Saturday, August 02, 2008

Cutting The Arts Won't Be The End Of The World

City budget realities are forcing Mayor Greg Ballard to make some tough budget decisions. Ending the City's $1.5 million funding for the arts is not one of those tough decisions. To hear supporters of the public funding of the arts, this paltry sum is crucial to quality of life in Indianapolis. The IBJ's Peter Schnitzler gives a run down on the panic arts supporters are having over a plan to phase out the City's public funding of the arts over a 3-year period. Schnitzler writes:

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.


Jon E. Easter said...

Point of order: The final plan to construct Lucas Oil Stadium was not Bart Peterson's plan (called for funding the stadium through luxury taxes, casino revenue, and other user based taxes). The plan that was approved was that of the Governor, Mitchell E. Daniels which makes this a STATE project.

On the issue, though, the county budget is drained by millions by wasteful layers of government...specifically in the townships.

If Mayor Ballard wanted to keep the arts matter how little it might be...he could find a way. I find it hard to believe that there's not $1.5 million somewhere in the budget that isn't directed at public safety. I would rather see a city put an investment into the arts no matter the cost.

But, I understand the situation, and the decisions aren't easy. I guess the "Accidental Mayor" may have gotten more than he bargained for when he drew the short straw.

artfuggins said...

Mitch Daniels thought he scored a real coup when he blackmailed the city into turning over the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium to the state. The plans, contracts and related problems are a result of the actions by Governor Daniels and his staff. As to the arts, I hate to see it cut but those Meridian Kessler types were the ones who desertd Peterson because they were upset over their propert taxes. I wish I had a dollar for every one who said if I thought Ballard was going to win I wouldn't have voted for him. I did it to protest my property taxes. To those people I say, you voted for him, you got him. Now live with his incompetence and lack of foresight for 3 1/2 more years.

Anonymous said...

What is the City budget, does anyone know? I just want to know what portion of the budget had actually been spent on supporting the arts in the first place. I bet $1.5 million is a substantially insignificant amount in the grand scheme of things - what is that, about two dollars a person in the City? that this $1.5 million is going to leave from the arts, where is it going to be spent? I feel like I am be hood-winked into paying for something I don't want. We should all support the arts!

Anonymous said...

So, Jon Easter, basically Peterson proposed that the rest of the state pay for the new stadium and the representatives of the state said "no." And you think that's wrong?

Unknown said...

Funding the arts - in a city with so many other problems - is morally reprehensible. Arts should get zero every year forever. Money should not be "found" nor made available for the arts, the optimal level of public funding is zero.

If Jon E wants the arts funded, maybe the money could come out of the bloated teachers' pensions ?

That a good chunk of the money goes to the Children's Museum and the IMA, both of which have over a quarter billion dollars in the bank, is again, reprehensible.

Bart Lies said...

Moreover, how many 'statistically insignificant' items are there? They all add up to a 'significant' amount, regardless.

Which is the problem with how government deals with out money. So many things are just 'little things' that we aren't supposed to be concerned with (take for example the various little taxes dreamt up for stadium financing).

All just a few dollars, here and there. The problem is, more and more of them keep getting put on out backs. King of liks straws onto a camel's - if you know what I mean.

M Theory said...

The arts council was a clique who got to decide who was in and who was out. All too often the artists creating the real culture in our city were ignored. Maybe their art didn't allow for them to play politics with a pack of elites who rarely (if ever) even attended the city's art openings or could name more than a handful of local artists.

Culture, by definition, is organic. It is not something a government can create.

Peterson spent big bucks on artists that didn't live here. That is a slap in the face to our local artists who are often as good as what you will see in NYC galleries. Cut that funding to zero.

artfuggins said...

Flynn, you are incorrect in saying that only Marion County taxes are paying for Lucas Oil Stadium. There was the regional sales tax that all but one adjoining county adopted, the state contributed some money as well as Marion County. In addition, the Colts and the NFL kicked some significant sums. It is joint financing.

guy77money said...

Cut the money from the budget! The church's do not need government money to do God's work! Miracles happen everyday within and outside of God's walls! Remember folks "separation of state and religion" was part of the Constitution! Our founding father's were no dummies! Now if I could only convince my 15 year old son I wasn't a dummy considering I am his founding father. ;)

Paul Hill said...

You are SO wrong about several things.

1. Bart never was going to give a DIME to those ministers. He actually thumbed his nose at T Garrot Benjamin to his face. Ask anyone who was in that meeting.

2. Indianapolis has no mountains, beaches, rolling rivers, oceans, etc. all we have is our quality of life. And none of that means a thing if we don't have the arts and parks. Ask ANY business leader.

3. Finally, Ballard should go after the real money in the budget: public safety. No, you say?? Well how many times have you seen a cop running his car for hours when off duty? That's a pretty penny for gas, people. AND, how about making them pay for take home cars? It's valuable, you say? Well so are parks and arts.

Paul Hill said...

By the way, Ballard increased pay for his staff. That seems like fluff.