Dozens of U.S. mayors convene this week to discuss arts funding issues

United States Conference of Mayors website, 4/18/11

More than 50 Mayors and design and development experts will convene at the Chicago Hilton April 27-29 for a National Summit on City Design to identify challenges, opportunities and funding sources for cities that work well.   Participants will examine the power of arts and design to transform cities while celebrating the Mayors Institute of City Design -- a collaboration of the National Endowment of the Arts, The U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the American Architectural Foundation -- and honoring the design legacy of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.  On April 28, the mayors and design experts will discuss design in relationship with struggling budgets and growing demands for transportation, development, and other challenges. Also on April 28, summit participants will release an NEA Research Report that measures the economic impact of performing arts institutions on local economies and details the degree of citizens' investment in the arts.  Among the report's findings is that the U.S. performing arts industry is supported by the nearly 8,840 organizations and generates nearly $13.6 billion in annual revenues.  There will be live webcasting of key sessions and daily mini interviews with mayors at Join the Summit's Twitter conversation at #MICD50.


Boston mayor asks major nonprofits (including arts) to voluntarily pay city taxes

Boston Globe, 4/24/11 [hat tip to Joseph Yoshitomi]

For the first time, Boston's major tax-exempt institutions -- its premier hospitals, universities, and cultural centers -- are being asked to make regular voluntary payments to the city based on the value of their property to help offset the rising cost of city services and cuts in state financial aid.  Although many of the city's nonprofit organizations have been making so-called Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) for decades, this marks a major change to a system that feels to some organizations uncomfortably close to tax bills. "We're looking for fairness for Boston taxpayers and the nonprofits,'' said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "This isn't something we drew up on the back of an envelope. It's something we put a lot of thought into.''   The new revenue-raising plan -- the first of its kind in the nation -- is based on the estimated cost of providing basic city services, which account for roughly 25% of the city's budget. And it is designed to gradually increase annual financial payments to the city by the major tax-exempt organizations from the $15 million they paid this year to $48 million over a five-year ramp-up period.  That is still significantly less than the $404 million nonprofits would pay if they were not tax-exempt.  While 117 municipalities in 18 states have PILOT programs of one flavor or another, Boston's is the first to establish a uniform system for calculating payments from tax-exempt institutions.  Under the Boston plan, only the 40 nonprofits with properties valued at $15 million or more are being asked to pay -- [including] The Museum of Fine Arts [which] made a payment of about $66,000 this year, and is being asked to boost its contribution to more than $250,000 next year and to more than $1 million in five years.


Commentary: D.C. arts funding is cut 74%; arts marketers need to rethink their role

Chad Bauman, Arts Marketing blog, 4/23/11

Nothing can take the wind out of your sails and make one reassess current strategies quite like an unexpected and critical loss of funding, which is what happened to 24 major arts organizations in our nation's capital two weeks ago. Shortly after the federal government averted a shut down, it was revealed that a part of the budget compromise was a 74% reduction in the allocation to the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program.  Many do not realize that the District of Columbia is a federal territory under the complete authority of Congress. However, DC residents pay some of the highest federal taxes in the nation and their city's budget is established by Congress, leading to a cry of "taxation without representation." At a moment when Congressional representatives were trying to make substantial cuts to the nation's budget without affecting their districts, the District of Columbia became an easy target.  As a marketing professional working for one of the affected institutions in the District of Columbia, it caused me to think about how marketers view their role, and how a marketer could respond. I came to the conclusion that marketing professionals are going to need to reexamine traditional beliefs about our job responsibilities.  Maybe we should be thinking about the following as well... [click here to read the full post]


In Dallas, the 4 candidates for Mayor participate in forum on arts funding

D Magazine's Front Row blog, 4/21/11

[On April 20th,] the four candidates running for Dallas mayor participated in a forum held at the Nasher Sculpture Center discussing the question of arts and culture. While often the arts are often [relegated] merely to positive campaign platform bullet points - "I heart art!" - the next mayor will face some rather significant public policy decisions regarding the funding of art in Dallas.  What is at stake is a portion of the hotel tax that is currently tied up in the funding of the bonds for the American Airlines Center. The city expects to pay off the bonds early (14 years ahead of schedule), and arts advocates would like to see those fund redirected to funding cultural initiatives, organizations, and facilities. Candidates Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle [took] the strongest pro-funding stances.  "The arts community needs to mobilize and create political pressure," Kunkle said. "There will be a lot of competition for [hotel tax] money."  Rawlings said creating reliable sources of funding was part of honoring an agreement Dallas has already made with the AT&T Performing Arts Center.  "The city has been short every year," he said about the funds the city pledges to help with operational costs at the center. "This is a strategic issue. It is about whether we will build a great city or not." Ron Natinsky did not explicitly say he was in favor of diverting the hotel revenue to the arts, stating that he expects competition for the funds. "We need to sit down and figure it out," he said. "It will be a competitive process." Keeping in character as the candidate with out-of-box ideas, Edward Okpa did not directly address the question of the hotel tax redirect, instead speaking about plan to divert parking meter funds to the arts.


San Diego mayor refuses to cut city arts funds due to its impact on local economy

Voice of San Diego, 4/19/11

When Mayor Jerry Sanders unveiled his budget last Thursday, the big word he and City Council members used was "priorities." Closing a $56.7 million deficit and restoring unpopular cuts to the Fire Department required choices that in a vacuum look horrible: Who wants to defend a decision to close branch libraries citywide for all but 18 1/2 hours a week?  The mayor's budget shows that he prioritized the Fire Department over libraries and recreation centers. But he could have made other cuts instead.  Sanders isn't reducing the $6.4 million the city plans to spend on arts funding next year. The arts money helps finance dozens of nonprofits, including the La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Opera Association and San Diego Air and Space Museum. But conservatives such as City Councilman Carl DeMaio and former mayoral candidate Steve Francis have argued the city can't afford arts during a budget crisis. I asked the mayor about arts funding at Thursday's press conference. He posited that arts creates more jobs:  "...they're responsible in arts and culture for about 20,000 jobs. There's a multi-ripple impact on that."

San Diego mayor: Spending money on arts is worth it

Voice of San Diego, 4/7/11

A new city report claims the city's investment of hotel-room taxes in arts groups more than pays for itself.  Mayor Jerry Sanders used a new estimate of arts and culture groups' economic footprint to validate the city's $6.4 million investment in them last year.  "I've said it before and I'll say it again: No city can be a great city without a thriving arts and culture community," he said. "And once again I'm happy to report that San Diego's arts community is having an extraordinary success by any measure. Even in this tough economy, the strength of the local arts scene remains undeniable."

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