Cultural Arts Commission Chairman Tim Vetang addressed City Council Committee of the Whole members Monday, saying he was there to inform aldermen and ask if they had any objection to the creation of a fundraising group. The CAC is a citizen subcommittee appointed by the mayor with the City Council’s blessing.
“We don’t have to have your approval, but we wanted to make sure you didn’t have any problem with this action going forward,” Vetang said.
First Ward Alderman Chuck Brown asked for clarification on the function and relationship of the three entities: the City Council, the CAC and the foundation. There is, for example, a Geneva Library Foundation, whose function is to raise funds that it can then donate to the library.
The difference with the city’s case, however, is that the CAC exists as what Brown called an “intermediary” between the City Council and the 501c3 fundraising board.
“I think the question is, 'Why do we need a Cultural Arts Commission?' " Brown said.
Vetang said that, in other communities, there is a full-time staff member whose job is to act as liaison with the 501c3 foundation. In Geneva’s case, the volunteer group serves a similar function.
“In some ways, we’re unpaid staff,” Vetang said.
Some aldermen expressed concern that the foundation—because it has different board members and is an independent entity—might stray from the mission or have goals different than the CAC.
"It’s the same thing with the library,” 2nd Ward Alderman Don Cummings said. “In a worst-case scenario, the board goes out on its own, and sometimes you wonder if the tail’s wagging the dog. But I still think a 501c3 is a good thing.”
One of the advantages is that a foundation can write grants and accept donations, such as an endowment or gift through estate planning, Vetang said. The foundation then can make a purchase and donate items to the city.
The CAC has been talking for some time about the possibility of buying a building that would serve as a cultural arts center. A communitywide poll, collected in a year ago, indicated that citizens weren’t willing to support such a purchase with tax dollars.
City Administrator Mary McKittrick explained that the CAC and foundation would be entirely separate entities but most likely would work in tandem to achieve specific goals.
“The connection would be in the bylaws,” she said, “which could be used for (the purchase of) a public arts facility or public art.”