Part of Defeated Arts Measure : Thousand Oaks Rejects Vote on School Theaters

Times Staff Writer

Citing the lack of a public mandate, the Thousand Oaks City Council has rejected a bid to again query voters about building performing arts facilities, this time for three high school theaters.

The 3-2 vote against offering a ballot measure on the theaters appears to end further consideration of building plans for the arts this year. The vote came early Wednesday morning, just two weeks after city voters defeated a ballot measure calling for the high school theaters and a regional cultural center.

"Once the people have spoken, I didn't feel it was necessary to go back to any portion of it," Councilman Lawrence E. Horner said. He was joined in the vote against the new measure by Councilwoman Madge Schaefer and Councilman Frank Schillo.

"I think there needs to be a cooling-off period," remarked Mayor Alex T. Fiore, who backed the original arts plan. He and Councilman Lee Laxdal voted Wednesday to put the smaller proposal before voters.

Arts Measure Rejected

Thousand Oaks residents rejected Measure C on June 3 with a 54% "no" vote. The measure asked voters whether the city should use an estimated $22.3 million in city redevelopment funds for a complex of two theaters, an art gallery and an amphitheater, as well as contributing toward building three 400-seat high school theaters.

Like Measure C, the question rejected Wednesday called for the $4.35-million cost of the high school theaters to be covered by $2.85 million in city funds--$2.35 million from property tax revenue captured by the redevelopment agency and $500,000 in general funds--and $1.5 million from the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

'Need Is still There'

School officials have long insisted that the district lacks the resources to build theaters at Conejo Valley, Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks high schools. (The district's other high school, Westlake, has an auditorium.)

The school board has also complained that student education in the performing arts has suffered, and has drawn comparisons to less affluent areas that still have managed to pay for large student auditoriums.

"Our need is still there, and we'll keep trying for those funds," vowed Ellyn Wilkins, president of the school board. "I think it's a totally responsible use of redevelopment funds."

Wilkins, noting council support for financing community centers for teen-agers and senior citizens without first seeking approval at the ballot box, said the council should direct the redevelopment agency to fund the theaters without another public vote.

But the council also voted 3 to 2 against even holding hearings on whether to give money directly to the school district.

During the Measure C campaign, leading opponents of the arts complex plan endorsed peeling away the high school facilities from the rest of the plan and putting the scaled-down version before voters.

Last week, Laxdal, a vigorous supporter of the original arts project, proposed putting the high school theaters before voters in November. He argued that voters would favor the cheaper plan to assist the schools.

Political Dividends Cited

The linking of high school theaters to a far more expensive arts complex had been seen originally as producing political dividends for backers of both parts of the package. Measure C would collect the votes of parents of school-age children, increasing the prospects of getting both a cultural center and the high school projects, proponents believed.

But support for the schools facilities sagged under the weight of opposition to the more grandiose proposal, some council members asserted Wednesday.

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