Wednesday, Feb 15 2012 11:37 AM

Guest Commentary: TPAC willing to partner with others

In her commentary published in the Tehachapi News recently, Deborah Hand makes some good points. I agree that the best way to gain political power for the arts is for members of the arts community to run for public office. It is difficult to get people to run for boards of directors, much less for public office. This is very sad and very hard on those of us who are forced to serve on more than one board to keep programs going that are important to the quality of life for the community.

In the case of city offices, those who live outside the city limits are not allowed to run for, or vote for, those offices. We consider the City of Tehachapi to be our city too; we shop there, eat there, attend the theater and other programs there, and spend our money there, so we expect city officials to look out for our interests as well, whenever possible. Our involvement in arts organizations benefits people who live anywhere in the area, including within the city limits.

Hand is right again when she says that a project such as this must be sustainable. We believe that there is such a pent-up demand for affordable space for large meetings and community gatherings that we will have no problem renting out the auditorium and the reception/rehearsal hall to meet expenses. Also, the fact that we will have a LEED certified building will insure that our utility costs will be significantly less than most buildings of this type.

I also agree that the best way to build a performing arts center is to have a partnership between the city, county, the Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District (TVRPD), Tehachapi Unified School District and TPAC. Unfortunately, a partnership requires two or more entities to participate.

The TPAC board tried to partner with the county but they were not interested. We had several meetings with the superintendent of schools but he said they could see no way to partner with us. At one point the City Council directed the City Manager to meet with me to see if we could work out a partnership; we met but we were told that "you are welcome to join us, but our plans are already drawn up and we are not going to make any changes for TPAC."

TPAC's needs assessment of what should be in a facility like this indicates there are larger and more sophisticated needs than the city-envisioned facility would provide.

Our attempt to partner with the TVRPD is well known. We had two grants in progress when we read in the Tehachapi News that our lease had been unilaterally rescinded by TVRPD.

The money to buy a building site was pledged by members of the Board of Directors and we began a lengthy search to find a suitable, affordable site. We looked at everything that appeared suitable for our center; we even called owners of properties that were not for sale and tried to talk them into selling to us. Everything was either too expensive, in a flood plane, too remote, had too many easements, or was not zoned right for us. When we found the property at 19415 Red Apple Ave, it met all our requirements so we immediately went into escrow to buy the land.

Since that time, a year and a half ago, we have spent many thousands of dollars for environmental studies required by the county for a Conditional Use Permit to build there.

We are a "public charity" organization and we must act responsibly, that is, we must do what we said we were going to do when we collected funds and pledges from the community. We cannot just abandon this site and look for another that might suit some people better. And the community needs this center sooner, rather than later.

We hope the city will join us in our efforts and we sincerely believe that when it is finished, the city and the community will find the center to be as exciting as we do. It is not too late for the city and TPAC to join forces.

B.J. MITCHELL lives in Tehachapi and is president of the board of directors of the Tehachapi Performing Arts Center.

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