Diversion of bond monies dismiss PAEC as a priority

Courtesy of LMN and Tom Eliot Fisch, A Joint Venture
Courtesy of LMN and Tom Eliot Fisch, A Joint Venture

By Marco Siler-Gonzales

the guardsman

 

The Performing Arts Center Coalition  (PAC Coalition) and City College administration are at odds over the use of bond monies voted to fund the Performing Arts Education Center (PAEC).

The PAC Coalition continues to press the administration to move forward with the construction of the PAEC. Although San Francisco voters passed bond measures to fund the project in 2001 and 2005, college spokesperson Jeff Hamilton said the majority of these funds have already been spent on maintaining City College buildings.

Former special trustee Robert Agrella sparked the PAEC controversy when he canceled the project on Sept. 17, 2013.

“When Agrella reviewed the status of the buildings, he said we are not going to build the Performance Arts Center until we fix the existing buildings,” Hamilton said. “We have one-third of a billion dollars of deferred maintenance needs.”

On February 27, PAC coalition leaders met with Chancellor Tyler and President Virginia Parras to discuss the future of the PAEC. PAC Coalition later reported the administration had a positive outlook on the plans for the PAEC.

Although the administration is in favor of building the PAEC, Hamilton said the future of the facility is a matter of prioritization.

“The Performing Arts Center proposal, the Gough Street problem, the Civic Center issue and every other building with capital needs is going to be put into a planning process so we can prioritize things,” Hamilton said. “There’s only a certain amount of money to address these issues”

Music Department Chair Madeline Mueller, regarded as the historian and record keeper for the PAEC, said the current administration has no planning records for the PAEC project.

“We have another copy of them, they’re huge. All of the details we do have, but we were wondering why don’t they?” Mueller said.

The performing arts faculty and members of the Performing Arts Education Coalition have tried to create a dialogue with the administration regarding the future of the PAEC.

“The relatively new administration claims to have no information on this project, which is very concerning,” voice Instructor Judy Hubbell said. “They do seem to be supportive in some ways. They talk to us. That is at least progress.”

Aside from the voter approved bond measures, additional state matching funds of $38.27 million were granted in 2010, Mueller said.

The PAEC was supposed to break ground by June of 2014 in order to retain these state funds. There is growing concern now that this deadline has not been met, the money will go back to the state, according to Mueller.

“If it somehow went away that would be terrible,” Mueller said.  “If this project doesn’t get completed, then San Francisco has lost nearly $40 million.”

The lack of communication between the administration and the PAC Coalition has led to an unclear dispute. Hamilton spoke on behalf of Chancellor Tyler’s plan to form a capital planning committee, comprised of faculty, students and administrators to debate these issues and create a better-informed populace.

As for the PAEC, Hamilton said the administration’s obligation to spend the taxpayer money as they intended also applies to maintaining the buildings.

So, does Hamilton’s justification for the variation of bond measure spending uphold the taxpayers trust? In a letter addressed to City College President Virginia Parras, Mueller articulated that having fulfilled all California community college procedures for capital construction, the state has warned the PAC Coalition that the project cannot go backward at this point.

“If the Performing Arts Education Center is not completed soon, San Francisco will lose millions of dollars, but more importantly, S.F. voters will lose faith in the college’s ability to keep its promises,” Mueller said.

Hamilton disagreed, saying the diversion of funds will maintain voter trust.

“When people start to see these buildings that got built 20 and 30 years ago are not being maintained properly — that’s also a trust issue,” he said.

The miscommunication between the administration and the PAC Coalition regarding the purposes set forth for bond monies has created confusion on both sides. Hamilton’s words, although bleak, (ironically) put it clearest, the money isn’t there.

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