After Mayor Greg Ballard’s upset victory at the polls last November, local arts leaders were in a panic. They worried the no-nonsense former Marine would put public safety on a pedestal and slash Indianapolis’ funding for cultural groups. Now, they say their worst suspicions are being confirmed. Late last month, City-County Council President Bob Cockrum, who, like Ballard, is a Republican, warned the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators that the mayor intends to phase out the entire $1.5 million in funding it provides for cultural education and outreach.
“We obviously all recognize there are going to be cuts he needs to make,” said Glen Kwok, executive director of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. “But what was outlined to us was not reasonable. To have a three-year phase-out program to zero was completely unfathomable.”
Has anyone ever bothered to study how that $1.5 million is currently divied up? The average size of these grants is a mere $31,500. The big-dollar recipients include such organizations as the Children's Museum, Clowes Memorial Hall, Dance Kaleidoscope, Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis Symphony and Madam Walker Theater. None of these fine members of Indianapolis' arts community will go away if they don't get money from the City of Indianapolis. These organizations have thrived for many years without getting a dime from the City.
Now, if people want to squawk about the budget, then they should be speaking out against the $5 million grant Mayor Ballard will announce on Monday for crime prevention. Foolishly, Mayor Bart Peterson and the Democratic-control council budgeted $5 million a year from the 65% increase in the county option income tax for faith-based initiatives for crime prevention. Although Peterson pretended to give the public impression he had told the black ministers who protested and demanded $25 million from the City over 5 years for these initiatives or they would shut down construction on the Lucas Oil Stadium to get lost, he and the Democratic members of the council made sure there was funding for their initiatives in the new budget. This funding should be zeroed out. It is nothing but a boondoggle to let a handful of people make money while pretending to do good for the public.