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City leaders mourn:

To the editor: The Mayor, City Council and I join the community in mourning the death of a fine young man on February 28. Eddie Lopez, a popular student athlete at Samohi, was killed by gang violence while innocently going about his business with friends in the Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica last Tuesday night. Our hearts go out to the Lopez family. This tragedy strengthens our resolve to continue efforts already underway in the areas of jobs, neighborhood appearance, community programs, public safety and neighborhood involvement. But holding a job fair, wiping out graffiti, creating programs for older youth, increasing police presence and better communication among neighbors—while all vitally important—cannot do the job alone.To stop the loss of innocent young lives and to have a meaningful and lasting impact on gang violence within our city limits, we must focus regionally with police departments and other agencies and officials outside our borders. We will be working with Senator Sheila Kuehl and her staff on regional approaches to address gang violence, beginning with the dialog on March 18 at John Adams Middle School. We encourage community members to attend. The forum begins at 10 a.m. In honoring Eddie Lopez and all others whose lives have been taken from us, the City Council remains committed to doing its part, and we as a community and as individuals must remain vigilant in our efforts as well. P. Lamont EwellCity ManagerHow long?To the Editor (and the community): How long are we to accept the deaths of children? Enough hand-wringing. Gangs are criminal organizations; arrest every member of the gang responsible for the death of Eddie Lopez and charge each and every one of them with conspiracy to commit murder and as accessories to the murder under RICO statutes.No one has a constitutionally-protected right to be a member of gang that participates in criminal activity. Eddie Lopez had a constitutionally-protected right to a full life and the promise of his future. The community has a constitutionally-protected right to be free of these homicidal vermin.Rick GatesSanta MonucaFavors cultural planTo the editor: As an artist, arts educator, and current Chair of the Santa Monica Arts Commission, I am always pleased to see coverage of the arts by local and national media. On the same day that I read your editorial in the Santa Monica Mirror deriding the appointment of a Cultural Planner by our City Council, I received a message from The Arts Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit membership organization created by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. The subject line for the message read “No Arts Equals No Community,” a sentiment I share. The Fund provides the following facts on its web site:”Despite the strong public support that we know exists for the arts in this country, funding for the arts and arts education has been declining.“Over the past two years, 40 percent of funding for state arts agencies has been cut. Several states have practically eliminated arts funding altogether, and the market share of private donations dedicated to the arts has dropped by more than 40 percent in the last decade. In 1992, the arts received 8.4 percent of all charitable giving. By 2003, that share had dropped to 5.4 percent. If the arts had maintained their 8.4 percent share of total giving in 2003, they would have received $20 billion instead of $13 billion in support—that’s a $7 billion difference.”The City of Santa Monica should be lauded for its continued support of the arts in these times, and for its continued attempts to respond to the interests of our citizens in allotting arts dollars. (Councilman Kevin McKeown is a particularly strong advocate on behalf of the arts.) You write “Even in so-called ‘schools’ of art, i.e. impressionism, or theater or dance companies, there may be collaboration, but the play or the dance begins as one person’s vision.” While I agree with this observation, I know that it takes a complex and costly series of opportunities and circumstances to bring a painting to a gallery or museum (let alone to art historical record) or a play or dance to a public audience. The Cultural Plan will, among other things, identify opportunities for future growth in our art scene. Hopefully there are many that will enable artists to find much-needed studio, exhibition, and performing space locally. Of course, the Cultural Planning process will take into account the cultural activities that currently exist here and in Los Angeles. I encourage you and all your readers to take part in the upcoming planning workshops that will be organized by the very capable Cultural + Planning Group for our benefit.Phyllis GreenChair,Santa Monica Arts CommissionSupporting the artsTo the editor: I read your editorial ( 2/22/06) in the SM MIRROR and am inclined to agree with you regarding your notion that “culture can not be ordered or imposed.” Yet , I do find your dismissal of the City’s attempts at providing for a “congenial area in which they (the arts) can flourish” somewhat naive.To be sure, artists are their unique selves. They need no community to tell them how to work. What they do need, however, is a safe, affordable and welcoming space to do that work in. Our efforts have been dedicated to finding and providing that for them, to search out hidden sources of income within the community to serve their needs, to scout out unused venues, to save old buildings ever in danger of being destroyed by realtors hungry for more practical and profitable properties. In short, to devise means to assist in their rentals , and to generate the potential revenues that will allow them to pursue creative work in our midst.And, we do need to encourage our government to make such budget available for it. In fact, I was among those “masochists” you refer to, who, as a member of the SM Arts Commission, felt it my duty to arrive at 5:45 PM to sign a chit, and then wait my turn to speak to the purpose that evening. For three hours, I sat on my hands while the legislators sequestered themselves. I listened to endless discussion of surveilance machinery for the Pier and the Promenade, heard pleas for clearing vagrants from people’s yards, and much more. I even noted as the hour grew late, groups having to leave unheard in their efforts to obtain more environmentally -friendly buses in the City, or, in their bids for a local dog park. I too soon found discussion running interminably, and abandoned the quest for the night. As you know, delay lives at the heart of democracy. Nevertheless, progress is made, and by just such continuing effort. And many of us who put time into trying to improve our City’s environment are surprised and pleased with breakthroughs. Again, you are right when you speak of Santa Monica’s public sculpture as bad and good! Mistakes are made. But, who knows, without this kind of input we probably wouldn’t have any public sculpture, on our coastal walks, at our beaches, and in our parks to see . And your objection to our request to seek consulting help also strikes me as wide of the mark. The savvy of such professionals has helped us in the past and certainly, now that business is flourishing and expanding so fast in our community, it can again, with fresh ideas for bringing in revenue and seeing to it that the arts thrive here.I myself have watched Santa Monica develop from a sleepy little retirement town, with not a gallery or sculpture to be seen anywhere near it. Now, it has grown into a dynamic, exciting, environment with all kinds of potential for enjoying quality visual and performing arts. Our City Council’s aim is to persevere, and to do this we must make the attempt with any means at our disposal.Julia Braun KesslerArts Commissioner, City of Santa MonicaEd. Note: As we said in the recent editorial, and have said in many previous editorials, we favor much more financial support of the arts at all levels. What we don’t favor is a “cultural plan.”

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