Say the magic words in City Council Chambers and almost everyone goes instantly gaga.
For some time, the magic words have been “world-class.”
The phrase is pure hype, ubiquitous, meaningless, but it’s the Council’s mantra and it was endlessly invoked at last week’s Council meeting.
The subject was the possibility of locating a proposed Broad Museum in Santa Monica’s Civic Center.
Apparently, Eli and Edythe Broad have also approached Beverly Hills and at least one other city, in addition to Santa Monica.
The staff report on Broads’ “conceptual proposal” to establish a public museum was riddled with “world class” thises, thats mad the others.
The mood in the chamber was downright euphoric, as speaker after speaker—artists, educators and business people — all raved rhapsodically about the prospect of a “world class” museum in our midst, the Broad Foundations’ “world class” collection of contemporary art, the unnamed “world class” architect who would design the “world class” structure that would house the art, and so on. Council members continued and embroidered on the “world class” theme.
It was a veritable orgy of wishful thinking.
Council member Bobby Shriver asked a series of reasonable questions that seemed to irritate his colleagues, perhaps because he was unwilling to accept the wholesale and instant assumption of “world class.” He also noted that the City’s participation, as limned by the Broads, was substantial.
The Broad Foundations would own the museum and its contents in perpetuity. An endowment would be set up to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the museum.
For its part, the City would be expected to accelerate the permit, review, Environmental Impact Report, and other requisite documents and pay for them, pay a nominal portion of the construction costs – perhaps $1 million, pay for and maintain the landscaping of the museum premises, provide parking for the museum patrons and staff, “possibly” buy the building on Barnard Way that currently houses the foundation for
$7 million, and award a very long lease at a very nominal rate on about two and a half acres of land that’s worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” in Shriver’s words.”
Shriver’s suggestion that, given the size and scope of the proposal, the Council appoint two members to serve with City Manager Ewell on negotiations was rebuffed.
But, given the size and scope of the
proposal, the City had better find some means of accurately assessing the value –intrinsic as well as extrinsic — of the Broads’ collection.
“World class” just won’t do it.