Home » Brentwood on Ice Grant Funding Divides City Council

Brentwood on Ice Grant Funding Divides City Council

by CC News
Brentwood

At its June 11 meeting, the Brentwood City Council were divided on how much grant funding to provide Brentwood on Ice.

During a lengthy discussion, the council was tasked with approving its Economic Development Grant Program via recommendation from the Land Use Development Committee (LUD). Within the recommendation, LUD approved funding of $20k to Brentwood on Ice who requested $25k.

The money is made available through the business license tax which 20% is set aside for economic development for the purpose of business promotion and institutional advertisement for the City of Brentwood.

Mayor Joel Bryant and Tony Oerlemans advocated that Brentwood on Ice should receive the full $25k noting they had a little over $5k not yet allocated while calling the ice rink a perfect candidate for being truly economic development by employing local youth, bringing people to the city and helping the downtown in the winter months.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Jovita Mendoza, who was on the LUD committee making the recommendation, called the $20k fair and instead advocated Tom Gregory runs a for-profit ice rink and that they should focus on the non-profits or new events. She then attempted to pit Brentwood on Ice against Day of the Dead, and Oktoberfest. She also stated the ice rink had been well funded in the past and it was time to look at new events and help non-profits.

The council ultimately agreed to meet in the middle and allocate $22,500 for the ice rink this winter (full recap below).

Note – after recusing herself from Brentwood on Ice, Councilwoman Pa’Tanisha Pierson returned to the discussing noting she didn’t want to pit applicant vs. applicant or event vs. event but rather focus on each applicant. She also stated non-profits make money.

Meeting Recap:

According to the City, for the FY 2024-25 competitive grant cycle, a total of $142,154 is available, which includes the extra $20,000 that originally had been included in the Priority Project list. The City received sixteen (16) applications, requesting a total of $261,625 in funding.

On May 29, 2024, the Land Use and Development Committee (LUD), recommended that the City Council award Economic Development Grant funds to organizations, projects and events as detailed below in the amount of $137,000.

Project/Event Organization Requested Funding Staffs Recommended Funding LUD’s Recommended Funding
3rd Annual La Gran Fiesta Brentwood Chamber of Commerce $6,000 $4,000 $6,000
Banner Up! Art Guild of the Delta $12,625 $5,000 $5,000
Brentwood on Ice Got A Party $25,000 $20,000 $20,000
Brentwood Turkey Trot Brentwood Elementary & Liberty HS District $30,000 $11,000 $11,000
Cancer Memorial Garden Experience Adventure Therapy Foundation $15,000 $7,500 $5,000
Dia De Los Muertos Azucar Candles and More $18,000 $10,500 $18,000
Diwali 2024 United Indian Association $30,000 $3,500 $5,000
East Bay Business Expo & Job Fair 2025 Brentwood Chamber of Commerce $9,000 $9,000 $9,000
Elevate Dance Convention East Bay Performing Arts Center $10,000 $0 $0
Holi 2025 United Indian Association $20,000 $2,000 $2,000
Lunar Year Festival Chinese Culture Club $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
Mitchell Canyon Education Center Mount Diablo Interpretive Association $20,000 $0 $0
Micro-Business Launch Program City of Brentwood $10,000 $9,954 $0
Oktoberfest Downtown Brentwood Coalition $44,000 $30,000 $44,000
Quilt Show Delta Quilters Guild $3,800 $1,500 $3,800
Small Business Development In-Person Coaching Brentwood Chamber Of Commerce $7,200 $7,200 $7,200
Total $2,61,625 $122,154 $137,000

Brentwood on Ice Discussion

Prior to council discussion on Brentwood on Ice, Councilmember Pa’Tanisha Pierson chose to recuse herself due to her being an attorney who has a number of clients, including Tom Gregory (Got A Party) who was an applicant—she did participate in the discussion for other applicants.

Brentwood on Ice had requested $25k, however, both staff and LUD recommended $20k—staff also ranked Brentwood on Ice as No. 2 ranking in terms of Economic Impact Rating on a scale of 1 (high) to 4 (low).

During public comments, Karri Reiser, President of the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, advocated for Tom Gregory and Brentwood on Ice stating the ice rink stimulates economic activity and brings customers to the downtown not to only skate, but bring people to eat and shop.

“Nothing says Main Street USA more than a downtown ice rink during the holiday season,” said Reiser. “If additional funding is available, can you please consider funding Brentwood on Ice for the amount he requested so we can continue this fabulous holiday tradition.”

Councilmember Jovita Mendoza explained why they did the $20k versus the full amount noting it was staffs recommendation.

“It was actually Tom himself that came and told us he would be asking less and less every single year because he would be more profitable,” stated Mendoza. “When you look at his application a lot of it is already sunk cost and he already owns a lot of the things he lists as expenses on his sheet. So, its already owned and we already funded that over the last few years… I thought $20k was a fair amount and its what staff recommended.”

