Thursday, January 12, 2012

Expanding Community Access at the Silver Spring Civic Building - Statement of Alan Bowser, President, Silver Spring Town Center, January 12, 2011

Statement of Alan Bowser
Silver Spring Town Center, Inc.
County Executive’s Budget Forum
Silver Spring Civic Building
January 12, 2012

Thank you for the opportunity to present our testimony this evening on the County’s FY13 budget.

My name is Alan Bowser. I am President of the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc., a community-based 501c3 non-profit organization that was created to facilitate community access and provide arts & entertainment programming in this building and on Veterans Plaza. I am proud to represent our distinguished Board of Directors who has been working hard for years to promote Silver Spring, our local cultures, and grow this important community resource. I am very pleased to present to you tonight our new Executive Director, Lisa Martin, who manages SSTCi’s day-to-day operations.

2011 was a great year for the Silver Spring and the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. In addition to producing our 3rd Annual Silver Spring Blues Festival and a very successful Veterans Tribute Concert (which benefited two important Montgomery County non-profit organizations), we inaugurated the popular Plaza Performances series with over 7o acts, started a monthly SSTCi Arts Salon, and expanded our cooperation with the local businesses, the Fenton Street Market, the Office of Community Engagement, the Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs, and the Office of Community Use of Public Facilities. Importantly, we also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Montgomery County to help provide exciting community-based programming for the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

When SSTCi was created, its founders had a vision of the new Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza being the community’s new “living room,” following the demolition of the historic Armory.

The founders envisioned a public space that would be used everyday by our neighbors for community meetings, performances, ceremonies, and other purposes. SSTCi is working hard to make their vision a reality.

We hope that, in your new budget, you will do several things to benefit our Silver Spring neighbors, and the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza

First, we ask that the community’s access to the Building be expanded. We would like to see the Building stay open longer in the evenings—it currently closes at 6 pm. Expanding the hours of operation would allow more community groups to use their public space. And, presently, many members of the community who work during the day cannot take advantage of this beautiful facility in the evenings without paying special fees to Montgomery County.

Similarly, we believe that the facility should be more accessible to the community on weekends. Community groups and people who work should be able to take advantage of this public building—its gallery, atrium and meeting rooms—on Saturdays and Sundays, without paying special fees. We also believe that there should be access to the restrooms for visitors to the Plaza on weekends.

Second, we would like for Montgomery County to consider lowering the rental fees, generally, and eliminating the ancillary fees that residents need to pay to use space in the evening hours. If the building was regularly open during the evenings to 9 pm on weekdays, there would be no need to charge special fees for security and housekeeping. We’ve received comments that these fees are cost-prohibitive to some smaller community organizations who would like to meet in the Civic Building in the evening.

Third, we would like to see a substantial increase in the County’s target for community programming at the Silver Spring Civic Building. Currently, at twenty percent, we would like to see a much higher target for community use.

Finally, a few years ago, the Executive’s office recommended that SSTCi be supported through a significant one-year grant that would help us with staffing, programming and development work. While that grant, at that time, was not supported by County Council staff and not made, we hope that you would consider a similar budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. At a minimum, we hope that you will include some funds in the budget that will help the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. to continue to provide community-based arts & entertainment on Veterans Plaza and in the Civic Building. We have important work to do and we request this promised support from the County.

All of these things would help us to realize the promises made to the Silver Spring community during this period of revitalization.

Thank you for the opportunity to present our views about the FY13 Montgomery County Budget.

No comments: