City Councilman Sean Paige is hosting tonight's meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the center, 1628 W. Bijou St.:

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Travis, please get the word out for people to come to this meeting tonight. Whatever you can do would be appreciated. Send it to all areas ,hopefully people will read the Fresh ink page and show up. This meeting is so important! Thanks jane
So, Jane, Dave, etc... The other 50 or so who showed up..Any comments? It seemed like a major waste of time to me. When no one could answer my question about what needed to be done by day 89 to keep it from closing on day 90, ....they didn't have an amount that needed to be raised, felt like it was all lip service. This was kinda promoted as "the first step in trying to save the place" by the city council member, but think about his sure felt more like "first step in closing the place".

No one talked about the cost of keeping such a building on moth balls, or what it would cost to ever reopen it in the future if it did go to "moth ball storage". All I heard was "we expect you the citizens to solve this", yet without a goal or a trigger point for change of direction.
At the end of the meeting, did citizens or anyone associated with the center make plans for another meeting?
Also, The Gazette story didn't have a lot of details about how the meeting was conducted. Was there quite a bit of back and forth between Paige and audience members?
Travis Duncan said:
At the end of the meeting, did citizens or anyone associated with the center make plans for another meeting?
Also, The Gazette story didn't have a lot of details about how the meeting was conducted. Was there quite a bit of back and forth between Paige and audience members?
Yes I attended the 'Westside Community Center' meeting called by District 3 Councilman Sean Paige. 54 people were there. Yes there was quite a bit of back and forth between Paige and audience members. And I jumped in several times, saying (1) I am not going to open my wallet until and unless I see a complete Excel Spread Sheet on just what it will cost to keep the Center open past the 30 March drop dead date. (2) that I don't see anyone in the Audience from the Organization of Westside Neighbors - which is THE city-recognized and city funded (its "Westside Story" newsletter) citizen representative of the Westside (3) and when Paige mentioned many ways that might be organized to raise the needed money, including seeking Grant Funds, I chimed in that I know of two funding sources but neither will accept grant applications from CITY GOVERNMENT - it has to be from a 501c3 Non-profit tax exempt entity LIKE OWN, which is such.

Then Brian Kates, the dual-hatted (Both Westside and Meadows Park) Center Director stepped in and answered a couple questions. As did Marissa Madrid. who is full time Park and Rec Westside Center person.

'And yes, as Pete Van Vuren says the whole discussion was spongy, no hard targer numbers put out. And yes it was Sean Paige who, libertarian idealist as he is, kept saying that 'citizens' can come up with ways to keep it open by generating 80% of the cost, which the city has spent on it - but no more - rather that just 20% of the cost - which comes in now. And the audience was mostly full of questions, though some suggestions were made like having paid memberships. The only 'group' in the audience that was talking in specifics was the West Agricultural Learning Center - WALC who is looking for gardening 'plot' renters for a portion (the old school playground center)

Other than that nothing tangible came out of the meeting. Paige can babble on, but if I am going to get behind something - as I did for the past 30 years revitalizing Old Colorado City and the Westside, I purse effective action, not talk. The ONE person who spoke up who is a go-getter was Ron Wright - who heads the citizen group trying to save Rockledge Ranch - and who has already raised real money for that task.

The meeting accomplished nothing except to make me mad. So
(1) I told Kates afterward that I, personally, will pay the $300 cost for a FULL PAGE ad in the Westside Pioneer if he gets off his duff and writes it with a clear call to action. (Jordan of the Pioneer was there, and he did a better job than the Gazette (was it actually present?) reporting on the meeting in today's edition that is out.
(2) I then, last night, went to the OWN (Organization of Westside Neighbors) Board Meeting, told them I was ticked off that THEY, who represent the whole westside was not at that meeting. And that I expect THEM to take the Leadership in saving the Westside Community Center. And that they could do a minimum of 4 things

