Board and staff members of La Casa de la Raza on Tuesday blasted a weekend front-page newspaper article that they said was filled with month-old information and “irresponsible reporting” aimed at damaging the 40-year-old cultural center’s reputation.
They were angered by a March 25 Santa Barbara News-Press article that claimed La Casa de la Raza, 601 E. Montecito St., could not pay an $85,000 property tax bill and was about to be auctioned off. A retraction was sought.
Marquez said the article published Sunday originally was published in Spanish, was translated into English without any updates and was printed again in the News-Press. She said no one from La Casa was contacted for comment about the Sunday article.
An e-mail seeking comment from the News-Press director of news operations was not answered Tuesday afternoon.
Marquez and La Casa Executive Director Raquel Lopez said they are working with county officials to resolve the tax problem by April 10 and expect to receive donations and raise other funds to pay the bill.
Board member Luis Villegas said the county would reassess the property and provide any necessary reimbursements. He said the Sunday article did not have that information or any other recent facts. But Marquez was incensed by the New-Press lack of verification of the details in the Sunday article.
“It appears that both publications unfairly target La Casa, its leadership and constituency,” Marquez said. “La Casa de la Raza is not being sold or auctioned; it has not lost its nonprofit status; and its attorneys have been working closely with county officials long before both articles appeared in print.”
“As we’ve explained in the past, we are in the midst of reconciling a complex property tax assessment issue,” Marquez said. “Unlike what was reported, we are not evading our tax responsibility.” She said the “inaccurate reporting” by the News-Press and Santa Barbara Latino accused La Casa of being a tax evader. “It is also evident that there was a failure, prior to publication, to even attempt verification of the facts and conduct their due diligence,” Marquez said.
Lopez said it appears the newspaper is out to paint La Casa in a bad light without the use of facts. “When the Latino community is so negatively portrayed, it has an impact on all of us,” she said.
Marquez said no one from La Casa was interviewed for the March 25 story. “Therefore, it is entirely inaccurate,” she said. The article included quotes from county officials who said this week they have not been contacted on the subject in more than a month.
“The News‐Press method of ‘news reporting’ is at its core duplicitous and in this case intentionally injurious,” Marquez said. “It seeks to lead the reader to believe that what is printed is in fact researched.”
She called upon the public when seeking information about La Casa programs, activities and events to not rely on the News-Press or its sources. “Please contact La Casa directly,” Lopez said.
Lopez said La Casa plans to have a 6 p.m. March 31 dinner and 40th anniversary celebration to help raise funds to pay its taxes.
La Casa continues to engage in fundraising activities, programs for the community and its doors will remain open, they said.
“Many people have been married here, listened to their first jazz band here, listened to their first blues here, listened to their first rock band here, and even listened to their first punk band here,” Lopez said.