By Lynne Bronstein
The City Council took action this week to begin planning for the 2014 Summer Concert Series, a gesture which may help the popular free concert
series toward an earlier finalization of its schedule.
The Council, at its meeting Monday night, opted to again retain Gary Mandell, owner of Boulevard Music, as producer of the concert series his 17th year. Mandell was not present at the meeting due to teaching a group class at Boulevard Music.
According to the city’s Fiscal Impact report on the concert series it is estimated that there is a sum of $17,000 available for funding the concerts. This might fund a series of six concerts, the same number as in the 2013 series.
For 2013, funding came from several sources: $7,000 from the General Fund, $5,000 from the Cultural Trust Fund, $2,500 from Sony and $2,460 from the Cultural Affairs Foundation, for a total of $16, 960.
In contrast, funding for the 2012 series, following dissolution of the Culver City Redevelopment Agency (CCRA), totaled $7,500, most of which came from sponsors.
The lack of Redevelopment Agency funds has been a factor in planning free summer concerts. Since the former CCRA approved a contract with Mandell in 2007, concerts were funded by a combination of Redevelopment funds and donations from Sony, the Cultural Affairs Foundation and Trust Fund, and sponsors. Formerly, funding for the concerts ran as high as $60,000.
City Manager John Nachbar confirmed that the city can spare the $17,000 for “a minimum” of four concerts but added that “if Mandell can raise money through sponsorships, there can be more concerts.”
Speaking for the Cultural Affairs Commission, Marla Koosed said she thought Mandell did a great job with the concerts but wanted to suggest the Council put out a request for proposals (RFP) for others who might be able to produce concerts. She also wondered why the city had not considered holding concerts on another day and time, like Sunday afternoon rather than Thursday evening.
Koosed and the Cultural Affairs Commission had made similar suggestions in 2011 and 2012.
Jim Clarke asked the city staff “Did we ever do an RFP for the concerts? Was there any interest by anyone else to do them?”
Shelly Wolfberg, Assistant to the City Manager, replied that in fact, the city had put out an RFP after Mandell’s original contract with the city expired at the end of September, 2007.
“There were five responses but Mr. Mandell was selected,” said Wolfberg. “There has been no interest from anyone else since that time.”
In fact, in 2011 at the persuasion of former City Council member Scott Malsin, the Council considered and approved the production of two concerts by the Jazz Bakery. There was also brief interest in having radio station KCRW produce a few concerts but that idea was scuttled due to KCRW’s quote of the cost. There were, however, no RFPs involved in these decisions.
Nachbar hastened to note that when the call for RFPs was put out, “there was significantly more money for concerts than there is now.”
Council members were happy with the idea of Mandell producing and agreed to have staff bring back the item for approval in the near future.
Assistant City Manager Martin Cole noted that the early start of discussion on the concerts will favor Mandell, giving him more time to book good acts. Mandell had told the Council on previous occasions that several months are required for him to contact and book the best acts.
Mayor Jeff Cooper however, said that Koosed had brought up some “good points” and while it is too late to do RFPs for the 2014 series, he thought it might be good to look at that possibility for the 2014 series.
The Council also agreed that the Cultural Affairs Commission and Foundation should have more of a role in vetting the concert series.
In other actions, the Council approved a Consent Calendar item on the preliminary mid-year budget report.
The mid-year report will be coming in early 2014 but Chief Financial Officer Jeff Muir presented a PowerPoint report on the preliminary numbers. The gist of this was that things are looking better than expected. Revenues outpaced expenditures by $2.1 million. There is currently no deficit.
Muir said much of this is due to hiring freezes, cutbacks, and revenues from the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and Measure Y.
Muir mentioned that the Culver City web site (www.culvercity.org) now has a new tool called the Financial Transparency Tool, courtesy of “Open Government.” Users need only to click on the link (https://culvercity.opengov.com/transparency) and they will be able to see the city’s financial status, broken down by charts.