As another poster said "This is not supporting the arts but simply subsidizing a special interest group"
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 7:31 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
What you said in the quoted lines and others linking me to TheaterWorks ( I have never been even to a play, let alone being linked to it) is outrageous. It's ALL OF IT, pure invention. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] But if you really want to battle it out on the real world then I suggest you try to convince the parent shelling out fees for after school programs, the Little League coach working for the heck of it, the homeowner that doesn't see necessary repairs to too many items and the library bond people holding fundraisers. It is because of those that I say that the PACT program
(I never said that the building shouldn't house a children's theater-it should) should not be a city department.
Your wild thoughts about celestial voices you hear connecting me to the TheaterWorks are YOURS. I am not responsible for them.
Posted by Anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 7:36 am
What special interest group are you referring to? The Friends of the Children's Theatre? The Friends formed many years after the Children's Theatre had been in operation. They formed because they recognized the value of the Children's Theatre and understood the many benefits it brings to the people of Palo Alto. The Friends should be applauded for their successful and remarkable advocacy for the Theatre over the years, as well as their willingess to go out and fund raise for things the City refused to pay for (such as Air Condtioning to ease the suffering of the participants of the Theatre during the hot days of summer.) The irony, obvious to anyone paying attention, is that this so-called special interest group was subsidizing the City rather than the other way around.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 8:52 am
The special interest group, I believe, are the people who use and champion PACT. They get city funds for their activity; others do not.
BTW, it turns out Wilmette IL (still waiting to hear how they manage their city-run CT) also has a city-run K-8 soccer league. I guess they also had to face issues of fairness too ;-)
AN, I think you are arguing sometimes against a strawman. PACT is good; we like it as an amenity. The issue is that we spend $1M in operating budget on it and pretty much every other activity gets nothing at all. After doing that for 75 years, I'm glad, and not surprised, we have a fine program. But the large subsidy seems very hard to justify - it just seem flat out unfair. What do you think of that?
AN, why do you think PACT would die without its subsidy? You seem so confident about it. With all the alumni, supporter, local businesses, random rich people - I would think they would be able to raise an endowment! I keep coming back to that if millions could be raised to keep Keplers going, and apparently TheaterWorks does very well, then funding PACT seems like a cakewalk.
Posted by Anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 9:26 am
I think PACT would be crippled without continuing support from the City at the level it is currently funded. It took the Friends nearly ten years of very hard work to raise 1 million dollars for improvements to the Theatre that the City choose not to fund - improvements that were designed to expand space so that more Children could benefit.
I understand the concern about fairness. If I had my way the City would fund many more Children and family programs (sports included) than the current support of the Children's Theatre, Jr. Musuem Zoo, Children's Library, and Scouts (both Boy and Girl.) I doubt there is enough money to go around to fund every worthwhile enterprize, but it just seems to me that it undercuts what already exists and is supported for what is being called "fairness." Cherish what you have and work to find support for programs that might need, but do not have, City support.
Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 9:44 am
Continue to support an entity that provides benefits for a small number of children because that is the way it has been done for years, while ignore funding other worthy activities for children that draw larger participation. That is the same mindset that says we need to keep Briggs because she has been here for 47 years.
This is another big reason to get rid of Briggs and rethink funding of ALL children's activities in PA.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 10:02 am
We are not just talking about programs for children. "non-children" Palo Altans need their fair needs also taken into consideration. How are you going to do that with the moneys available?
We are just advocating for PACT people to pay their fair share and to get their money by showing their prospective supporters that PACT programs are worth their financial support much like others. If the Friends are so good at "raising" money (albeit by getting it out of city property) then PACT would have no money problems.
Special interests are what kept PACT afloat. Many of the Friends have or had children in the PACT's programs. I expect nothing more of them than supporting a program that gives them a real freebie.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 10:24 am
An alternative, like in many towns, would be to require PACT to "cost recover" a significant part of its budget - like the PA golf course, for instance. They could add or increase fees, get more sponsorships, etc. and, if needed, reduce staff and other expenses and do more with volunteers (maybe Pat will volunteer!). We could keep it a city department, but reduce the subsidy to something more reasonable - like $100-200K.
PACT supporters would probably not like this, but they would have a program as it exists today but not so out of proportion to what others receive.
