Kickin’ the lata down the road
Early July rumors that the Museo Alameda was tight on cash and might not make payroll were apparently true, but corporate citizen Valero stepped up a $50,000 pledge (and a $10,000 table donation for the August 20 gala, which will honor former Mexican President Vicente Fox), and closed the gap, the two-year-old museum acknowledged.
“We’re on solid footing,” said Interim Director Shannon Clements*, who’d been on the job all of six days when the QueQue called. “We’re not the only arts organization that may be facing some funding challenges” in this economy, added PR consultant Ken Slavin.
The Museo has other resources at hand, too. The organization still has money coming this year from its OCA contract, said Office of Cultural Affairs Director Felix Padrón. Most importantly for observers, perhaps, he feels confident in the museum’s new leadership — Clements, who is also media-relations coordinator for the Henry Ford Academy: Alameda School for Art & Design, and Board Chair Margarita Flores, community-relations chief at Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (The Henry Ford Academy — a partnership with the Southwest School of Art & Craft, Say SÍ, the Alameda, and the San Antonio Independent School District, may open new funding avenues for the Alameda; arts funders love education initiatives.)
Alameda founder and former board chair Henry Muñoz — who was alternately lauded for pushing the Smithsonian to solve its acknowledged Latino deficit, and blamed for the decade it took to get the museum funded and opened — relinquished the Alameda chairmanship in early June 2009, leaving the next generation an economically fragile startup museum in the middle of a recession, as well as the undeveloped Alameda Theater and its historic blacklight murals. (Muñoz remains on the Alameda board as founding chairman, and was the impetus for the charter-school partnership with the Henry Ford Academy, and, says Slavin, will now focus on fundraising for the theater.) Interim Museo Director Eliseo Rios, the last in a line of short-lived directors, departed at the beginning of the month, and several close observers say they expect staff casualties as the Museo puts cost-saving measures into place. But, Padrón says, “I’m hopefulthat they can weather the storm.”
*The QueQue enjoyed the Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire” snippet on Clements’s voicemail greeting.
The Alameda ruffled arts-community feathers in 2007 by going around the arts-funding process and obtaining a $315,000 grant directly from City Council. `See “Cutting out the CAB,” October 17, 2007.` No such machinations are necessary these days. As one of the arts organizations that receives operational funding from OCA, the Alameda will likely get the same amount of money for the second year of the City’s two-year arts-funding cycle as it did for Fiscal Year 2009 ($359,000), despite an expected continued decline in the Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax revenue that supports OCA and its contract grants.
“Our goal is to try to maintain agencies that receive operational support as stable as possible,” said Padrón. Organizations who are awarded general operating funds typically receive the same amount both years of the funding cycle, and depend on that funding to meet their budgets. “Our strategy has always been to minimize the impact to the arts agencies,” he said.
But OCA’s program grants, which are awarded annually to fund specific projects produced by smaller arts orgs, will likely be reduced this year. The office has received more than $400,000 in requests, but expects to have less than last year’s $198,000 to hand out for Fiscal Year 2010. OCA took a requested 2-percent reduction out of its internal operating budget this year, when HOT revenue projections for the current fiscal year were downsized.
Despite a shrinking pot of public money, Padrón says he isn’t worried that the Convention and Visitors Bureau or other groups that share the HOT funds would lobby to reduce the arts’ 15 percent(raised to that maximum threshold by the council under Hardberger’s leadership): “All the departments supported by the HOT tax are working really well together.”
The budget process, which gets under way in earnest in approximately three weeks when the City Manager presents her numbers to City Council, won’t be easy, concedes Padrón, but “We should be optimistic.”
A potential good omen on the horizon, if you believe in signs: National nonprofit advocacy group Americans for the Arts is considering San Antonio as the site for its 2012 convention.
For a few minutes, this week’s Bexar County Commissioners Court meeting felt like a Wolff family reunion that the general public decided to crash. Tracy Wolff, wife of County Judge Nelson Wolff and stepmom to Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff `none of whom are related to Current Editor Elaine Wolff`, stopped by to present the Commissioners Court with a $200,000 check from the Hidalgo Foundation, to aid the County with its family drug court and courtroom-restoration efforts.
“Commissioner `Kevin` Wolff has to address his father as ‘Judge,’” she couldn’t resist noting, eliciting a mock-mournful “so true” from her politico scion.
The good feelings continued when draconian DA Susan Reed revealed her carefully hidden gentle side (her mood surely brightened when Nelson Wolff presented her with a gift bag containing cookies and peanut brittle from Floresville’s Peanut Festival Royalty). Reed briefed the Commission on her dream of creating a community garden for juveniles at the corner of Mission and Mitchell (she hopes to get grant money from the Green Spaces Alliance for the project). “I’ve gardened!” Reed gushed with a tone of self-astonishment you might have expected had George Patton publicly exclaimed: “I’ve tap-danced!” Reed added: “I’ve grown tomatoes and basils and other things.”
Just in case anyone started feeling too self-satisfied, entertainingly cantankerous Precinct 2 Commissioner Paul Elizondo swiftly yanked the balloon back down to earth.
During a presentation by Housing Authority Bexar County Executive Director Michele Valadez, Elizondo chided her agency for failing to promptly return calls from a state senator and congressman. When she assured him that new staff members were being trained in phone etiquette, he retorted, “The complaints were about you,” adding that he hopes the Housing Authority’s training extends to the top of the agency.
Later, when Government Relations Manager Cindy Segovia reviewed the results of the County’s legislative program at the Texas Lege’s 81st Session, Elizondo repeatedly threw her off her game with biting interjections about the folly of SA’s graffiti ordinance — which puts the burden on victims of tagging to clean up the mess — and the tendency of the state to dump juvenile offenders on Bexar County without providing adequate compensation. After dealing with the barrage, Segovia surely longed for one of those Floresville Peanut Festival bags.
Bonin’ in the boneyard
The last two weeks have been pretty bizarre for local criminal attorney Rudy Taylor Monsalvo. On the afternoon of July 4, the 71-year-old Monsalvo, who is married to Express Bail Bonds owner Susan Monsalvo, was arrested in Pleasanton for “public lewdness” — in broad daylight, no less. According to the Pleasanton Police Department, Monsalvo and Isabel Ortiz, 54, were caught having sex in the back of a suburban at 2 p.m., while their vehicle blocked the exit of a Pleasanton cemetery.
This is not the first time that Monsalvo, a St. Mary’s Law School alumnus with more than 40 years of courtroom experience, has seen his libido draw a measure of public scrutiny. In 2007, a former Texas gang member named Bobby Delgado published a book (Gangs, Prisons, Parole $ the Politics Behind Them) which made the outlandish claims that Monsalvo — who Delgado says represented him many years ago on a heroine-possession charge — repeatedly called him asking for money “to party with”and was obsessed with Delgado’s girlfriend. Delgado wrote that Monsalvo willfully sabotaged his case so the attorney could have Delgado’s girlfriend to himself.
QueQue attempted to contact Monsalvo last week, and a source at his office informed us that he’s currently in a rehab facility, recovering from a stroke. The source declined to provide any additional information on his condition.
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