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Monday, October 29, 2012

A Dumb, Sad Cut: The Laying Off of Cheryl dos Remedios

Posted by on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM

In a field of bureaucrats, Cheryl dos Remedios is an inspiration.

She spearheaded the restoration of Herbert Bayer's modernist Earthworks park in Kent. She invented an NEA-funded bike tour of the truly great land art in South King County. She created an open competition and exhibition for artist-designed low-impact vehicles. She brought in Reel Grrls to make a film with Kent teenagers who are going hungry as the levels of poverty in South King County rise (below). She speaks out when an issue is important, rather than remaining safely silent.

"Cheryl's a very passionate person," says her boss, Ronda Billerbeck, Kent cultural programs manager. Dos Remedios has worked for Billerbeck at Kent for six years. "She really believes in the work that she does, so that makes her really effective at it."

But as of Thursday and through no fault of her own, dos Remedios is being laid off and her position is being cut. Facing a budget shortfall of $2 million, Kent's mayor has decided that Dos Remedios and her job have to go.

It's a weird decision in part because Kent needs a public-art manager more than other cities whose programs are funded by construction budgets (like Seattle's, Tacoma's, and most cities, actually). Kent's public art program is a flat $2 per capita fee. The money is not susceptible to economic crashes that bring construction to a halt. Because the gargantuan planning task of working with a major capital project isn't involved in Kent's commissioning of new works, it's easier to remain nimble and responsive to changing conditions in the culture—which is what dos Remedios did in responding to the increasing hunger problem.

Cuts undoubtedly have to happen. But they should be smart cuts. This is a dumb, sad cut.

There are four FTEs in Kent's arts department, says Mark Gerth, executive director of the Washington Arts Alliance. Nobody—me included—wants to advocate for somebody else to be cut. But "I have no idea why this position was targeted," Gerth says. It does feel senseless.

The November 1 layoff date is the final decision of the mayor and can't be changed. Dos Remedios will have to clean out her desk this week. But Gerth and others are advocating the Kent City Council for the position—and dos Remedios—to be reinstated in 2013.

I really hope it's something Kent's City Council will take into consideration. Dos Remedios's salary is about $70,000, Billerbeck says. It's not going to fill a $2 million hole.


Comments (11) RSS

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This is so sad. Cheryl is fantastic and has great ideas. Kent needs her and the kind of programming she implements. The people of Kent will definitely feel her absence.
Posted by susan robb on October 29, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
Cheryl is incredible and passionate and effective. Kent needs the support she provides those citizens, especially their youth.
Posted by Sara Edwards on October 29, 2012 at 11:58 AM · Report this
Cheryl's work was putting Kent on the map as somewhere other than a series of strip malls and office parks connected by fast food restaurants. This is a bad move.
Posted by Hammock on October 29, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
I've worked with Cheryl on a number of projects over the years, and have been a participant of her public works projects, like the city of kent bike tour of the Earthworks project. The bike tour introduced us to a vibrant small-town downtown full of shops, restaurants and events ... Didn't ever think of kent as a place to shop and spend time. But after the ride, we went back and had breakfast at a really cool cafe, then went to a public market and bought flowers, veggies and fruits. Overall we spent more than $100 that morning in kent on services that were provided by local businesses. Speaking unbiasedly, it's a damned shame that kent is losing Cheryl; it's pretty clear her insightful blending of art and public access bring profit to the city, community.
Posted by Brad in Seattle on October 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
@3-- I was just in Downtwon Kent for the first time in a long time and echo your sentiment.

Kent downtown may still be struggling, but what I saw was a struggling city with a core and public works, not the suburban wasteland many Seattleites would have you believe.
Posted by gi on October 29, 2012 at 2:07 PM · Report this

I was in downtown Kent yesterday, after completing a nice bike ride on the newly re-opened Green River Trail, sipping some delicious Pinot Grigio accompanied by a big bowl of French onion soup at Red's Wine Bar.

What I saw and see every day was a vibrant, busy center in a vital shopping, educational and recreation area well serviced by transit.

I voted for the additional property tax mandate in Kent because I believe that many people do good things within our local Government. However, I am also dismayed by the recent announcement that the Kent Events Center is losing more than half a million dollars this year.

I would am all for fair real estate and asset taxation as a panacea for local revenue problems. At the same time, I want to see our very high sales tax cut in half to 5% and make that money taxable by local political entities.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 29, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this

I agree...the Kent Earthworks Bicycle project was a fantastic meld of commerce and culture. Exactly the sort of thing that I as a member of the Kent Bicycle Advisory Board see as bringing value to the real estate in the town. I bet for every dollar of her salary spent, it could bring in $100 in publicity and enhancement to the Kent "brand".
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 29, 2012 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Cheryl has this amazing ability to bring people together who normally wouldn't work together (Human Service providers & Reel Grrls, bicycle club with land art, etc) and make it seem like it was always happening that way. She doesn't stand in the front and lead, but has the smarts, vision, talent and experience to lead diverse opinions and skills sets to an amazing end. Perhaps her experience as a public artist has helped her to be a great arts administrator. I'm bummed for Kent, for South King County and most of all for Cheryl. BUT I know that which ever organization grabs Cheryl first will be making a wise investment!
Posted by jendh on October 30, 2012 at 8:01 AM · Report this
The Mayor has lost her mind...I'm a council member in Kent and I was blindsided by this...please people, get involved. The Mayor likes to say , "It's your city..." , but her actions do not support it. I AM trying to save this position, Cheryl brings in $$$$$, to the city.
Posted by Elizabeth Albertson on October 30, 2012 at 9:58 AM · Report this
Whoever made this decision has made a terrible mistake! Of all the art managers I've dealt with over the years, Cheryl is, by far, the most capable and well-organized. It's always been a pleasure to show my artwork at the City of Kent because I know it will be well-run, thanks to Cheryl. Kent has evolved into an artistic force of excellent public art, you can feel it and see it everywhere; and removing one of the driving architects of Kent's forward-thinking culture makes no sense.
Posted by concerned artist on October 30, 2012 at 11:02 AM · Report this
yucca flower 11
Isn't the high school drop out rate in Kent something like 25% or thereabouts? Bribe the hungry teens with food. Offer 2 meals a day at school and grocery store credit for every homework assignment that's done correctly and turned in on time.
Posted by yucca flower on October 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this

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