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Arts budget: Scales comments

August 7, 2008
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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