Anaheim Extends Museum Subsidy for Four Years

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The public records trail left behind by former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle’s administration will soon be gone, but the Muzeo, a centerpiece of Pringle’s downtown revitalization plan, was granted a $1 million lifeline at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The city council approved, without discussion, the destruction certain of Planning Department records more than two years old, a routine practice for cities. The state Public Records Act requires cities to keep records for two years, but after that period most documents are destroyed.

Among the records that will be destroyed are dated subpoenas, Public Records Act requests, reports of investigations and expense files.

The city has not yet responded to a Voice of OC Public Records Act request to view those records now slated for destruction.

The council voted 4-1, with Mayor Tom Tait dissenting, to give the city’s downtown art museum an additional $250,000 grant per year until 2019.

The Muzeo opened in 2007 with a $1 million line of credit available through the city’s general fund, and has continued to receive smaller amounts from the city of Anaheim each subsequent year, according to Community Services Director Terry Lowe. The past four years, it received a $200,000 line of credit.

It is not uncommon for cities to subsidize local museums. In addition to the subsidy, the Muzeo operates rent-free on city property. Still, the museum operates on a modest margin; its total assets were $131,531 at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to tax documents. The seven-year-old museum has never been audited.

Tait said his opposition to the subsidy stems from the Muzeo’s declining attendance.

“The Muzeo is in trouble. The bottom line is — the last several years, there has been very little attendance,” Tait said. “If a lot of people were going, it wouldn’t be a problem, but 10, maybe it’s 20 [people] a day — it’s a pretty large subsidy per person.”

Other council members defended the museum as an important investment in arts and culture for local residents.

“I think it’s important that you don’t judge the arts by their profitability,” said councilwoman Kris Murray, who is a former Muzeo board member, noting that admission is free for Anaheim high school students. “At a time when arts education is on the decline at our schools…it’s something you just can’t put a price tag on.”

Tait suggested the council shorten the term of the agreement to one year and return at a later date to review the museum’s finances, but the motion failed with no support from the rest of the council.

Councilmember Lucille Kring, who currently sits on the Muzeo board, admitted the subsidy “is a little pricey” but expressed confidence in the fundraising abilities of the museum’s board and brand new director, Dan Finley. She said one year was not enough time for the museum to get up on its feet.

“When you’re dealing with the arts and creativity you need more time to get what you want…it’s emotional, it’s feelings, it’s heart space, so I think it takes more time to get that off the ground,” Kring said.

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