Arts budget: Scales comments

August 7, 2008
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Earlier today, City County Councillor Christine Scales e-mailed me regarding the city arts budget and the rumored threats against it. I'm reprinting the letter here (and posting it with the earlier blog) with her permission. Your thoughts are, of course, most welcome.--L.H.
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Dear Mr. Harry,
I have read many of the responses to my statements regarding the need to cut funds to the arts community in the 2009 City of Indianapolis budget. It is sad that many commentators see the proposed cuts in arts funding as lacking recognition of the many contributions the arts make to the Indianapolis community. Those who are proposing cuts are not cultural Neanderthals, and do not wish the city to be void of an arts culture. We share an appreciation and an enthusiasm for the enrichment the arts offer our minds and spirits.

It is difficult to understand that supporters of the arts funding by the city, seem willfully blind to the desperate financial crisis the city is in. Many of the arts organizations I have heard from, protesting city tax cuts to funding, are in much healthier financial shape than the city. Which major arts organization is in as poor a shape as the city is in right now? Certainly not the Indianapolis Museum of Art or the Children's Museum. Yet, they each received the highest amount of allocated city funds from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Why didn't the big dollars go to more programs with more limited resources?

I was not on the Council when the decision to fund the stadium was made. Mayor Ballard was not the mayor when the deal was made to give Mr. Irsay 50% of the revenue brought in from all non-NCAA convention events. The current city administration leaders had nothing to do with where we have been. We are taking responsibility for where the city is going. Understanding and cooperation from the arts community during these difficult times is sorely needed and would be much appreciated. Is there any way they could accept a moratorium on funding from the city until the city is on better financial footing? For a few years, can there be a hold on grand new additions to the Children's Museum and The Museum of Art? Can some of the duplicate programs reaching school children come together in a consolidation of services?

My mailbox is filled daily with requests for help from constituents. They can't figure out their property tax bills-or pay them. Sewage flows in the White River on a regular basis. Homeowners battle the costs and aggravation of constant flooding of their homes, not because they chose to live in a flood plain, but due to antiquated stormwater drainage pipes. Commuters endure bone jarring travels along poorly maintained roads. Children are shot in their cars on their way home from church. You read the newspapers, you are fully aware of the challenges out there that need urgent financial fixes. This current administration is working hard to resolve problems that have been years in the making.

There is discussion about what a small portion of the city budget is allocated to arts funding. It is said, "Certainly the city can spare a measly 1.5 million"(actually more, if you count the 1 million the Arts Council receives through the CIB)? Last night, I attended a budget preview session. Please trust me, every thousand, and certainly every million dollars in cost savings is being evaluated and searched for.

My hope is that the disappointed arts supporters out there accept that a cut in funding is not to be taken as an insult or lack of esteem or appreciation of the arts community, but simply as a tough financial decision to be made.

Sincerely,

Christine Scales City County Councillor, District 4

P.S- Mayor Ballard has not yet supported a total cut in funding to the arts.
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  • Kudos to Ms. Scales on a well presented letter.

    When reading articles about arts/parks funding, I often wonder why they are usually presented as being anti-arts/parks, rather than showing the financial situation they administration is up against.
  • Why is the IMA or Children's Museum even getting city money? I agree that if they're going to give that money out it should've gone to more needy arts programs to begin with. The Children's Museum is rolling in it. I can't imagine that they need any financial help.
  • Any expansions that the IMA or Children's Musuem has done as of late is funded through donations or federal grants, not through city funding.
  • Yeah, and the Children's Museum fed mony for an upcoming expansion is some pork out of a federal transportation bill... snuck in by the late Julia Carson. I'm sure that the Children's Museum is an integral part of Indianapolis' transportation system (hoping you can sense the sarcasm).

    My opinion is that museums and arts programs need to quit looking for handouts from ANY taxpayer dollars (local, state or federal), and start doing their legwork by getting all or the majority of it from private donors. As the city councillor writes, there are other things that are of higher priority that need to be taken care of by the city. And the Children's Museum part above, well I'm sure that those dollars the Children's Museum will be getting could have been used for actual transportation purposes in our area such as street repair, buses, etc.... at least something transportation related... hey there's an idea use money in a federal bill for what it's actually intended for.
  • Fed Up is right, we could use the transportation dollars for.....I don't know.....maybe MASS FREAKING TRANSIT!
  • But yet there is all the money in the world for the lastest structural problems with the Colts stadium. And furthermore, the Children's museum is hardly a representation of the arts. It's an expensive indoor playground. It's nice, but it's not the arts.
  • If everyone who signed the petition of 1000 signatures to save the arts gave $1500 in time, money, or equivalent resources, we would not have to borrow from the bond banks.

    No one has volunteered anything.
  • Melyssa makes reference on her blog to our city's arts employees. The city has no arts employees. The Arts Council of Indianapolis is a private, non-profit organization, with staff members who are not city employees.

    For more information, visit http://www.indyarts.org/whattheartsmean/
  • Christine,

    Art supporters are disappointed because the rumored cuts do not appear to be universal.

    When public art support is singled out and its budget cut 100%, while other government services go unscathed, a clear message is sent: This city and its current administration do not support the arts and do not see the value in investing in it.

    Saying that it's a tough financial decision to be made just adds injury to insult.

