The city's plan to establish an all-ages, teen-run music center was set in motion with the purchase of the Ice House building last year. But it's hit a snag. Without a show of your support at two upcoming meetings, the proposed center may be cut out from the funding it needs to get off the ground.
This is how I understand it: The center's budget—two one-time expenses of $375,000 for operational costs and $800,000 for building rehab—was presented to the City Council at a general fund budget meeting. But councilors didn't raise a single question about the project during the proceedings. That's worrying. Worse still, all judgment on the matter was deferred for 30 days.
That was on April 23. The last chance for the budget to get addressed and approved is at a "mark up" meeting on May 17—less than one month from the deferral.
In other words, our teen arts center may be killed before it even begins.
But you can help. There's time scheduled for public comment at the beginning of a Thursday, May 10 meeting. The proceedings start at 5 p.m. at the Taylor Ranch Community Center.
If you care about the physical and creative health of Albuquerque's youth, you've got to be there. Show up a half hour early to Thursday's meeting and sign up to make a statement. Take pro-youth signs, wear supportive T-shirts. You've got to let these people know that the teen arts center is important.
Some issues the councilors are wary of is the space's Downtown location and that the funding source (Public Safety tax dollars) is inappropriate for for this type of project.
If I were you, I'd point out the obvious.
The facility is a historic building on a quiet, tree-lined street, several blocks away from the bar district and buffered by the rail yard, hotels, Civic Plaza, banks and city buildings. Its nearest neighbors are the YDI headquarters (inside the Wool Warehouse theater) and The Cell Theatre. The area is poised to become Albuquerque’s youth arts district.
As for taking Public Safety money to fund the center? That's a no-brainer, too. Youth-run arts programs are mightily effective at keeping kids out of trouble. It builds transferable skills like goal setting, analytical thinking, negotiation, cooperation and conflict resolution. It instills personal responsibility (something many of our elected officials could stand to learn about). It shields kids from negative influences like drugs and gangs. It gives them tools and positive options, and that's the bedrock of public safety.
Certainly, the mayor's pet project is, in part, damage control for threatening to shut down all-ages shows over the years (the stink has yet to fade completely). But ultimately, this center is about the kids. Don't let their creative lives die in a basement boardroom, suffocated by indifference and bureaucracy.