ECPAC suffers under new operator
Union Tribune (2006-06-06) Gail Nye
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Regarding your Q&A with Paul Russell and the East County Performing Arts Center (East County Opinion, June 29):
I couldn't let this slide by without a reality check. Prior management, the Arts Center Foundation (ACF), would be successful today had the city seen fit to continue funding it.
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Russell is getting $350,000 plus $100,000 for maintenance, in spite of the city's “tight budget,” an excuse used to pull funding from the ACF. He claims that “at their max,” the ACF brought in 15 acts. He knows very well that this is not true. The Web site http://cpr-ec.org
lists 27 shows that were booked in the 2004-05 season without city funding: Substantially more that the “pie in the sky” 10 shows that the city aspires to have Russell book.
To be fair, Russell was clear about his intentions at El Cajon City Council meetings, and has since consented to “dabble” in booking national acts. Russell had wanted to get the theater back for many years, and Mayor Mark Lewis and Councilman Gary Kendrick were beating the bushes for ways to guide the management contract to their friend.
Anyone at CCT's 2005 “Traditions of Christmas,” who heard Councilman Kendrick on stage rejoicing in the theater's return to Russell, knows that this is true.
Russell agrees with your editorial writer that “The public needs to be aware that arts bring something other than money into a community.” Forgotten in this discussion of CCT's commitment to young people is the demise of ACF's acclaimed children's program, “Plug Into the Arts.” Your newspaper ought to interview the El Cajon Education Foundation and Tim Flannery to see what they have to say about then and now in terms of children's programs at ECPAC.
There is still bitterness in the community about the dismantling of an operation in which many, many citizens worked long and hard to support. ECPAC was gaining El Cajon respect throughout the county. The hurt lies in the fact that the city is paying more and getting less. Much less.