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Sunday , November 18 2018
Home | Tag Archives: Mexican American Cultural Center

Tag Archives: Mexican American Cultural Center

Op-Ed: The MACC/Library Issue

On Tuesday, the leadership of my city broke my heart by approving the proposal to combine the Main Library and the Mexican American Cultural Center.

The majority of Council members, except for Alexsandra Annello and Peter Svarzbein, expressed how they were going to vote on this issue BEFORE there was one single public comment. That is NOT what I call listening to one’s constituents. Council reps doing that was shocking!

At that juncture, we probably should have all walked out, chanting “What’s the point?” But, hope springs eternal.

They had yet to hear letters written by presidents of both the National Library Association and the Texas Library Association, who were appalled that El Paso was doing this. They had yet to hear all the PhD’s who spoke, or the artists, teachers and single moms, or the passionate librarians, whose life’s work has been building that library!

A project had just been presented that will take over 40% to 45% of the Main Library, and the library folks were NOT even brought into the discussion until after the fact!

I commend MCAD’s presentation. Had any of that been discussed at the last minute called meeting on Thursday night, the attendees would have appreciated it. That meeting was the first time we knew of this proposal.

The Mexican American Cultural Center advocates had been in discussion with the city, but they thought it was a bad idea and opted out of continuing the conversation.

How did we get here?

The city kept repeating there had been conversations, charrettes, public input and meetings about this over the past six years. That’s true. I attended so many of them. However, a location for the Cultural Center at the Main Library was certainly never, ever presented.

My recollection of the time-line…. Citizens approved a bond issue for $220 million for three projects: a Children’s Museum, a Cultural Center, and a multi-use Performing Arts Center, without allocation of what monies went to which project.

Shortly thereafter, a firm that builds sports arenas was hired to do a study and develop a budget for the multi-use Performing Arts Center. A public meeting was held to hear their report. They determined that the budget would be $190 million, without including bonded indebtedness, nor any assumptions on which their “budget” was based.

After the presentation, a harried woman took the podium to continue about the other two projects. She embarrassedly stated that there would not be enough money left to build the children’s museum and the cultural center, so perhaps, we should “go back to the drawing board” or consider putting the two together under one roof.

This suggestion was not well received. It was at that exact point that MACI (Mexican-American Cultural Institute) was born.

Also, this was the moment when, as concerned citizens, we made a Big Mistake! We allowed that $190 million figure to become stuck in stone. Why didn’t we immediately get together with our City reps and leaders to discuss the ALLOCATION of the $220 million for the three projects?

How about a world class designed Mexican-American Cultural Center, a beautiful and compelling tourist attraction, that would knock the socks off of any other heritage cultural center in the world?! ($100 million) (The $5.7 million was strictly an arbitrary number from the beginning.)

An innovative Children’s museum for $50 million. Finally, $75 million (we’ll find an extra $5 mil to throw in) for the rehab of the Abraham Chavez.

All of this is water under the bridge, but it points to the fact that the money was there, and might still be.

Nothing happened for awhile. MACI kept pushing; the City kept thinking.

Then, there was a public hearing about the idea of adding a “bustle” onto the Abraham Chavez Theatre, with conceptual drawings and much excitement. However, costs proved prohibitive, so it was dropped. MACI started to weaken at that point, and the City kept thinking.

The City was rather stuck with the numbers. The bond approval forced the completion of three projects. The Children’s Museum had escalated to $60 million. That left $160 million for the Performing Arts venue, and “0” for the Cultural Center. Oh My! Back to thinking.

The City then decides: “We will apply $30 million to the Children’s Museum, let the private sector fund the other $30 million, and now we’re back to that magic $190 million for the Sports Center….oops! Performing Arts Center. But, we are still at “0” for the Cultural Center.”

Meanwhile, someone must have been mulling over the feasible, but rather desperate, idea of combining the Main Library with the M-A Cultural Center. The library needs some rehab. We can find a little more money, redesign a few things, pull in the Culinary Arts Dept. at EPPCC (seriously great collaborative idea) as well as build a recording studio (?) and offer other nice amenities, and, Voila! Problem solved.

Or is it? There was a masterful presentation about the upside; however, what about the downside? What kind of projected deficits will they run? How will the City deal with the emotional costs? the false perceptions? the disingenuousness? Losing the taxpayers’ trust is a big price to pay.

Our population is 80% to 85% Mexican American, and we voted for a Cultural Center that would honor the heritage of the majority of our population.

Is the decision to squash the library into 55% of its current space, and squeeze the Cultural Center into the rest of it, being made to save the taxpayers’ money in the long run? Was this an act of desperation, because the City could not find a better solution?

What if they “took over” the museums like that? Are these subjects that only the city folks get to discuss? The answer is probably, “Yes, because citizens do not wish to deal with the small print or the details. That’s what politicians, the City Manager and staff do.”

However, their job is also to analyze the information that comes before them, truly listen to constituents, and not become so set in their thinking that there’s no room for change. All that was being asked was simply to postpone the vote for two weeks to allow clarification and discussion about the issue!

