Rush to judgment

Dear Editor:I was happy to see that so many people attended last [week's] City Council meeting to hear about the proposal for a 5-year theater management contract with VenueTech. It shows how much people care about the Downey Theatre, and VenueTech is a company with theater experience. However, I am surprised that the council (except for Councilman David Gafin) was so quick to approve this million-dollar contract without allowing much time for public input. The terms of the contract were posted Friday on the city's website, and Councilman Mario Guerra said that he had only read it that afternoon. I downloaded a copy for myself late Tuesday afternoon, and read it as the meeting began. This is a million-dollar contract, and the council approved it within four days of its posting. The contract explicitly states that the city will have to "provide the funds required to operate the theater," (beyond box office receipts) and fortunately Guerra suggested a yearly cap of $400,000, pending further discussion by the council. To assist with any necessary subsidy from the city, VenueTech commits to the establishment of a non-profit foundation to do fundraising. Mayor Pro Tem Luis Marquez expressed concern that this could result in an unfortunate situation of several entities competing for funds from the same sources. Pauline Hume from the audience requested that the council delay a vote so there would be more time for discussion of such particulars, and Gafin agreed with her. Councilman Roger Brossmer may be correct in saying that VenueTech is the only feasible candidate for the job. But I think it still would have been better form if the council postponed the vote so people would have more time to read and discuss the issue. And one issue that really deserved further discussion is: what will happen to the current theater employees who are let go? I heard that they may be offered other positions in the city. There is no guarantee of employment with VenueTech. It seems an odd situation that we might be laying people off so we can hire someone else to do fundraising. These are terrible economic times, and I wish this had been explained further. Ultimately, I am happy to see that the City Council appreciates the theater and is sensitive to the concerns of the residents. We would all love to see something happening there every weekend. But I do wish the council had allowed more time for discussion. -- Carol Kearns, Downey

********** Published: December 2, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 33