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Matthew Miller, Dana Point
At their June 18 meeting, the Dana Point City Council spontaneously changed course. They voted for the Arts and Culture Commission to meet quarterly or on an as-needed basis. There was also discussion as to whether or not to keep the Arts and Culture Commission a commission, or whether it should be downgraded to a committee or subcommittee. It was then proposed that Councilman Schoeffel alone select the commissioners and recommend their appointment to the Council. These changes marginalized the commission and its importance to Dana Point.
While the commission serves at the pleasure of the City Council as an advisory body, it does not belong solely to Councilman Schoeffel or to the City Council; it belongs to the citizens of Dana Point. As was originally done, applicants to the arts commission should be interviewed, on the record, at a council meeting and voted on by all members. Additionally, Commission meetings should occur every month in order to continue moving forward. To do otherwise demonstrates a lack of value in the commission’s charter.
The Arts and Culture Commission was formed in late 2011 to help grow art and culture in Dana Point, spawn cultural tourism and increase every citizen’s quality of life. Changes made at last month’s meeting conflict with these objectives.
No current commissioners were notified in advance of alterations affecting them at the June meeting, because none of the items discussed appeared on the agenda. These changes stemmed from a routine consent calendar item, during which the council was supposed to simply file the commission’s monthly meeting minutes.
As a result, no one from the public or the commission was given a chance to voice their opinion in advance of these sweeping changes. At the very least, the commission could have been invited to the City Council meeting and been given the opportunity to offer their input, or the council could have tabled any decision until the next meeting in order to give the public a chance to weigh in.
Speaking as a now former member of the commission, I believe that all arts and culture commissioners would have said monthly meetings are essential in order to move forward. In fact, speaking from my own point of view, the commission should be granted more responsibilities, not less.
What if the Arts and Culture Commission was more than an advisory body?
Then, they’d get a lot more accomplished and the city would be better because of it. The commission can and should actively cooperate with the city to pass initiatives that improve Dana Point.
For starters, the city could be dramatically improved by doubling the arts in public places contribution for new developments—from .05 percent to 1 percent for new developments. Leaders and staff could select locations for future public art, start a matching grant program to encourage the painting of murals on the sides of commercial buildings (adjacent to empty lots), initiate a private art donation program (where citizens could give the city artwork to temporarily or permanently display), coordinate with the South Orange County School of the Arts to help foster the school’s continued excellence and reform sign ordinances to minimize the fast food restaurant signage along south Pacific Coast Highway.
In addition, the commission could coordinate with the Tourism Business Improvement District to promote Dana Point as an arts related destination, thereby ensuring that the city’s needs are met, not just the hotels’ interests.
Furthermore, there are a number of items that could be more actively promoted or strengthened through cooperation between the commission and various city agencies, legislative bodies and private interest groups. These include the Dana Point Symphony, Summer Concerts in the Park, Movies in the Park, all the various festivals and more, which at present the Arts and Culture Commission has nothing to do with.
Just imagine Dana Point someday being known as the City of Music, with the symphony, summer concerts and the Doheny Blues Festival as merely the foundation. There could and should eventually be a Dana Point Bowl for the Performing Arts complete with an ocean view. But this is a long way off on our present course.
At present, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department finalizes all details and lineups for the summer concerts and movies in the park, before bringing it to the Arts and Culture Commission. The commission is not included in planning or offering input for any of the numerous festivals as well. Although the city and parks department do an outstanding job, as experts on arts and culture appointed by the City Council, the arts and culture commissioners could do more to improve all events even further.
Similarly, there have been other instances where the commission was ignored or not involved. The new Town Center entrance sign was planned without the commission’s assistance. As a result, it looks like something out the 1950ss rather than a key marker for a vibrant and up and coming area.
Twice the City Council has voted to apply for a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop a formal plan for public art without involving the commission. Such a grant would require a matching contribution from the city’s Arts in Public Places fund (which the commission uses to contract new artwork) and would diminish the fund by over half.
Do we really need yet another development plan for improving Dana Point? How long have other plans including the Town Center, OC Dana Point Harbor and the original Capistrano Beach plans been on file with little to no action?
What if instead, we just did something?
The Arts and Culture Commission is more than capable of creating an informal plan. Then, they’d have even more money to commission and display public art—not the half after the NEA grant is spent. In fact, the commission has already prioritized locations throughout the city that they would like to target for public art. The commission doesn’t need an expensive federal grant to tell them what they already know.
The City Council chose to go backwards on June 18. And so, unfortunately, those interested in arts and culture will have to wait even longer for our city to look and feel even better. Residents interested in their property values going up will have to wait even longer for their homes’ worth to compare with thriving cities such as San Clemente and Laguna Beach, which surround Dana Point. So, it is my hope that the council changes course and enables the Arts and Culture Commission to succeed by meeting monthly, empowers them to recommend and implement improvements and that they, along with the Planning Commission, actively participate and coordinate with the commission rather than ignore them.
Until such a time, I believe it to be an inefficient use of my time to remain on the Arts and Culture Commission, because nothing can get done quarterly or in a vaccum. Therefore, in protest, I requested that my application for a second term be withdrawn. I encourage the citizens of Dana Point to more actively participate in and attend the Arts and Culture Commission meetings and to voice their opposition to the council’s new changes. Maybe then, we’ll finally move forward as a city once more.