AN, btw, thanks for your response on fairness. While your sentiment is nice, I'm not sure it really addresses the issue. We, like many other families, pay over $1200 for softball fees alone this year (two kids, one activity); what does a family with a child in a couple of PACT shows pay? It is hard to cherish the subsidy another family receives (in part paid by me), and sympathy from the recipient is not really much consolation. The result needs to be more fair. Why not just charge a $500 per show participation fee?
Posted by Anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 10:54 am
I could make the same fairness argument by pointing out that one of your neighbors may be paying only $100 property tax annually (pre-prop 13 rates.) while your next door neighbor may be paying $1000 annually. If I am the neighbor paying $900 a year more than the neighbor paying $100 I would feel like it was unfair. But, still I am willing to shoulder the inequity because I chose to move into a community that does the best it can in providing wonderful family resources.
The PACT is instructed, by Council, to recover a certain percentage of the cost to provide. The percentage is regularly reviewed by City staff (not Theatre staff) and the Council during the annual budget review. Believe it or not the PACT has often recommended higher fees in order to recover a greater percentage of the cost to provide but the fees have, historically, been kept low by Council in order to serve as many families as possible. The PA golf course is an entirely different funding model than the PACT or other City programs. The golf course is an enterprize fund, much like the Utility Department, and is operated like a business with the objective of achieving at least the exact cost to provide the service.
In my opinion, I do not think it is practical or safe to reduce the number of paid employees at the PACT given the number of children that take advantage of the theatre program, all of whom require close supervision to keep them out of mischief.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 11:00 am
"In my opinion, I do not think it is practical or safe to reduce the number of paid employees at the PACT given the number of children that take advantage of the theatre program, all of whom require close supervision to keep them out of mischief."
So, it's free babysitting also?
please leave prop 13 out of this. it's too complex. it deserves its own forum. let us not confuse the issues
Posted by A-N and Narnia, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 11:21 am
Narnia is my champion is this arena. Your statement, "I think PACT would be crippled without continuing support from the City at the level it is currently funded", makes PACT seem pathetic. It is an excellent organization that would be able to stand on its own two feet just fine. Look at Sarah Hope Musical Theater here in Palo Alto. She draws hundreds of children at a fee of $400+ for a two-week session and offers after school workshops for a hefty fee. She runs it like a business, rents multipurpose rooms at our local schools, hires choreographers, musicians, costume makers, young counselors and makes a living doing it, obviously, she must be making a profit. PACT would survive, and may even do much better under the new management. A-N, your other statement. "Cherish what you have and work to find support for programs that might need, but do not have, City support", this is mostly what this forum is about. We would like to spread the million dollars to other wonderful causes, since the bandwidth is only so long, I don't think our city has that many millions to give out. Are you aware of the fact that our schools have drama departments?
Besides, PACT already charges for its camp and seemingly many attend it even though there are other options like Sarah Hope, PYT, TheterWorks. Competition would be good for PACT, it has what others are working towards: history and that special magical ora about it that will always draw people to it free or for a fee. Most of us don’t mind paying a fee if it is charged since it is only fair and we are use to paying for all the after school activities already.
I will quote my advocate, Narnia now, "The point is that other children activities in PA are not given the same attention and moneys that the city budgeted for PACT. That is not just unfair it's divisive”.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:24 pm
A poster above mentioned Wilmette, IL (a tony North Shore Chicago suburb) as another town with city-funded Children's Theater. To find out more, I asked the Performing Arts Supervisor there about his budget, fees, etc.
They have 2 shows a year (spring and fall); charge a $50 per child participation fee; and have a total expense budget of $6-$8K per show. Revenue from ticket sales and fees is about $12-15K, so they actually turn a profit on their theater operations. I was surprised, so double checked - the Arts Supervisor confirmed they actually make a profit.
So we subsidize $1M of annual taxpayer fund (plus the building, plus benefits) while Wilmette turns a small profit. Wow. Based on what I've been seeing, I expect we would be hard pressed to find another US city, probably of any size, that spends anything like $1M per year of taxpayer funds on children’s theater. Time for a change?
Posted by Anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:25 pm
"this is mostly what this forum is about. We would like to spread the million dollars to other wonderful causes, since the bandwidth is only so long, I don't think our city has that many millions to give out."
Here is an idea for you and those who advocate your position. In days gone by, before the internet, before blogs, threads, and online forums the citizens of Palo Alto used to convene for an annual town meeting to discuss the City's funding priorities in general and the arts in particular. Of course, in order to represent one's view there was not a way to do it anonymously which may not be such a bad thing. At any rate these sorts of issues were explored and debated amongst the attendees. Any conclusions that were reached were generally arrived at through consensus, at which point the conclusions were transmitted to City Council which helped them to sort out community priorities when they considered the annual budget.
