Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's the ARTS stupid!

When Artists Attack ...

I knew this was coming. A year and a half ago I was at City Hall making a deputation about animal/pet bylaws with about 100+ other people making deputations. At least 90 per cent of the deputants were a well-organized city-wide lobby group demanding that the city fund the arts with substantial grants.

My plea was for the city to reconsider its tax grab of demanding licences for cats, since my analysis based on city information showed that the taxes raised would just about cover the cost of bylaw officers enforcing the licencing bylaw, with no money actually going to help the terrible ongoing stray/abandoned pet overpopulation crisis. Essentially, the city was raising money to build a bigger bureaucracy. I can recall being frustrated with city resistance to dropping a tax grab and suggested the city not hire more pet cops and 'give the money to the starving artists instead' since at least it would do some real good. (applause and laughter) surveyed all candidates for election with a heavily biased survey that seemed somewhat extortionary to me. "I am an Artist. I Vote" is the slogan. It was clear that the arts community would brook no disagreement that the arts demand more funding and fashioned individual questions in such a way that anyone who wanted to be in power better say the right things - or else.

And so the tweets and announcements begin with acquiescing candidates toeing the line...

"Thrilled to receive 4/4 stars from ArtsVote #ward18 benefits from large community of working artists" - Kevin Beaulieu (NDP Executive Assistant to incumbent Adam Giambrone - endorsed by community activist/artist Dyan Marie, incumbent councillors Adam Giambrone, Gord Perks, Adam Vaughan)

Also getting 4 stars were:

  1. Ana Bailao (Liberal/Mario Silva's former Executive Assistant)
  2. Hema Vyas (self-proclaimed independent and Culturelink guru)
  3. Frank de Jong (Green Party environmentalist)

Not completing the survey for ward 18 were: Doug Carroll, Abdirazak Elmi, Nha Le, Joe MacDonald, Mohammed Muhit, Kirk Russell, Joanna Telitniak.

Perhaps I should have done the 'smart political game thing' and said what voters wanted to hear or just not even responded to the survey (as it seems most candidates chose). But I have a different standard: I believe in answering all surveys and questions, taking the risk that honesty is what voters really want to hear. I've long been tired of hearing spin-doctored politically correct vagueness from politicians, and vow that I won't do that.

My score? Not surprisingly: ONE star - which I hasten to point out is because the individual questions were pretty much all or nothing answers.

I am still not convinced (but willing to be) that taxpayer money en masse to artists helps anyone except the artists themseves. I admit to being not as informed as I'd like on this issue, as I am in favour of meaningful community grants to local groups that demonstrably improve the quality of life in our ward. A previous idea I posted about the use of councillor office budgets (current status: councillors can give taxpayer money to vote-friendly groups as they choose):

* Lets transfer money from Councillor office budgets to a city run local grants budget that everyone can apply to. It could be a simple lottery or a well thought out procedure where points are used to award grants where neighbourhoods would see the most 'bang for the buck' and would be fair to everyone.

Another site where the Arts debate is being held:

MAYORAL ARTS DEBATE will be held Wednesday, September 29 from 6-9pm at the Art Gallery of Ontario Baillie Court 317 Dundas Street West. Moderator: John Tory with the "Major Mayoral Candidates"... congratulations to the organizers for trying to include one of the other 36 candidates! Over 4,000 people voted and (so far *) chose Keith Cole over James di Fiore and HiMY SYeD.

* Note: Highlighting the questionable veracity of online polling, the ArtsVote site says there was some funny business going on with the survey responses so a second round of voting will happen on Friday September 24 from 4-8pm.

Sadly, I regret not being able to attend this as Rogers Cable 10 has scheduled their live ward candidates debate for us that same time. One question I hope gets asked is this:

How do you see the arts contributing to real solutions for poverty-hunger-homelessness in our city, and please refrain from telling us how this helps the 'starving artists' ?
* Update: Ontario provincial government coughs up additional $27 million over next 3 years to non-profit groups as operating funds...
Interesting reader comments on this.... with hydro going up why spend $ on arts...why should govts be allowed to spend $ on charities - if art is not good enough to support itself why is my money being taken to do so...why are arts more important than helping low income people or seniors...this is the type of investment you don't get a return on..."sugar coated welfare for artists" - you can see the anger out there. Arts lobby need to answer these questions.