(a) Take the STRONG leadership in the fund raising and westside-informing effort. I was looking directly at Welling Clark (Sally Clark's husband) who is OWN's President. Yea his knee was just painfully operated on, but as an old Navy officer, I expect him to man the bridge.
(b) Use their Westside Story Newsletter, which the City pays for 4 times a year and one issue will be printed next week and mailed into ALL 8,800 westside mailboxes, residential and businesses, to lead the charge. (They had nothing in draft for next weeks newsletter - I think they will now)
(c) Since they ARE a 501c3 they can and SHOULD apply for either an El Pomar or Ackerman Fund Grant to kick in on April 1st to at least fund the center for a 3 months MORE - (which will cost about $72,000 more). By which time the Westside should have been able to generate donations, and get something like Ron Wright has been able to do by getting a MEMBERShip started for Rock Ledge Ranch. (see the FULL PAGE ad in the Westside Pioneer this issue)
(d) Since the City Community Development Department, with its Bloc Grant HUD funds has $511,000 of carry over and 2010 Federal Funds for the Westside that was headed for curbs gutters and such, they should be lobbied directly by OWN and via the Council to REPROGRAM some of those dollars for the Center.

So while I, at 81 and with a new pacemaker just installed last week, and with my commitment to raising the power of the Old Colorado City Historical Society's Web Site so THAT non profit can stay solvent (even if the Pioneer's Museum which always ignored the Westside can't), I am not prepared to lead the whole damned fight to save the Center.

It CAN be saved, but somebody has to step up to the plate beside me. And there is only 2 1/2 months left.
Now where in hades is that spread sheet for 'Plan B' (if the city 90 day budget is Plan A)? I'll have to run down Brian Kates who said he had in on his computer in his office at the center. I want it DISTRIBUTED! None of those low tech types including Paige knew what one can post a Spread Sheet, Excel Compatible on Google!
Dave: I'm trying to contact Brian Kates right now. I'll ask about a spreadsheet. Having a shared document in Google for something like this sounds like a good idea.
I just spoke with Brian Kates, the program director for the Westside Community Center. I'm still cleaning up my typing, but I'll post some of our conversation here as I get it done. Here's part 1:

Me: Tell me a little bit about how the meeting with Sean Paige went. Are things headed in the right direction to keep the center open?

Kates: Going in, if you look at where we were two months ago, it was really dire then. The conversation in that meeting was about which day we’d end programming, which day we’d begin bringing plywood in and which day we’d close the facility and padlock it. We went from that to a meeting like yesterday where, even if it’s a small reason for hope, it may not be the city running centers after March 31, but it appears there’s a swell of interest to at least keep these facilities open. So from that perspective, I thought it was a great meeting and a reason for optimism. Sometimes you have to find the silver lining in these things. My goal and most of my coworkers’ goals, is not about staying on board and staying employed. It’s always been more about ‘let’s keep these buildings open, and after we keep them open, let's try to keep core services to be continually open and find the right fit for that, whether it’s city or some other agency (running it).' The reason I was optimistic from the meeting is that we’ve started to have a conversation on that. You need conversation and you need the visionaries and we had a room full of those. The next part, the harder part, is the application of that. We have about 70 days to do the hard work and heavy lifting and make it a reality.

Me: How’s that work coming?

Kates: Here specific to the west side (there are other community center meetings lead by Sean Paige coming up), we have this community garden (that’s being spearheaded by West Agricultural Learning Center), I have a lot of excitement about because that builds community in and of itself. We need something that people can really wrap their arms around, that they can use that is actually of interest to them personally, to their neighbors and the city. (Folks often think) we’d like to help, but if I give money, will I see that it actually makes a difference? With something like this garden, everything will be able to be seen. It contributes to the greater good. That’s just the kind of project I think we need that is really symbolic. People of all different backgrounds working together provides food for people that don’t have food. It’s a project generated right here on the west side by westsiders. So I’m real excited. It could be a catalyst for putting us in the right direction toward self sustainability.
Kates, part 2

Me: Tell me more about the garden.

Kates: It’s progressing. It’s a slow process. The big challenge is this area is designated still as a school (formerly Buena Vista Elementary) not a community center. To introduce this requires a rezoning. We had another community meeting Monday night where folks with the city were here to get public input about the garden and rezoning. The next hoop is the February 11 Park Board Meeting where members of the Park Board will vote on that. We believe they’ll approve rezoning and reclassification. At that point, we’ll start bringing items in. manure, wood, and everything associated with the garden ... we can’t do that until we get the proper rezoning. So our timeline is to start moving in stuff in February, assuming we get the green light. Then begin operations in March. To be on the timeline for harvest, that’s about the last window you have. If you go too much later, you run the risk of not having adequate crops.

Me: What will you do with the crops once you’re done?

Kates: There’s a lot of vision. Some will go to the farmers market. We have the Billie Spielman Center already here that provides for the homeless, or those with a low income or the uninsured. It will definitely be a part of that to help provide for those folks. We want to put it in the hands of the people who need it the most. It could be used as a profit maker. They want to sell plots. They’re all going to be raised beds. I think they’ll have between 20 to 30 of those (folks can) purchase for the season. At this point, the intent is for that money to go back to community centers, to support the operations. So the garden produces money that way. It produces food that helps the customers serviced by the community centers. It’s going to be a big educational tool. They’ll have classes from preschool all the way up through senior citizens talking about agriculture. And there will be a big artistic element to it in the beautification of the garden.
Kates, part 3

Me: Are there other positive things to come out of the meeting besides the garden?

Kates: The dialog between city council and the public. To understate, it’s a very strained relationship citywide right now. There’s not a lot of trust amongst the voters for the elected officials. To see someone like Mr. Paige take the time to make himself available and not stand on a stump and speak to a group for an hour, but listen for hours, which is really what I think took place, to build the bridge and start the dialog, that’s something really positive that came out of there. In the days following the meeting, that’s what’s resonated with people. Here’s a guy acting as a standup person whose motive really seems firm to do what’s right for the community rather than what’s best for him politically speaking.

Me: What is the next step? Is there a meeting scheduled for citizens to discuss this further?

Kates: In the larger picture, we have three other community meetings. We want to try to generate and develop the same kind of enthusiasm. On the west side, we’re progressing with this garden project, and we’ve had a serious of phone calls and visits from individuals and groups that want to help in myriad ways, whether it’s renting the facility or a service they can provide to benefit the west side. Folks have offered to come in pro bon and to offer everything for free. There’s been some positive buzz that’s come from the meeting. We’re just trying to capitalize on the momentum and not be distracted by all the forces that are against us. Just make this the strongest most complete case we can that we’re worth the investment. That the community needs us and we need them.
Kates, part 4, final

Me: I heard Dave Hughes had requested a spreadsheet of the center’s budget at the meeting. Will that be released to the public?

Kates: Mr. Hughes was not the only one that brought up the fact that before we want to get wholly involved and firmly invested, we want to see the numbers. I have my own basic spreadsheet about daily operations of the center. It’s not within my jurisdiction to decide whether that’s on the city web site for everyone. We have no secretes to hide. I want the people to know, for those who think we might have millions of dollars under the mattress somewhere, that we really don’t. We’re like most nonprofits, it’s very meager funding. We have it allocated pretty much to the penny ... I’d like to do it, so they see if there’s fat to trim; it would help us do our job better. I’m putting it together and seeing what my bosses say and see what lengths we can go with it. If we can post it on or take the emails provided at the meeting and send it to them directly.

Me: Is there a timeline for that?

Kates: It’ll be next week sometime. I’ll say Friday to be safe. And feel free to put the number you just called (385-7924 or as a point of contact. If they have ideas or even criticisms. Anyone who wants to weigh in on the issue. It truly is their facility, it’s not mine. I’m just the steward. They should feel like they have full access to it.
As I predicted I woke up the OWN Board with my appearance Friday evening insisting that OWN jump into the Westside Center issue and take some leadership. Even though the OWN "Westside Story" newsletter was already in camera-ready form to be delivered next week to the Printer, then the Mail Room, for mailout to all 8,800 westside mailboxes by a week from now AND they had not put ANYTHING in it about the Center, either its closing or trying to save it - they took another look. Partly because they contract with Kenyon Jordan, publisher of Westside Pioneer, to do the technical camera-ready makeup of the copy provided by OWN (Shaun Chambers is the OWN VP and pulls together the stories). He was also at the Board Meeting (as he was at the Paige-called meeting the evening before) and said he could recast the front page of the Westside Story if OWN got him the copy quickly. So that is being done.

So at least OWN will be 'informing' westsiders about going's on on the Center issues. Whether they will take the leadership, or let their bank account be used for 'donations' to the cause, or prepare a grant to El Pomar, remains to be seen. But they need to hurry up, whatever they do.



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