Mariachi Cascabel could get boost from RDA if ruling allows

April 18, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The blast of trumpets, the twang of guitars and the vibrato of violins filled the chambers of Calexico City Hall when 11 mini-mariachis serenaded the City Council, closing the council's Tuesday meeting with a traditional "aiii-yaiii-yaiii" and an instrumental flourish.

The mariachis, ranging in age from 4-14, came to the meeting to ask the council, seated as the city Redevelopment Agency board, to help send Mariachi Cascabel to Europe for a music festival.

In addition to hearing the mariachis' request, the board voted to spend $500,000 of RDA money to finish most of Nosotros Park and, seated as the City Council, nominated a seventh commissioner to the fractious Calexico Housing Authority board.

Before listening to the mariachis' version of "Son de la Negra," which closed the meeting, the board voted unanimously to allocate $5,000 toward their European trip, depending on the legality of the action.


City Attorney Michael Rood said the group would have to provide an economic benefit to the city if it were to be given RDA money.

Mayor Victor Carrillo said sending the mariachis to Europe as emissaries of Calexico would bolster tourism for the city.

Rood said a legal opinion, specifically related to RDA allocation, would be handed to the council next week.

If lawyers can find precedent for such an allocation, the mariachi will get a much-needed boost in its fund-raising, according to the founder of Mariachi Cascabel, Lillian Contreras of Calexico.

She said her group has been performing and working at swap meets to earn cash for the trip.

The non-profit youth musical group, Cascabel Mariachi y Folklor Infantil, has been performing for three years at festivals in places including San Diego and Mexicali.

Contreras said the group was invited to the II World Young Festival, in Austria and Italy from July 2 to 17 after it performed at a Mexicali festival.

When, or if, the mariachi returns from Europe, Nosotros Park on the southwest side of Calexico near the New River could be nearing completion because the board voted to spend $500,000 on the park instead of waiting for state money.

When asked by the council if the park would be finished by the end of the summer, Juan Verdugo, city director of economic and community development, motioned yes with a nod.

Councilman Javier Alatorre asked City Manager Richard Inman if an RDA allocation would jeopardize the possibility of the city receiving state funding to finish the park.

Inman said, "That is what I have been told."

However, he stressed it was the recommendation of city staff to act urgently and finish the park instead of waiting for state funds that might not come because of the state's energy crisis.

"We've have to make sure we don't end up with a half-finished park that would become a target for vandalism," Inman said.

The $500,000 work estimate given to the city by DEZ Construction of El Cajon included grass and tree landscaping, a 12-foot wide crushed gravel running track with redwood trim, basketball courts and a children's play area.

Not included in the estimate was the construction costs of restrooms and a large wall on the north end of the park that had been planned.

While the $500,000 will provide money to run sewer and water lines to the park, there will be no restrooms unless more money is set aside.

Earlier in the meeting, seated as the City Council, Mayor Victor Carrillo nominated Irene Huesomora to the Housing Authority board.

Carrillo, along with councilmen John Renison and Frank Montoya, sat in at last week's regular Housing Authority meeting.

Maria Teresa Gasca, president of the Housing Authority Resident Council, said the presence of the council members helped to "calm down" authority board chairman John Romo.

Renison said he hopes the addition of Huesomora can bring harmony to the board, which he compared to the oft-arguing Calexico city councils of the 1980s.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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