On September 18th, the die was cast before the vote was taken. Over 100 people wasted at least 3 hours of their time. That’s minimally 300 hours of a most valuable commodity.

Jud Burgess, one of our most talented citizens, vehemently objected by saying: “This was a side show, a waste of time,” and he got arrested.

So much for leadership!

Author: Katherine Brennand

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Paso del Sur Launches Citizens Initiative for Election to Approve Changes to 2012 Bond

Paso del Sur announced Friday the launch of a new citizens initiative petitioning the City Council to pass an ordinance so that voters can decide on proposed changes to Proposition 2 of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Election.

The group, according to their facebook page, “works for the rights of residents and workers of El Paso’s barrios against displacement, demolition, and erasure of history,” and has been very vocal about the city’s plan to destroy a portion of Downtown that dates back to the city’s earliest days.

Via a news release organizers say, “These changes represent a viable solution for the problems that the City is facing in fulfilling its promises to the people of El Paso.”

“In 2012, voters were promised numerous projects through the Quality of Life Bond and voters approved $228 million for Proposition 2. The particular amounts allocated by City Council for each project were not stated in either the ordinance or the ballot. Therefore, the voters did not approve the amounts set out for each project. Although the City Council has authority to change the amounts allocated to each project, they have remained steadfast with the original allocation,” officials added.

The main projects included in Proposition 2 were a Children’s Museum ($19 million), a multi-purpose performing arts facility ($180 million), and a Mexican American Cultural Center ($5.75 million).

The release goes on to state:

“The multipurpose performing arts facility is embroiled in litigation due to the City’s decision to locate it in the historically significant neighborhood of Duranguito.  The City’s insistence in designing the performing arts facility for sporting events was disapproved by a state district court judge and the case is on appeal. The Mexican American Cultural Center cannot be constructed because of insufficient funding.”

In addition to the initiative to pass an ordinance to vote on the bond specifics, Paso del Sur has an alternative plan for the entire section of Downtown slated for demolition.

“…the solution is in cancelling the construction of a new multipurpose performing arts facility, reallocating the funds and enhancing existing assets. Rather than construct a new performing arts facility, the existing Abraham Chavez Theater can be renovated and expanded. The Mexican American Cultural Center and Corridor can be located in and become a part of a transformed old town Duranguito that will include a historic corridor reflecting and leading to the global roots of our City. This would create a thriving residential neighborhood and tourist attraction.”

For those wishing to support the group, they will be holding a launch event Monday morning.

  • What: Citizen’s Initiative Requesting an Election to make changes in the 2012 Bond Projects.
  • When: Monday, June 25, 2018 at 9 a.m.
  • Where: Firefighters Memorial Park, 316 W. Overland

·  Contact: David Romo, 915-630-9502

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To view our in-depth coverage of the Downtown Arena Saga, click here.

City Council to Seek Alternate Site for the Mexican American Cultural Center

On Tuesday, El Paso City Council voted to look at alternative ways to deliver the voter-approved Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC).

Council reached this decision after the City and Mexican American Cultural Institute (MACI) were unable to come to an agreement on the terms of the memorandum of understanding proposed by MACI.

As part of its vote, Council directed City staff to pursue alternate site locations for the Mexican American Cultural Center and to develop it using the budget approved by voters.

According to a Tuesday news release, “The City looks forward to working with all community partners including MACI to realize this project…the City remains committed to delivering a world-class cultural center as approved by voters and complemented by existing cultural assets within the City’s portfolio that includes the El Paso Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of History and the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.”

The MACC was approved by voters in 2012 as one of the signature projects included in the Quality of Life Bonds with an original project budget of $5.7 million.

In August 2015, the 18 member Mexican American Cultural Center Subcommittee recommended the MACC be located at the Abraham Chavez Theatre despite the significant escalation of costs as presented by City staff.

In January of 2016, Council accepted the subcommittee’s recommendation to locate the cultural center at the Abraham Chavez Theatre with an estimated cost of $35.7 million. MACI, whose members comprised nine of the 18 members of the original subcommittee, was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in summer of 2016 with the goal of becoming the City’s partner in managing the cultural center and raising $20 million towards capital costs.

Since mid-2016, MACI has been formally incorporated with the ability to raise funds. Prior to that MACI was able to raise funds through non-profit fiscal sponsor Fiesta de las Flores. However, since their incorporation, MACI has not made significant progress in fundraising necessary for the escalated project costs if the Abraham Chavez Theatre was the site.

Cities including San Antonio and City El Paso have seen successful campaigns through partnerships without a formal memorandum of understanding.