    If, for example, Mayor Ballard said, The city is in tough financial shape, we're going to have to shave 5% from every government function, arts supporters might be more inclined to understand.

    Instead it seems that parks and the arts, two areas certain groups in Indianapolis are notorious for not supporting, have been singled out.

    There is a plethora of evidence that government support for the arts has numerous positive effects on a city, financially and socially. There is a large part of the public that deem it wise to invest a portion of their collective funds in the arts and parks, as well as public safety and roads. It will be a shame if they're ignored.
  • Abelrock:
    Please see my original statements which served to cause the upset amongst arts organizations. They are posted on Hoosier for Fair Taxation and addresse the budget cuts that have already been made(and are continuing to be made).
  • I look at this situation and can't help but think back to my high school. I attended a private (catholic) high school in another state. Our resources weren't endless but we were fairly well off financially. The powers that be chose to focus funding for extracurricular on sports and as a result the arts were underfunded and unappreciated. This resulted in being treated with disdain by much of the student body, faculty and parents. The leaders at my school sent a message that artistic endeavors were not valued and that attitude was reflected by the general population.

    The city has the same decision to make now. Do they value the arts? The issue isn't simply about who gets money and if it's appropriate. It is about what the city values and what kind of an image it wants to present to the world. Sure they can say look at our thriving arts community but when pressed how will they be able to say they support it? The same goes for the parks. Well there is no public government support for arts funding and we've slashed the parks budget. Yeah, let's trumpet that message to the world. It's a repeat of my high school, just on a larger and more public scale. If the people with power don't value something then the majority won't either. Mayor Ballard and his staff are clearly indicating they don't value arts and recreation. That attitude will trickle down and it will be a blemish on our community.
  • Jeff....WHO pays these arts employees?

    Could it be the CIB?

    f not, who?

    Bottom line is (and don't be fooled) the arts admin employees are paid from the wallets of taxpayers one way or another.
  • Donaghy Challenges Public Art Advocates to Step Up for City
    SEE: http://www.lpin.org/node/320
  • Melyssa,

    You'll have to ask them how they derive their revenue - I'm not the expert there. My only point was to clarify that they aren't city employees.
  • Let's face it, Indy is going to lose out to other cities of it's size and scale when potential employers and their employees start to compare. Other cities of similar size outspend Indy in the arts already. The message is clear: Indy is built around sports, and the arts are left to fend for themselves. This is seed money for many of the smaller organizations. Many arts groups are less than $10K in the black each year, so the funds from the city are important. Funds are used to support underserved communities, do outreach to schools, and maybe help kids to divert from the violence that Ms. Scales refers to in her letter.
    There are a handful of Colts games each year. There are hundreds of arts events each year. Start calculating the financial return of the arts and you will see why it is important.
  • Voter/taxpayers are going to get tired of a city run by police officers with no vision beyond crime fighting and helping themselves to pay increases, new cars, and expanded bureaucracy.

    Are billboards about snitching, rallies about stopping the violence, and processions of hearses by funeral directors going to boost economic development and promote the cities quality of life?

    Safety is an expectation, not a community slogan.

    If crime fighting is the only thing Indianapolis is good for, then everyone will just move to the suburbs or out of state
  • A seat tax on any stadium funded with at least $1 of public money would go a long way. Lucas Oil Stadium has 63,000 seats. A $5 seat tax raises $315,000 per sold out Colts game. At least 10 games a year = $3,150,000. Then you have the NCAA games, Monster truck rallys, motocross, etc.
  • Voter/taxpayers are going to get tired of a city run by police officers with no vision beyond crime fighting and helping themselves to pay increases, new cars, and expanded bureaucracy.

    Are billboards about snitching, rallies about stopping the violence, and processions of hearses by funeral directors going to boost economic development and promote the cities quality of life?

    Safety is an expectation, not a community slogan. If crime fighting is the only thing Indianapolis is good for, then everyone will just move to the suburbs or out of state.
  • I agree that the Children's Museum and IMA should not be getting the large allocations that they do. Both have enormous endowments compared to other arts & cultural institutions receiving funding from the Arts Council.

    The Arts Council receives funding from a variety of partners including the City of Indianapolis, various foundations such as the CICF & Lilly Endowment, and from individual & corporate donors.

    However, I'm not buying the b.s. from the council members who continue to throw out the mayor and us were not in office when the stadium was to be built... blah, blah, blah. Yet, Mayor Ballard and his team were the first ones to take credit for winning the Super Bowl - and I doubt that could have happened without Lucas Oil Stadium. The stadium is built people... get over it. In economics, we call it a sunk-cost. MOVE ON!

    And yes, the mayor has indicated his desire to end all city funding for the arts through the Parks & Rec budget. His goal was to phase out funding over a period of three years.
  • The conversation continues here: http://ae.ibj.com/content/?p=251
  • I've seen the city budget referred to as bloated and now as a desperate financial crisis by different members of the administration, or the majority members of the council - all in the same week. And the police and fire depts get large increases, while jails, parks and arts get huge cuts. And now it's the Colts fault? - or maybe she meant it's Mayor Peterson's fault? ... Which doesn't seem possible, since on Election Night I heard Mayor Ballard accept responsibility for the hard choices that Mayors need to make. Someone grab a talking points list ...

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