This week on Truthdig Radio in association with KPFK: Three Jews talk about Israel. Also: The human error of Typhoon Yolanda, and a rap to save public art.

(Trouble listening? Right-click to download the podcast here.)

Guests, in order of appearance: Alex Montances, Dana Sorman, Max Blumenthal and Larry Gross.

We asked Santa Monica councilmember Kevin McKeown to be on the show and he couldn’t make it, but he did send a statement.

As promised on the show, below is the statement sent by Santa Monica councilmember Kevin McKeown about the landmark “Chain Reaction” sculpture that is endangered.

For whatever reason, the discussion of Chain Reaction has been framed as an issue of whether the City of Santa Monica and the City Councilmembers believe in peace. If I had been on the City Council when Chain Reaction was offered to the City, I certainly would have voted for it. I am the Councilmember who in February 2003 brought a community resolution to the Council opposing the war in Iraq, which was about to start, and ultimately won a 5-2 vote opposing the war. I take the lead on many difficult environmental initiatives, including those affecting oil consumption and climate change, not only for the benefit of we privileged Westsiders, but because I realize that oil, water, and food production are issues around which future wars could be triggered.

Nor is this really a matter of ³art.² I am a strong supporter of the arts in Santa Monica, having championed the preservation of the Bergamot Arts Center, the designation of airport hangars for subsidized artists’ space, and improvement of local laws that create arts funding from development. The City has an Arts Commission, advisory to the Council, which chose in an almost-unanimous vote to deaccession the piece and offer it to others. This was primarily because the maintenance required at this time exceeds the total budget the Arts Commission and Cultural Trust Fund have to maintain their ENTIRE collection. The decision was not a repudiation of Chain Reaction, but a realistic setting of priorities for limited funding.

The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission has given protected status to Chain Reaction, in its location across the street from RAND. Remember, when Chain Reaction was installed, RAND was down Main Street adjacent to the freeway. One of the interesting aspects of granting RAND the permits to build their new headquarters was knowing they would be looking at Chain Reaction every day. I rather enjoyed that.

The current kerfuffle began with a safety inspection. Chain Reaction weighs over five tons, and is inherently top-heavy, being a mushroom cloud. It has been sitting twenty years in coastal weather, and the inspection indicated its fabrication may not have been done with enough of an eye toward long-term durability under such exposure. People may argue over the actual number, but it is clear some money must be spent to make Chain Reaction safe for many years to come.

The City is not advocating that Chain Reaction be torn down, as some have claimed. Last February, when the Council held a well-attended public hearing on Chain Reaction, we promised to take no further action for a full year so the community ‹ and I hope that would include a larger community of those who see Chain Reaction as a peace symbol, not just Santa Monicans ‹ could find the necessary funding and make it possible for Chain Reaction to remain on Main Street, where so many believe it belongs. (The other option, by the way, would not be destruction, but donation.)

That most recent City Council action not only gave supporters an additional year to fund-raise, but allocated $50,000 as a matching grant to help get the fundraising started. That is on top of significant City funding already expended for the examination of the piece and the installation of temporary measures to make it more safe while fundraising work continues.

I would have hoped this would have been embraced as a tremendous opportunity for the peace community to make a real and visible statement, gathering people together across geography and generations to preserve Chain Reaction. The advocates engaged a respected and successful local grant writer, which gave me great hope that by next February the money would be available and the followup City Council hearing would be a Chain Reaction celebration.

Over 5000 people have signed online petitions for Chain Reaction, but I don’t know how many have been solicited to contribute. My understanding is that after most of that year has gone by, only about $30,000 has been raised, not even enough to fully trigger the $50,000 matching grant the City Council has already authorized. I’m sure the Chain Reaction activists are as disappointed by this as I am.

However, at a time when increased cohesiveness of the peace community could make Chain Reaction a symbol of the ongoing vitality of the peace movement, some seem instead to be making some very unpacifist attacks on the City of Santa Monica, apparently abandoning the fundraising efforts in an attempt instead to pressure the City to fund Chain Reaction’s restoration with tax dollars. While that’s a decision the Council might have considered in due time next February, the premature abandonment of Chain Reaction fundraising efforts may send the wrong message about the commitment activists feel to participating in messages of peace. If each of the 5000 people on those petitions had donated $50, we’d already have a quarter million dollars in the Cultural Trust Fund and the preservation of Chain Reaction would be guaranteed, even if it cost a few dollars more.

This won’t come back to the City Council until next February. There is still time. I would say to Chain Reaction supporters, reach out to other peace activists. Put down your brickbats and pull out your checkbooks, if you believe in Chain Reaction.

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