THE CULVER CITY FIESTA COMMITTEE...WHAT HAPPENED?
May 25, 2023
Late last year, I termed out of my role as a member of the Culver City Fiesta Committee. One of the most surprising (and disappointing) things about the experience was that there was no formal or informal orientation process when appointed by the City Council, and no exit interview when I, and two of my fellow Fiesta Committee members completed our terms. Unlike many previous members of Culver City's commissions and committees, I wanted to be proactive and share my experiences and thoughts on how this committee might function more efficiently.
The primary goal of the Fiesta Committee has always been to assist Culver City in putting on a great event and no doubt, together, the Parks, Recreation & Community Services (PRCS) staff and the Fiesta Committee have continued to do this. I am especially proud of the festival improvements that have been made through time that, in my view, have helped make it Culver City's best recurring event.
However, I do think that in recent years, the Committee has not been given the same respect and appreciation from city staff that I experienced when first appointed. Staff does put way more time into the event than Committee members but, obviously, they are full-time employees, while we work for free...something staff currently does not seem to appreciate. In fact, their behavior suggests that they would rather run the event without a Fiesta Committee altogether.
Current staff members spend way more time telling the committee what it can't do as opposed to encouraging and fostering ideas to make the meetings and the festival run more smoothly. They have recently begun enforcing a ridiculous rule requiring that all Committee member's outgoing emails be vetted by staff before being sent out. This process has contributed to a serious communication lag, especially, when trying to reach out and schedule sought after entertainers during the highly competitive summer season.
In contrast to today (where three of seven member vacancies exist), early meetings were spirited and productive. Led by staff members Susan Obrow and Dan Jassim, who were consistently supportive and helpful, Committee members felt appreciated for their skill sets and input. Susan often brought refreshments and light snacks, as meetings directly followed the work day for many of us. Through the years, as these and other great employees left the city, they were replaced by an endlessly revolving door of staffers new to Fiesta. For me, this led to a much less productive experience...and never so much as a cup of water at the meetings!
Along with Committee member Ronnie Jayne, the two of us (both veteran music industry professionals) have handled about 90% of the booking of the paid performers at Fiesta for well over ten years. One thing was always clear at Fiesta...we strived for inclusion, equity, and diversity in programming the weekend, making sure that there was something for everyone to enjoy. To have a staffer recently tell me that "younger Committee members are better suited to judge the merits of acts (than I)" was particularly insulting. I would offer that running a professional recording studio in Culver City for over 30 years (having been recognized with a Gold Record, a Grammy Award and five Grammy finalist certificates) would give me ample credentials to judge and recommend choosing and staging talent for the event.
These past few years, meetings have been most challenging. Morale is low which has resulted in many cancelled meetings due to the lack of a quorum. This toxic environment has no doubt contributed to the committee's three recent resignations.
Moving forward, I would propose that the city consider an exit interview with each committee member to be conducted by independent review. This would improve volunteer participation and productivity for the betterment of Culver City.
Robert C. (Bob) Wayne
Former Member of the Fiesta La Ballona Committee, 2012 - 2022