War, arts dominate council talk
By Jesse Phelps
Art and war are two topics often linked
and both were on the table at Tuesday night's Ojai City Council
While no shots were fired and no masterpieces created, progress
was made toward the creation of a tax ordinance to finance an
increase in public art. The council also heard public comments
petitioning the city to take a stand against what some consider
an unjustified upcoming conflict with Iraq.
Others consider the war effort essential. Mayor Joe DeVito expressed
disappointment in those in favor of what, in his eyes, is an
anti-patriotic affront to the people making decisions and those
serving in the military. DeVito cast the council's lone vote
against drafting a resolution opposing the war.
The first major agenda item of the evening concerned street lighting
and sidewalk safety. The council passed a resolution to direct
Public Works to continue to increase assessments by $46,000,
which would provide additional revenues to pay for increased
Edison lighting, energy and maintenance costs, street tree safety
maintenance and conservation costs for sidewalk safety repairs.
Next up came the great debate on art and whether or not it should
be subsidized by the government. A hot-button issue between conservatives
and liberals everywhere, the debate took center stage after several
citizens in the community made impassioned pleas for the council
to adopt a municipal code creating a "percent for public
Mayor Pro Tem Sue Horgan was the lone dissenter as the council
voted four-to-one to pass the ordinance with a slight amendment
to its original wording. Because the change was made, the item
will come back as a consent calendar item to be rubber-stamped
at a future meeting.
Horgan, in her impassioned dissenting opinion, said, "I
am an art lover and I do support the arts in Ojai. The benefits
of public art are immeasurable, innumerable. However, I think
a different way of looking at it is that we can achieve these
goals on our own, without an ordinance. This is an attempt to
legislate the love of art. To me, it seems like a tax and a very
expensive one at that."
As an example, Horgan cited the layers of bureaucracy that would
be created and the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa remodel, saying,
"If they had done their renovation after we passed this
ordinance, the fee we would have charged them would have been
"Yeah!" cheered local sculptor Jan Sanchez, her enthusiasm
echoed throughout the seats by her comrades in the artistic community.
Councilwoman Rae Hanstad provided a tasteful opposition to Horgan's
view. "It's time to make public art part of our cake,"
she said, "And not the frosting."
Soon it was on to the more mundane topic of upgrades to the backstop
building and the construction of new restrooms at Sarzotti Park.
A grant offsets the cost by 70 percent and the city will pick
up $56,000 of a total $273,000 bill for the project, which passed
Some features of the project would be a
new fence line protecting children from the adjacent parking
lot and new cooking equipment, onsite phone service and a PA
system for the upgraded backstop building, in addition to the
In other action, an agenda item regarding the allocation of community
block grant funding was discussed but no final decision was made,
and the regularly scheduled meeting of April 18, 2003 was canceled
due to what will be a lack of quorum.
City Attorney Monte Widders reminded council of the impending
changes to the state's second-dwelling unit, or granny flats,
laws, to go into effect July 1. Widders said he may bring a request
to council before then to request a moratorium on the building
of such units in the event an ordinance complying with state
law cannot be drafted in time.
The meeting was adjourned, at the request of councilwoman Carol
Smith, in honor of the hundreds of people who lost their lives
75 years ago in the St. Francis Dam flood in Santa Paula. According
to Smith, it was the second worst disaster in the history of
our state, after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
The Ojai Valley News
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