Councilmember Tony Oerlemans argued there were a number of applicants who served a number of people in a short 4-to-6 hour windows that were fully funded, but Brentwood on Ice brings a significant amount of people from out of town and stimulates economic growth.

“If we are bringing people in from outside of Brentwood, they are now experiencing Brentwood. They are driving past The Streets of Brentwood and possibly stopping there for dinner, driving down Balfour and seeing the businesses so its developing economic growth throughout the city by bringing people in,” stated Oerlemans who added Oktoberfest brings in 15,000 people in a day to experience Brentwood, but Brentwood on Ice does it over an 8-week period of time. “There was over $5,000 left over in the budget in the grant money and we propose we give that to Mr. Gregory and make it the $25,000 that he requested.”

Vice Mayor Susannah Meyer said there was a distinction between a non-profit and Brentwood on Ice was a for profit. She didn’t have an issue with the city having rollover funds to next year.

“I think given the current and past years, $20,000 is fair, especially considering the staff recommended that as well,” said Meyer.

Mendoza added, “this is an uncomfortable conversation, but he has said some negative things about the city right now, that we are trying to take advantage of him. I was a little bit shocked by that because I would be happy if I got $20k… we are just giving him what what’ve given him before.”

Editors Note – in speaking with Gregory since the meeting, he denied speaking negatively about the city and called it similar to a game of telephone. 

Mendoza then brought up Miguel Saldana (Dia De Los Muertos) who she says is taking less every single year because he is a for-profit. She insinuated with for-profits needing less money, they could find new things to allocate money for.

“We can find how we can give this money to a new event that wants to come up and do something,” stated Mendoza. “I thought that is the discussion we had on for-profits versus non-profits. I am just a little taken back because he had a very successful 2022/2023 ice rink with $20k.”

She continued by bringing up the Downtown Brentwood Coalition who asked for more funding for Oktoberfest only because the city was now charging them for police which the city didn’t in the past.

“If we don’t do that, the event goes away,” stated Mendoza. “When we were making our decision, residents and what they want come into play. They want the Oktoberfest, that is like the new Cornfest. If we don’t fund it, its going to go away.”

She called the $20k “very generous” and had never heard he didn’t make money doing it.

“I would rather help our non-profits and the for-profits learn how to start making the money, getting their sponsors and they ween off and we find new organizations and new events, ” said Mendoza. “I thought $20k was generous.”

Mayor Joel Bryant called Brentwood on Ice a main attractant where it brings people to Brentwood.

“The fact that it is doing what we wanted, and yes, $20k is a lot of money, the letter Mr. Gregory sent in did outline some unanticipated loss of revenue that he put towards off-setting the cost of putting that event on,” said Bryant.

Bryant was cut off by Mendoza.

“Tom Gregory chose to lease a piece of land, just like Rubiano’s and everyone leases their spot, I don’t want to talk about the parking lot, the minute we are saying we subsidize his parking lot, because he has a lease, how do I justify that to every other business. I can’t,” stated Mendoza. “I’d rather stay away from that because I don’t want to muddy those waters.”

Bryant continued, stating Gregory had to bring in significant infrastructure from PG&E in order to accomplish the ice rink, while understanding it was a for-profit but it’s the definition of what they are asking for—noting they are not taking away from another applicant, but using left over $5k not yet spent.

“I would be for meeting the $25k at this time,” said Bryant.

Meyer asked why they made the recommendation to not fund less money.

Assistant City Manager Darin Gale explained they had $30k less in funding this year which they had $20k for Juneteenth and $10k for the micro-business. He then provided a rundown of how they determined the funding levels.

Meyer stated she loved Brentwood on Ice, but proposed a split down the middle to $22,500.

“There were some people that were very unhappy with the results of LUD. They think their events really deserve the investment of the city, while they might for the sake of the community, this really is about economic development,” explained Meyer. “I am suggesting the $22,500 for the sake of compromise”

Mendoza then debated Brentwood on Ice vs. Day of the Dead.

“They did what we said. They asked for less and we actually gave them less. So if we are going to give Brentwood on Ice more, I think we should give them more because in my mind we are kind of doing the same thing,” said Mendoza. ”If we are going to give one more, we should give the other more as well.”

Oerlemans called it not an easy decision, but questioned if anyone else employees people within the city of Brentwood which created economic development noting while he is running Brentwood on Ice, he is employing people.

Mendoza said she was willing to split the difference but wanted more discussion on how they would deal with for-profits going forward.

Gale warned the council that every project/application is worthy but cautioned them to start pitting projects against another.

“But at the same token, the Day of the Dead did what we asked them to do, Tom Gregory did not” stated Mendoza. “So, it’s like we are saying you behaved exactly like we wanted you to. Too bad. And you didn’t, but we are still going to reward you anyway.”