Try it (the old fashioned town hall experience.) You might like it.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:32 pm
AN, I like you and think you are well-mannered, well-intentioned, and almost certainly a very nice person. But I have to jump on the Prop 13 analogy. Two wrongs sure don't make a right. Should we "cherish" the benefit our neighbor receives through their lower assessment?
I put up with Prop 13 because I can't figure out a way to get it changed. PACT is closer to home, and we hopefully can change it. As we agreed above, we need to re-examine our spending priorities in Palo Alto. This isn't just about saving money - it is putting it toward the things we desperately need to maintain our city. Things need to change, and PACT is part of that.
Posted by PACT blog, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:57 pm
I like your idea. When and where are these held or how do we start one. I would like to advocate for a piece of the pie from this million dollars. We are not supporting the arts by subsidizing PACT; arts are offered at our schools including theater/music/drama. On the other hand, ballet, archery, fencing, equestrian sports are not, so why not give to those activities – just kidding. I found a perfect line stated by Narnia, so I will post it again, "The point is that other children activities in PA are not given the same attention and moneys that the city budgeted for PACT. That is not just unfair it's divisive”. We should start another forum listing how to divide the million so '09/'10 city budget is less divisive. Here are four of mine - ballet, soccer, PACT, roller blading park.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm
I am neutral on PACT; however it is clear it is a sacred cow for some PACT parents but certainly not all of us PA taxpayers. It is time for it to operate just like every other chidren's nonprofit. As I have written previously, I am aware of numerous other such worthy groups well beyond Little League. Some people are conveniently sticking their heads in the sand and pretending not to know this because they want to protect their 1M/year city subsidy. It is ridiculous! Enough.
Posted by Anti-Narnia, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 1:33 pm
To Me Too. Thank you for your very kind comments. If I accomplish anything by participating in this thread it is, hopefully, to demonstrate that difficult community issues can be discussed respectfully, and thoughtfully. None of us has the answer, but the issues under discussion are important to examine and to attempt to come to some resolution so that the City Council can make informed decisions on behalf of the people of Palo Alto. It is not helpful to use anger, misinformation, demogoguery, and cruelty, to debate these issues. And disagreement can be healthy and informative.
To PACT blog. If you have an interest in exploring the town hall concept described in an earlier post you might want to start by contacting Jay Thorwaldson, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly. He probably remembers those forums of years ago.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 1:51 pm
AN, I could not agree more and applaud the example you set for us. While sometimes uncomfortable, it is fine to disagree - that's often how we make progress. But none of us benefit from disrespect, even if our points "wins." At the end of the day, we are all still going to be neighbors and I for one want to enjoy my neighbors.
Posted by Watson, a resident of another community, on Jul 8, 2008 at 3:31 pm
I am quoting Narnia from his or her post from earlier today:
"What you said in the quoted lines and others linking me to TheaterWorks ( I have never been even to a play, let alone being linked to it) is outrageous. It's ALL OF IT, pure invention. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
---and NOW I quote a post that Narnia made from THIS PAST
May 23rd in response to a May 20th story:
Kelly (Robert Kelly) founded the theater 38 years ago brought it to the outstanding level that it is today. Briggs is really not as well known as Robert Kelley and the PACT doesn't have the scope, the fame or indeed the professionalism of TheaterWorks. TheaterWorks is an outstanding company. So, to begin with we are talking about very different venues and of a very different scale..But now let us look the at the rest.
Kobert Kelly is the artistic director (not the managing director) and the founder . The company stands on its own feet financially. The annual report is published on the web for all to see. The company has a strong educational component and the new works every season are an innovative development. As a non-profit company the enterprise is regulated by the law (and the IRS) and responds to its board. It is the board who decides the fate of its artistic director. Kelly is fully accountable to the board .
On the other hand PACT is a municipal department and because of that is accountable indirectly to taxpayers. So we have a say (not in an executive manner) but we do have the right to demand accountability.
