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June 10, 2009 > Editorial: It's time to move forward with the Centerville Theater

Editorial: It's time to move forward with the Centerville Theater

Although redevelopment agencies maintain the pretense of independence by adjourning city council meetings to consider redevelopment agency agendas, the same people are in attendance subject to the same ideas and bias. In fact, sometimes, acceptance and approval of redevelopment items are considered on a council agenda prior to raising the issue on a redevelopment agenda. Although this form of bureaucratic manipulation may be benign and simply satisfy required legal separation of the agencies, it can also lead to prejudicial and detrimental deliberation on important issues.

Confusion of priorities and intent could be clearly seen as the Fremont City Council finally heard a presentation by VenueTech's John Lind on Tuesday, June 2. On behalf of Center Theater Preservation Group (CTPG) he presented an action plan to develop the Center Theater as a performing arts incubator and venue. Enthusiastically supported by local arts organizations, this plan has been in existence for over a year but relegated to a dusty corner of redevelopment out of public sight. In its place, the redevelopment agency hired another consultant - not at the request of VenueTech as was insinuated by the agency. The Agency has stubbornly refused to consider any deviation from their failed goals at the Centerville Unified Site. Speaking for the agency at the June 2 meeting, Redevelopment Agency Business Manager Irene Klebanivska stated, "In Centerville, we will be continuing to focus on the development of the Centerville Unified Site with the previously appropriated $16.9 million."

When Councilmember Wieckowski questioned the wisdom of sitting on redevelopment funds instead of moving ahead with worthwhile projects, Director of Housing and Redevelopment Elisa Tierney declared that the State could raid redevelopment funds without regard to how much the agency has in its coffers. She said that money from the General Fund could be taken if the redevelopment agency refused to pay and the redevelopment agency would be required to reimburse the General Fund. This statement is a bit disingenuous since it leads one to believe that funds taken by the state could happen without regard to obligations or the balance sheet of the agency. Actually, redevelopment may very well find itself in a use it or lose it scenario. If Tierney's case was sound, why is this agency planning to increase its tax increment cap by $1.1 billion? Would the state sit idly by as Fremont increased its redevelopment coffers?

Obligating $16.9 million to a failed concept at the Centerville Unified Site appears preferable to moving forward with an innovative plan to revitalize this historic district by developing the Center Theater. Why? The obvious conclusion is that someone has put the brakes on the Center Theater project and has been obstructive throughout. Delays and alternative studies have diverted time and money from the true intent of redevelopment. When CTPG and VenueTech were finally able to present their proposal, a clear vision was advanced that could make excellent use of funds already allocated for Centerville. Asked about delays by the redevelopment agency, Tierney offered a weak response that it was time consuming to consider details on operating costs and the capital side of the CTPG Center Theater proposal. This is an interesting statement since the agency has had over a year to consider it and continues to ignore a three-year contract with CTPG.

When Mayor Wasserman gave clear direction with consent of the council for staff to return with a progress report before council recess in August, only one voice objected. City Manager Fred Diaz began to throw out an additional roadblock saying much more time was needed and a report might be given to the council late in the year. "There is a lot of detail to be gathered. We will do the best we can." Finally, the mayor had enough of this nonsense. ""I want to see meetings happen," said Wasserman insisting that a progress report is expected in July. Action is long overdue and the mayor knows it.

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