Examples include:

  • 1991, San Antonio Public Library Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3), began a fundraising campaign to assist the City of San Antonio in the construction of a new Central Library. Bond set aside approximately $75 million for the library construction
    • Library Foundation was tasked with the job of raising an additional $32 million for furniture, fixtures, equipment technology, renovation of a City-owned parking garage and other amenities. The goal was met and surpassed.
  • 2010, San Antonio River Foundation, an independent non-profit organization, began capital campaign to improve urban reach of San Antonio River
    • City project, funded through bonds and Hotel Occupancy Tax funds, for construction
    • Foundation, capital campaign raised $30 million, for art, the Dam, landscaping and other upgrades
  • 2013, San Antonio Botanical Garden, granted $2.6 million bond funding, land and facilities owned by City
    • Botanical Society runs the Garden
    • Currently in $15 million capital campaign to support site improvements

El Paso examples:

  • Chalk the Block private sector committee has raised more than $800,000 in support of program over the 10 year history of the festival without a memorandum of understanding in place
  • El Paso Children’s Museum Foundation, raised more than $1 million before a formal memorandum of understanding was executed with the City

City Provides Update on Mexican American Cultural Center Project

A fundraising strategy study commissioned by the City of El Paso to support the success of the fundraising effort for the proposed Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) and to create benchmarks for the project is complete.

The MACC is a one of three signature bond projects overwhelming approved by voters in 2012. The site for the center, the Abraham Chavez Theater, was approved by City Council in January 2016, at the recommendation of a subcommittee of the City’s Bond Oversight Advisory Committee (BOAC).

The original voter-approved budget for the project was $5.75 million.  The estimated cost, as of two years ago, to establish the MACC at the Abraham Chavez site was $34.6 million.

Council then accepted the site recommendation, contingent on the successful raise of pledged support in the amount of $20 million, made by the private sector group, Mexican-American Cultural Institute (MACI), which is comprised of some members of the Council-approved bond subcommittee for the project.

The fundraising strategy study findings were shared with City Council in executive session on September 19, 2017. The MACI leadership was provided with the study findings, two days later.

City staff and the study consultants, Lee + Associates, will meet MACI in October to review the findings.

BOND PROJECT BACKGROUND

In March 2015, at the direction of City Council a subcommittee of the Bond Oversight Committee (BOAC) was formed. The subcommittee was originally known as the Hispanic Cultural Center Subcommittee (HCC) and was later renamed the Mexican American Cultural Center Subcommittee (MACC).

The subcommittee was composed of 18 members (two appointees by Mayor and two appointees by each member of Council).   The subcommittee received administrative support from City Staff and met regularly in order to provide to Council recommendations on the following:

  • Size of the Hispanic Cultural Center
  • Appropriate budget for the construction of the Hispanic Cultural Center
  • Resources for enhancing existing budget
  • Facility program and amenities
  • Types of services to be offered within the Hispanic Cultural Center
  • Recommendations regarding funding opportunities
  • Recommendations regarding public/private partnerships
  • Means for fundraising
  • Recommendation regarding the name of the Hispanic Cultural Center
  • Recommendation regarding the general location of the Center

In October 2015, the subcommittee reported to Council on its final recommendations.  Council accepted all recommendations made by the subcommittee including the site recommendation of the Abraham Chavez Theatre and the name, Mexican American Cultural Center.  Council also directed City staff to complete a Programmatic Study exploring how to make this site work for the proposed project.  Study results were to be presented to Council in no more than 120 days from date assigned.

In order to provide focused, subject matter expertise and quality results in support of the project, two consultant groups, Quintanilla Schmidt Consulting and Carl Daniel/Franco/Saldana Architects, were commissioned to work together to develop the study.

In January 2016, the Programmatic Study exploring the Abraham Chavez Theatre as the site for the cultural center was presented to Council. The original voter-approved budget for the project was $5.75 million.  The cost to establish the cultural center at the Abraham Chavez site was $34.6 million.

Council accepted the site recommendation, contingent on the successful raise of pledged support in the amount of $20 million, made by the private sector group, Mexican-American Cultural Institute.

MACI, whose membership included nine of the eighteen members who also served on the Council-appointed bond subcommittee, had previously stepped forward, fully advocating for the location of the MACC at the Chavez Theatre site.

The group also expressed its desire to partner with the City in a public-private partnership in order to realize the creation of the cultural center at the Chavez Theatre site, including a pledge to raise $20 million in additional funding needed to meet the costs of the conversion of the site.

Council-then also directed:

  • City staff to transition work on the Project from the MACC Subcommittee to MACI, once MACI was formally incorporated as a non-profit.
  • City staff to create benchmarks to align $20 million MACI fundraising pledge with the MACC project development.

Following Council direction and in order to support the success of the fundraising effort, a fundraising strategy study was commissioned.  Consultants, Lee + Associates, were contracted to provide subject matter expertise to develop the study.

In January 2017, the consultancy contract was approved by Council.

In September 18, 2017, the consultants, presented the study findings to BOAC, and they presented them to Council the following day. Both presentations were made in executive session. MACI received the presentation via email on September 20, 2017, and were also provided access to hard copies of the full report on that day.  The next day, the MACI leadership collected the hard copies of the full report.

In October 2017, City staff and study consultants will meet with MACI board members to review the study findings.