It's not any of my business to tell the board of TheaterWorks Palo Alto whether or not to renew Kelly's contract ( I would in a heart beat). They are the sole judges. Kelly doesn't have secure employment. At the end of each contract the board approves a new contract or if they were to feel he wasn't performing no doubt he would be replaced. Briggs had no such contract renewing problems. Even if her performance is not stellar the city will have to employ her. In other words Briggs offers no accountability. That is why I said in one of my above posts that the position (Briggs position) should be assigned a renewable contract. So why is 47 too long ? Because Briggs has been without accountability for a long time and if we were to believe her supporters we shouldn't even ask her to account for funds. Her tenure is a problem. In a way palo altans perform indirectly the role of Board and judge her performance . We don't know where kelly will be in 11 years but no doubt he will have a board to see that he is in the right place (even though he is the founder)
If Robert Kelly for some reason is not the TheaterWorks director it is possible for the theater to go on without him without interruption despite the loss. So, the 38 years of Kelly are acceptable by definition-the TheaterWorks said so.
Who here on this thread believes Narnia has even an ounce of credibility left?
Clearly, Sherlock's 7/6 theory is gaining credence;
that Narnia is actively working to destroy the Children's Theatre
so that Theatreworks can take over that juicy facility
Posted by to Watson, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2008 at 3:57 pm
I don't get what you are saying. Narnia made many valid points regardless of his/her ultimate purpose, it is not owned by Narnia but by the city of Palo Alto. The city of Palo Alto and its residents, not Narnia alone, would have to make that decision. We are not gullible, sorry, I forgot, we are .... a million subsidy to one after school activity??????? Anyway, who ever and under what ever name "Rose by any other Name ...." manages the site as long as they do it honestly and on their own budget is fine with this Palo Alto resident.
Posted by Jackson, a resident of another community, on Jul 9, 2008 at 8:06 am
To- to Watson,
I'm not the expert on the subject or an advocate working on behalf of this Children's Theatre
I think further research would uncover that Briggs and company greatly improved the land and property from the point that the building was donated---and that they enriched it immensely as an overall city resource.
Detractors seem to point to the budget per year instead of the net outlay and increase of its assets
tend to only point out the number of productions instead of listing out the number of programs, outreach productions, classes, activities AND shows. I wonder what the total number of hours per child supervision this program provides its community.
One wonders what the facility is now worth as an asset as compared to how Briggs found it in 1961.
One wonders the worth of how the spending on physical improvements helped stimulate local economics.
I'm all for the arts (to a degree) like anyone else, but in a sense, this theater helps provide the community with a village like facility that does in small part, help instill values and raise our children, especially the latchkeys or children who fall through the cracks of pay-to-play afterschool activities and takes some of the burden off od some elementary school teachers in the city's public school system.
Much can be made that this theater only affects 15% of the kids or something like that, but the average street or school in Palo Alto affects less than 15% as well.
You mention that you would like an MBA to run the theatre.
I suspect that such a candidate would be overqualified and not likely to take the cut in pay.
All it takes for the full fix is a city system of internal control that would quickly point out mistakes the full-charge bookkeeper
(or theatre manager) made as they went along and to institute a policy where a representative of the Friends was privy to the books as well.
BAM--problem solved. May I suggest Quickbooks that the three parties would all have simultaneous online access to.
Decent internal control has not been happening in the past few years.
I imagine that if I had been in Pat Briggs' shoes that I wouldn't have been able to make heads or tails out of the city requirements as well, and I'm an accountant.
Narnia's mission to switch this over to a private enterprise isn't at all likely to happen--short of a benefactor with a seven figure check popping out of the woodwork who is given a one dollar lease from the City to continue operating at the same site.
The fact is...without such a benefactor, no responsible and talented theatre director will want the opportunity to run the program being that it will, by definition, lack job security.
There are hotshot private children's theater people out there, but they are attracted to communities with open checkbooks who are starved for the arts. Palo Alto doesn't really fit that bill the way
McAllen, Texas and other boomtowns do.
By nature, great theatre directors want to stay in one place and at best, the scenario is one where they wouldn't be comfortable putting down stakes.
You will get someone to run the place that first year, and perhaps the second year as well, but it will not be of the same caliber and experience level of a director that the system currently in place would attract.
Ideally, the best thing for the theater is if they can attract someone who will working the next 20 or more consecutive years.
In scope, this is similar to what you would want
in a college football coach.
Turnover is deadly.
I read a poster on a thread say that any one of 50 candidates can run the theater, and that's true, but the key is in getting the best one out there because the dividends to the community will pay off exponentially.
Always get the best person...and hope that they stay for half as long as Pat Briggs did.
May you get the best POSSIBLE scenario there for your community, even if you have to sacrifice your idealistic but impractical scenarios to do so.