Cupertino Shakespeare in the Park – To Be or Not To Be?

At the April 4, 2023 City Council meeting, Toby Leavitt, Executive Director of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, made the dramatic announcement that Shakespeare in Memorial Park is at risk of being canceled this summer by the Cupertino Parks and Recreation Department. On Thursday March 30, Parks staff let her know that they were experiencing “unexpected financial constraints that were affecting both their staffing levels and their ability to host free Shakespeare in the Park this summer.” Cupertino residents have enjoyed free Shakespeare in Memorial Park every summer since 1995. Leavitt asked for help in finding solutions to retain this program along with the many other beloved Cupertino community summer events. Her plea confirms the grave concerns that resident Peggy Griffin expressed at the City Council meeting on March 21: our City had received no sales tax deposits from the State in February.Resident Rhoda Fry followed Leavitt during Oral Communications and talked about the sales-tax shortfall, “zeroes just don’t happen.” Fry explained that Cupertino averaged $8M in the three previous Februarys. She was worried that the City is facing a “double whammy” with a catastrophic decline in sales-tax revenue along with the fallout from an impending tax audit of one of Cupertino’s largest sales-tax revenue sources. Although the City knew on February 21 that we had no money coming in, there was no notification in the intervening five Council meetings or two Audit Committee meetings. Meanwhile, our Council and Commissions have been asked to allocate funds for new projects.

Peggy Griffin joined in via Zoom and said, “it is disappointing that the Audit Committee and the City Council were not told about this as soon as possible.” She recommended limiting fee waivers, suspending trips to sister cities, and prioritizing community events that bring people together. She concluded with, “Let’s live within our means and reduce the impact to the City.”

Mayor Hung Wei and City Manager Wu have scheduled a sister-city trip to their native country of Taiwan that is to be paid with City funds. Cupertino has four sister and friendship cities in Taiwan, two in China, and one each in Japan, India, and Italy. It is customary for the Mayor to go on taxpayer-funded sister-city trips, and our students will certainly benefit from her insights. However, there is no record of a City Manager ever going on a sister-city trip. The cost of the trip has yet to be approved by the City Council.

By the end of May, we will have the income numbers from the State for the second quarter. It is unknown as to when the City Council or the public will be apprised of the new economic situation and who will make the decisions about cutting programs.

You can watch these speakers on YouTube below starting at 7:56:

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