Vice Mayor Scott on Restructuring Benicia’s Boards and Commissions: ‘The Arts and Economic Development Can Thrive Together’

Benicia Vice Mayor Terry Scott

By Benicia Vice Mayor Terry Scott, received July 8, 2024

Note: A number of these points have been made on the record, noted during the 6/25 City Council discussion on this subject.

I am opposed to the proposed consolidation of the Arts and Culture Commission (ACC), Human Services Board (HSB), and the Parks, Recreation, and Cemetery Commissions into a single entity.

This plan, while well-intentioned in its aim to reduce monthly staff support, fails to recognize the unique and vital contributions each commission makes to our community.

The HSB’s mission as a granting organization is to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable among us. Its specialized focus on social services cannot be overstated, as it ensures that those in need and receive the targeted support they require.

The ACC, with its dual mission of creating and supporting public art initiatives and creating and supporting cultural events, enriches our community’s cultural landscape.

From Shakespeare in the Park to supporting local arts organizations like the Benicia Ballet and the Old Town Theatre, the ACC’s role is multifaceted and requires dedicated oversight.

The Voena choir rehearsing at First Baptist church in Benicia, Calif., in 2012.| Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle.

In addition, ACC also manages on-going grantor programs for Arts Benicia, VOENA,  Benicia Performing Arts Foundation, Makers Space and Benicia Literary Arts .

Combining these groups, along with Parks, Rec and Cemeteries  into one large committee dilutes their individual effectiveness and undermines their ability to serve the distinct needs of our community.

A newly comprised seven-member committee cannot possibly manage the diverse needs, budgets, and intricacies of the grantor process that these individual commissions oversee.

Furthermore, the suggestion does not directly address the needs of our aging population. As we have seen in the Parks Master plan and witnessed on our streets, Benicia is aging.

To meet the challenges this demographic shift presents, we need a dedicated City Commission on Aging, not a mere mention in a consolidated group’s mission.

If staff reduction is the goal, let us find ways to support and enhance the work of these commissions, which play an irreplaceable role in the fabric of our community. 

But if we cannot continue to maintain independent stand alone commissions due to the need to reduce staff involvement, we must look at new opportunities for staff time reduction.

 I offer the following thoughts on how to potentially accomplish the task by matching Benicia commissions to need based on similar visions.

“Terry Scott Supports the Arts.” | Uncredited image.

Combining the Arts and Culture Commission with Economic Development Board  can create a more cohesive strategy for driving both cultural and economic growth. This approach aligns with the concept of creative placemaking where arts and culture are integrated into community development to enhance the quality or and economic prosperity. 

For example, as ACC Chair Neema Hekmat has noted, the National Endowment for the Arts has highlighted how  arts can be a powerful tool for community transformation and economic development. 

Similarly, merging the Human Services Board with the Family Resource Center could streamline services and provide a more robust support system for disadvantaged groups.  Our Family Resource Center serves as a hub for various support services that is a  match with HSB’s mission of addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.

This integration can lead to more efficient use of resources and better outcomes for the community and possibly avoid redundant staffing needs. 

Combining HSB with FRC, and then ACC with EDB, could help  keep these functions separate but integrated into two existing commissions, which seems practical and focused on leveraging the strengths of each area. It ensures that arts and economic development can thrive together, while human services and family resources support can provide a comprehensive safety net.

How do you envision the implementation of these changes? Are there specific steps or strategies you think would be crucial for a smooth transition? 

Merging the Arts and Culture Commission with the Economic Development Board could potentially offer several benefits:

  1. Streamlined Processes: Combining the commissions could lead to more efficient operations by reducing redundancy and improving coordination between the financial impact of arts, culture, and city long term initiatives and economic development.
  2. Enhanced Grant Opportunities: A unified commission might have a stronger position when applying for grants, as it could present a more comprehensive approach to community development that includes both economic and cultural growth.
  3. Business Orientation: The merger could foster a closer relationship between the arts community and local businesses, potentially leading to more opportunities for economic partnerships and sponsorships. The ACC has shown its financial impact on Benicia.
  4. Integration: Combining of two economic focused commission engines could  support more effective marketing and calendar tools and all designed to create a destination for visitors

Similar to merging the ACC and EDB, there are many benefits to merging the Human Services Board with the Family Resource Center:

  1. Integrated Services: A merger could lead to a more holistic approach to service delivery ensuring that individuals and families receive coordinated support tailored to their comprehensive needs.
  2. Efficiency: By pooling resources and expertise, the combined entity could operate more efficiently, reducing duplication of efforts and streamlining administrative processes.
  3. Enhanced Support: The merger could strengthen the support network for marginalized groupps by providing a single point of access to a wider range of services.
  4. Community Outreach: A unified organization might have a greater capacity for outreach and advocacy, raising awareness of available services and potentially reaching a broader segment of the community need.
  5. Big Vision: Could CAC, HSB and FRC be combined into one unit? It’s important to note that the unique staffing, overall needs and contributions of creating a safety net for our most needy and disadvantaged residents might be possible by combining the Human Services Board, Family Resource Center, and Benicia Housing Authority.

There is still time to get involved:

Attend a special commission meeting tonight, on Monday, July 8, 2024, at 5:30pm, where the commission will be ideating concepts for a new structure. More information can be found here: