This Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Santa Rosa City Council will hear a recommendation from city staff to terminate Santa Rosa's contract with the Community Media Center, aka CMedia, and immediately dissolve the local organization.
As a lifelong citizen of Santa Rosa and a contributor to various CMedia film and TV projects, I believe this organization is an indispensable community asset for arts, education and documentation of local government meetings. Moreover, I believe that independent media outlets are a vital pillar of our freedom of speech, and to dissolve a local public access organization that has been serving Santa Rosa for the last 20 years would be a terrible loss.
In early November, the CMedia board fired its executive director based on the discovery of what they perceived to be inappropriate activity on CMedia's financial account. Three weeks later, city auditors discovered that a total of $330,000 in city funds were missing and questioned numerous meal and bar tabs charged to the nonprofit's credit card by its former executive director Daedalus Howell (an occasional contributor to the Bohemian). This apparently led city staff to recommend shutting the organization down.
Whatever the full story, I think that instantly pulling the plug on our media center after alleged financial activities of its former director would be an unfortunate decision. You don't shut down an arts program because of management problems. How would you justify shutting down CMedia to its producers, who rely on its resources to practice their craft? To the board members who have been fighting to run the organization transparently? And to the staff who will all lose their jobs, and in the midst of the holidays?
If the city council decides to eliminate CMedia at its Dec. 6 meeting, the voices of the people who utilize the center will be silenced and the facility will be vacant Dec 7. One day's notice. Given the boot. After 20 years.
I believe that Santa Rosa should firmly reject this proposal and keep the media center alive, and I encourage everyone to write letters to firstname.lastname@example.org and attend Tuesday's city council meeting.
Jake Ward is a Santa Rosa music and arts promoter and founder of North Bay Caberet.
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