CITY HALL — More good news for “Chain Reaction” fans.
At least four City Council members are in favor of, or leaning toward favoring, a plan that would finance a bulk of the restoration with City Hall dollars.
Early last year, council gave advocates a year to raise funds to cover the cost of upgrades to the sculpture, which was given to City Hall in the early 1990s by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad. The estimated costs of repairs range from $85,000 to $550,000.
A little over $40,000 has been raised by the community and council initially promised to match up to $50,000. But earlier this week, City Manager Rod Gould announced that he plans to recommend that City Hall cover the remaining costs, whatever they may be.
City officials are concerned that wear and tear may cause the sculpture to fail and injure people if it is not shored up.
The council vote is scheduled to take place on Feb. 25, but council members Gleam Davis, Kevin McKeown, and Ted Winterer as well as Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day have all expressed early favor for the recommendation.
Councilman Bob Holbrook plans to oppose the measure and Mayor Pam O’Connor has not yet formed an opinion. Councilmember Tony Vazquez could not be reached by presstime.
McKeown spoke most emphatically about his support of the sculpture, which depicts a giant mushroom cloud made of chains.
“Saving ‘Chain Reaction’ for me was never a question of commitment to peace, but rather an issue of making the sculpture structurally sound without raiding money needed for other arts programs,” he said. “With significant community fundraising and the council’s existing matching grant, augmented by better-than-expected general revenues last year, I’ll be supporting full restoration and long-time maintenance of ‘Chain Reaction.’”
Davis’ primary concern was also that the sculpture not take away from other arts funding. Based on the facts, as she understands them, she supports the recommendation.
“The City Council challenged ‘Chain Reaction’s’ supporters to raise money for renovation and repair and they have done so,” she said. “Also, our community has strongly supported keeping it.”
Holbrook disagreed, saying that the advocates have not supported the sculpture with their wallets. The decision to fund the sculpture, he said, would set a bad precedent.
“I’m leaning against it because promises have been made and they should be kept,” he said. “Promises were made that there would be no problem raising funds. They got a high profile grant writer. Several celebrities came on board. We’ve received petitions with thousands of names on them but nobody seems to want to spend the money.”
O’Day did not say outright that he would vote for the recommendation, but did laud the sculpture and the fact that the debate surrounding its future may finally be coming to a close.
“I’m very pleased that we appear to be reaching a solution,” he said. “Our community has mobilized to express broad support to save this iconic work.”
The mayor questioned the 2012 decision to grant the sculpture landmark status but she didn’t hint at how she might vote.
“I have no reaction to ‘Chain Reaction,’” O’Connor said, laughing.
Without all the details, she said, she could not yet take a side.