Proposed Oakland budget includes eliminating contribution to Chabot Space & Science Center

by Eric on February 13, 2010

According to a email sent by the Alex Zwissler, Executive Director/CEO of the Chabot Space & Science Center to members of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society, a proposed City of Oakland FY 2010-11 budget will include drastic cuts in the City’s contribution to the Chabot. In the proposed budget document, the budget cuts, designed to eliminate a $32M shortfall would include the elimination or significant reduction of yearly contributions to a number of social and cultural programs along with the Chabot, programs like the Oakland Zoo, the Symphony in the Schools program, and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

In the case of the Chabot, the proposed budget will zero out the City’s contribution of nearly $500,000:

On Tuesday, February 16th, a Special Concurrent Meeting of the
Oakland Redevelopment Agency/City Council will take place to
recommend measures to balance the city of Oakland 2009-2010 budget and to recommend cuts for the 2010-2011 fiscal year that will be considered by the Council in the spring.

The proposal from the Office of the City Administrator for the 2010–2011 budget recommends eliminating 100% of the current funding for Chabot Space & Science Center. This proposal will decrease our allocation in 2009-2010 of $480,000 to a 2010-2011 allocation of $0.

The elimination of the City of Oakland contribution, a $300,000 subsidy and an additional $180,000 grant, looks to be a massive cutback, but would not cause the shutdown of the museum, which sees 150,000 visitors annually. According to a strategic plan document available at the Chabot website, the loss would represent about 5% of the Chabot’s total yearly revenue of $9.9M and a little over 7% of the $6.6M in grants received annually. However, since most non-profits operate will little budgetary maneuvering room, a cut of even 5% could force reductions in programs, staff, and even hours of operation.

We appreciate the difficult choices the city currently faces, and
over the last couple of years we have withstood these increasing
city funding cuts by making our own significant cuts to our staff
and programs, while working diligently to increase our other sources of funding – not an easy task in these challenging economic times.

We are fully prepared to share the burden…however, we must be able to maintain our services to the community and to the 50,000+ students we serve each year. Chabot is partially owned and administered by the City under a Joint Powers Agency Agreement, so Completely eliminating Chabot from the city budget is untenable.

We need your help in sending a message to city officials that this elimination of any funding to Chabot will result in the Center
having to cut services and programs we consider to be critical in
achieving our mission to the community.

The email includes a call to action to contact the following city officials.

City Administrator Dan Lindheim:

Mayor of Oakland Ron Dellums:

Oakland City Council

If you want to contact the City on behalf of the Chabot, Zwissler requests you cc: him at:

Alex Zwissler, (Chabot CEO): c/o

An emergency City Council meeting to adopt an amended budget for FY2009-10 is scheduled for February 16th, at 5pm. The agenda for the meeting is posted online, and includes Open Forum time for making public comment. A formal proposal of the FY2010-11 budget is set for later in May.

There is no question the Chabot Space & Science Center provides a significant resource to this community. Its telescopes are open to the public many nights of the year, and its educational programs reach 50,000 Bay Area children each year. Over 2,000 K-12 teachers receive science training annually, and over 150,000 yearly visitors, many of them adults, experience the wonders of space through their exhibitions, special programs, lectures, and classes.

I would encourage you to consider becoming a member of the Chabot Space & Science Center, and to make a donation.

I’m sure that the email from the Chabot was not to create a competion among various City-funded agencies for these scarce resources, but I do want to include a list of additional cultural programs that are on the list of proposed reductions:

  • Vietnamese Senior Services %100 reduction
  • Cypress-Mandela Training Center %100 reduction
  • Hacienda Peralta %100 reduction
  • Oakland Asian Cultural Center %100 reduction
  • School of the Arts %100 reduction
  • Symphony in the Schools Program %100 reduction
  • Women’s Business Initiative %100 reduction
  • Day Laborer Program %100 reduction
  • Art Grants %50 reduction
  • Zoo Subsidy %25 reduction
  • Jack London Square Aquatic Center Project %100 reduction
  • Human Services – Academies Program %100 reduction

I’m sure these are all worthy programs, and the loss of any of them would be to the detriment of a city that needs to protect and nurture the cultural health of its adults and children, especially when times are tough.

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