Life Enrichment Hearing on Studio One
Sep 29, 2001 Jane Brunner
On Tuesday, September 25th, the Oakland City Council's Life Enrichment Committee met. One of the issues discussed was Studio One. 1000 Friends had 27 supporters on hand, and many came forward to tell Council members Henry Chang, Danny Wan, Jane Brunner and Nancy Nadel what Studio One means to the community. The City was also represented by Director of Parks & Recreation (P&R), Harry Edwards, and Asst. City Manager, George Musgrove.
City Says OSAA/1000 Friends Want Preferential Treatment
Dr. Edwards admitted that P&R has a strained relationship with some segments of the community. However both he and Dr. Musgrove implied that Oakland Studio Arts Association (OSAA) wants special treatment for Studio One. They say that they cannot show "preferential treatment" to one community group over another, as an explanation of why Studio One has not received more attention or funding from the City. They did not, however address why Studio One is the only facility for which P&R has requested inspections. Nor did they provide any information to demonstrate that the Studio has received any where near the same level of capital improvement funding allocations that the other recreation centers, city libraries and older city facilities have received since the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Inspection Necessary to Protect Employees
Dr. Musgrove also maintained that "if OSHA findings [turn out to be] negative, the building's closure [is] inevitable. We will be required by law to close the building." OSHA is one of the regulatory agencies that has been called in to inspect the building's safety and is primarily responsible to ensure employee safety. This is ironic, since Parks and Recreation prohibits the Studio's instructors from working more than 20 hours a week, a policy which specifically prevents them from being eligible for city employee benefits including health insurance. Many of the teaching staff and lab monitors have taught at Studio One for more than ten years.
No Studio Maintenance Due to Safety Risks
When asked by Vice Mayor Brunner, why the City has made no building improvements since the earthquake, Dr. Musgrove stated that the City felt to do so would expose the public and city employees to risk from exposure to asbestos and other potential hazards. This is the first time in OSAA's three-years of work with the city on the renovation that this has ever been raised. During the one-year task force collaboration on Studio One, city staff recommended the work be done in a comprehensive manner, as part of a major renovation for efficiency and economy. At no time was a "phased approach" to the rehab of the building described as unsafe.
Old Staff Vs New: What Changed?
Having worked with city representatives from the Public Works, Parks & Recreation, City Manager's and City Attorney's offices during the year-long Task Force 1998-1999, it is difficult to understand how previous city representatives could have demonstrated such disregard for public and employee safety. Mike Miller, OSAA VP asked Dr. Edwards and Dr. Musgrove what changed from then to now? Why did representatives from the previous administration support the 5-10 year renovation plan if they were putting the community at risk? Neither addressed this issue.
What Was Gained From This Meeting?
1. From OSAA's standpoint, we have created a public dialogue on Studio One, compelling city officials to answer questions and face scrutiny of their actions by Oakland voters and the members of the City Council.
2. We now know that the inspection reports will be made public in November.
3. Vice Mayor Brunner has committed the City to prior public notice and a chance for community input before any actions to close the building.
4. Parks and Recreation staff were instructed to come back to the committee with a full report of their plans for Studio One either way the inspections fall.
5. Dr. Musgrove committed to clearing obstacles that have stood in the path of OSAA receiving the promised $137,000 for seeding the capital campaign. This will allow OSAA to conduct a fundraising feasibility study over the next 3-4 months.
6. Vice Mayor Brunner has agreed to organize a special public forum on Studio One. She has asked Dr. Edwards, Dr. Musgrove and other city officials to come dialogue with the community on the fate of Studio One.
This meeting will take place in early November, the date and time have not been determined.
Will Art Survive?
A closing point for the discussion on Studio One came from Vice Mayor Brunner who asked if the city of Oakland was going to keep Mayor Brown's promise of promoting Oakland as a city of artists. Studio One may prove to be the litmus test for seeing how the arts survive in the new Oakland. Will the city make true its promise? Will we rise to the occasion to make sure they do? How will you make the difference?
Studio One is arts. We have a lot of rhetoric in this city about arts, especially since Mayor Brown came along. We put a lot of money into sports. We know you are looking for millions of dollars for a sports center in East Oakland. We need more money for the arts."
Look for our next update with specific information about how you can help save Studio One and community art through words and action. To find out more or to volunteer, call 510.652.8084 or Sandy Strehlou <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1000 Friends of Studio One/OSAA