Forum talks about art, art, art

City Council candidates hear concerns about Laguna Beach's arts community and its ideas for the future.

September 30, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,

"Art-centric" questions were posed to City Council candidates Saturday at the forum hosted by the Arts Alliance at the Laguna Playhouse.

Festival of Arts board member Anita Mangels served as moderator, rotating questions among Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman, Councilman Kelly Boyd and state Sen. Tom Harman aide Emanuel Patrascu.

"If you are here about parking, you can stay, but the questions will be about the arts," alliance Chairwoman Karen Jacobs warned the audience of about 30 — some of whom were members of candidates' teams.


Even questions asked about the city budget were related to how it colored the arts community.

Laguna Beach is fortunate to have a hotel industry willing to contribute money to support the arts in Laguna via a Business Improvement District, Boyd said.

"It's important to keep that going," he said.

Patrascu said the bed tax is self-imposed and that could become a problem.

Only 2% is self-imposed; the remaining percentage is imposed by the city and the revenue is not siphoned off — as yet — by the hard-pressed state budget.

Patrascu also said the employee salaries and benefits eat up 70% of the city's budget, and if they grow the city won't be able maintain its infrastructure.

Pearson said the employees include an arts manager to oversee the beneficial arts projects and programs in the city that help bring tourist dollars to Laguna.

All four candidates agreed that the arts help define Laguna Beach and should be promoted. They all would support an Arts Center — but they split on how to pay for it, if a location could be found.

Patrascu said the city does have a role to play and perhaps could work with the school district to use the Artists' Theatre on the Laguna Beach High School campus.

"The most appropriate place for a center would be in the Civic Arts District [an area carved out to the Downtown Commercial Basin]," Pearson said. "But all of Laguna is an arts center."

The Arts Commission is working on creating distinct art districts where art events can be held, which would get shoppers going to different areas, Pearson said.

"Now is the time to get public [federal] funding," she said. "If ever there was a time, it is now."

Boyd said a center is a good idea. But financially feasible? Not so much.

"This is a discussion that has gone on for years," Iseman said. "We talked about the movie theater, the Village Entrance and the tennis courts [adjacent to the Festival of Arts]."

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