Mendoza then asked the rest of the council how they felt about the splitting of funds.

“I am still stuck on giving him his ask. It’s a huge event that draws a lot of people downtown. It does everything we are asking economic development to do. It does it more so than any of the other projects,” explained Oerlemans. “It actually employees people. It gives people jobs which is what economic development is and teaches youth and younger people working for him how to work in the business world. I just can’t think of a better example of economic development and economic growth within the city and I recommend we fully fund what he is asking for.”

Mendoza agreed to split the difference.

Bryant said he would love to see Brentwood on Ice be fully funded, but they were not going to find consensus with the request, so he agreed to split the difference.

The council agreed to fund Brentwood on Ice at a cost of $22,500 in a 3-1 vote with Oerlemans voting against.

Discussion: Other Funding

Councilmember Pierson rejoined the meeting.

She suggested the council approve the recommendations by LUD as it took a lot of time and discussion, while she was also not in favor of giving anyone more funding than they requested.

“If we are going to start discriminating against for-profit or non-profits, we need to have our guidelines have reflected that so I don’t think that should be in the discussion because we had the guidelines and they were before us and we all talked about it and we should stick to our guidelines,” said Pierson. “When we talk about non-profits, non-profits make profits. They make money. People get paid in non-profits. What is more important to me is not the non-profit or for-profit, but who does the most for the economy. Who brings the jobs? Who brings diversity? Who brings the activities. That is what is important to me.”

She admitted LUD is fun, but it was hard.

“I wish we could stop comparing events with one another, I don’t think we can do that,” stated Pierson who urged the council to compare the applicants on an individual level versus comparison due to the diversity of each event.

She also questioned why the argument of comparison applied to some versus others in terms of non-profits getting funding from other funds. She urged the council to look at scores based on the application and the economic impact. She called their LUD recommendations as fair.

The council then approved the LUD recommendation in a 5-0 vote while the council will update their process in the future.

PRIORITY PROJECTS

The current process allows “Priority Projects” to be considered on a two-year cycle and all remaining funds are set aside for an annual competitive economic development grant program.

On March 12, 2024, by Resolution 2024-24, the City Council approved the Priority Projects for fiscal years 2024-25 and 2025-26 for a total of $100,400 as listed in the table below.

Project Organization Funding Approved Per Year (2024-2025)
Holiday Parade Brentwood Chamber of Commerce $8,500
Hometown Halloween Brentwood Chamber of Commerce $4,000
Harvest Time Annual Trail Map Harvest Time of Brentwood $10,000
Summer Concert Series City of Brentwood $50,000
Movies in the Park City of Brentwood $4,300
Tree Lighting City of Brentwood $3,600
Juneteenth City of Brentwood $20,000
Total funding $100,400

For more information, see staff report.

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8 comments

Downtown Business Owner June 20, 2024 - 7:42 am

Good job Jovita making an ass of yourself. It’s obvious you don’t like Tom Gregory so you are doing everything in your power to sabotage the ice rank and instead put money towards your own pet projects. You are so fake. Thank you Joel and Tony for trying to do the right thing for Brentwood. Patanisha, thank you for being the adult in the room after the fact. I would rather fund something that gives the city 2 months of ice skating than any 1 day event.

Bill Moon June 20, 2024 - 7:50 am

What does Brentwood have against the United Indian Association? $50,000 in funding requests and only $7,000 awarded? WOW. Might want to investigate that Contra Costa News

MODERATE June 20, 2024 - 9:44 am

Investigate what? Look at the list. UIA was not the only entity that was “shorted.”

David P June 20, 2024 - 8:07 am

Jovita Mendoza wouldn’t know what is economic development if it slapped her across the forehead. The ice rink is the single best thing on this entire list to fund. You fund what works, not what could work in the future on new events with no draw.

Lazy K June 20, 2024 - 8:30 am

Despite living in central county I love the idea of a new ice rink. I enjoyed working at the Sun Valley Ice rink and I know parents enjoyed it when they dropped their kids offs so they might shop.
While skating is something to do what about skating lessons, broom-ball, birthday parties and ice hockey?
There will also be an increase in the all of the above as the Winter Olympics get closer.

Ralph June 20, 2024 - 11:17 am

This will end up in Oakley thanks to Mendoza and Meyer way of thinking, all about them and short sighted. You can all thank them for the future move.

PattyOfurniture June 20, 2024 - 4:52 pm

If Brentwood keeps this up, pretty soon Oakley will start turning the outsiders coming from the north border around when they try to come into OAKLEY. Opposite of what they do now 😉 I just HATE it when they make me U-turn at El Camino (“your kind’s not welcome here, son”)

I just put my nose 1/2 degree higher in the air. Still not as stuck up as Brentwoodians, but things are looking up!

Street Sweeper June 20, 2024 - 4:55 pm

Jovita making Brentioch great again.

Comments are closed.