Arts Advocacy Update 135: Gov. Christie Plows the Garden State

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The content below is from Americans for the Arts’ Arts Watch email blast of June 16, 2010. (Subscribe to it here.)

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Connecticut: Retiring Senator Attempts to Return Machu Picchu Artifacts
ArtDaily.org, 6/10/10

“Incan artifacts removed from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago and held by Yale University belong to the people of Peru, U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd said [June 9]. Peru has had a lawsuit pending in federal court in Connecticut since 2008 demanding Yale return artifacts taken by scholar Hiram Bingham III between 1911-1915. Yale says it returned dozens of boxes of artifacts in 1921 and that Peru knew it would retain some. Dodd, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of its subcommittee on Latin America, traveled to the region and met with Peruvian President Alan Garcia and other government officials to discuss the dispute…’The Machu Picchu artifacts do not belong to any government, to any institution, or to any university,’ Dodd said in a statement. ‘They belong to the people of Peru. I plan to work with both parties to resolve this dispute quickly, amicably, and return the artifacts to their rightful owners.’ Yale officials said the university has been discussing the issue with Dodd’s office and is glad to continue the discussions.”
And this is what the Senate is losing? What messed-up politics we face. Dodd might not have been as outspoken if he wasn’t retiring, but let’s hear it for someone genuinely looking to do the right thing. For, at the end of the day, Dodd is right: the artifacts belong to the people of Peru, not the people of Yale. As for the return of all those artifacts in 1921, what this article doesn’t really address is whether Peru did, in fact, knowing that Yale “would retain some” artifacts, and whether that acknowledge was by legal agreement or by some kind of mutual and/or diplomatic understanding. The discussion might have taken place nearly 90 years ago, but surely there is paperwork on this, no? Even if there is paperwork on this, the other question is whether the ethics of 1921 are necessarily the ethics of 2010 and whether one may supersede the other. Not only does this re-re-re-raise the ongoing matter of who owns the Elgin Marbles, but, indeed, of who owns the Rosetta Stone. I think the final answer is going to upset much of the West.

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Florida: Miami-Dade Public Schools Balances Budget, Protects Arts Programs
WFOR-TV, 6/14/10

“Bleak to balanced. That’s the budget news for Miami-Dade Public Schools, and it is welcome at a time when such news is rare. School budget arithmetic is brutal because property taxes that fund our classrooms keep shrinking. But Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said, ‘As tough as things are out there; I can assure you this budget going forward protects the taxpayer…’ So how did a turnaround happen when the school board braced this spring for a deficit of up to $200 million? Carvalho said that deficit dwindled by about $100 million with a shot of state funding that was unexpected and a continuation of federal stimulus money directed to local schools. Also, he said the district has realized about $60 million in administrative savings over 18 months, in part because of a leaner workforce…Carvalho told CBS4’s Michael Williams, ‘It reduces taxes, protects the arts and music programs across the board. It protects every single teacher. We will not fire a single teacher in Miami-Dade.'”
This is good news, of course, but the underlying politics are telling. The deficit dwindled because of a “shot of state funding” and “federal stimulus money,” which means without those two — and more the latter than the former, I’d guess — those jobs would not be protected. The radical right doesn’t want to fire teachers, but if they get into deficit-curbing mode, that’s exactly what will happen at each level of government — just in time to ruin the slowly recovering economy.

New Jersey: Film, TV Industry Fights to Save State Tax Credit
Associated Press, 6/10/10
“With a television series’ dismantled set as a backdrop, a procession of actors, producers and directors made their case for New Jersey to extend its tax credit for production companies, an incentive that could be cut from the state budget by the end of the month. Representatives from Mercy and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit urged Republican Gov. Chris Christie to reconsider ending the 20 percent tax credit the state has offered since 2006 to lure movie and TV production companies to the state. Both TV series are filmed largely in New Jersey…’If there hadn’t been a credit program in place, New Jersey would not have been an option’ as a location for Mercy, series producer Jim Bigwood told the hearing chaired by state Senate Budget Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, a Democrat and supporter of the tax credit. The hearing was held in the warehouse where hospital drama Mercy has been filmed since last year. The series was not renewed by NBC but had been considered for cable, a possibility that was nixed because of uncertainty over New Jersey’s tax credit, according to Brian O’Leary, tax counsel for CNBC Universal.”
I said it before and I’ll say it again: New Jersey is getting precisely what it elected. Christie’s swinish arrogance and economic ignorance will plow the Garden State right under. As the story notes, “
New Jersey is the only state considering ending its tax credit program for budgetary reasons…”
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit alone “has paid about $540 million in wages over 12 years to its cast and crew, not counting its featured stars” and paid “$150 million to New Jersey vendors over that time.”

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Washington: Linking Seattle’s Music Scene and Local Businesses
SeattlePI.com’s Strange Bedfellows Blog, 6/14/10

“Jason Finn, drummer for the popular local band Presidents of the United States of America, is part of the 21-member Seattle Music Commission announced at City Hall on June 14…The commission has been charged with using existing resources and finding new ways to promote the city’s music scene and talking with private businesses to help grow the industry. The message was that local music is good for local business. City Councilman Nick Licata said there are about 9,000 area jobs tied to music and that tens of millions of dollars are spent annually on everything from the opera to Friday night shows at The Sunset. James Keblas, director of the city’s Office of Film and Music, said a vibrant music scene is key to attracting young professionals, who fuel the area’s tech and other industries. ‘You need to have a healthy music industry to create a healthy biotech sector,’ Keblas said. Mayor Mike McGinn said ‘one of our great exports is music…music helps define who we are in Seattle.'”
Interesting factoid, also from the story: “there are about 9,000 area jobs tied to music” in Seattle. That’s astounding!

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Missouri: New Performing Arts Center Receives $12 Million Foundation Pledge
Associated Press, 6/14/10
“Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for Performing Arts is nearly three-fourths finished, and thanks in part to a recent $12 million gift, on target to open as scheduled in the fall of 2011. The center received a huge lift last month with the $12 million pledge from the Joe and Jeanne Brandmeyer Family Foundation. The gift boosted a spring fundraising effort that was aimed at smaller donors and is the fifth-largest pledge since fundraising began 10 years ago. ‘The barometer for us was that even with a challenging economy, we started getting calls from people who wanted to give,’ said Jane Chu, president and CEO of the Kauffman Center. Arts center officials say they have achieved 90 percent of a $413 million fundraising goal that includes a $40 million endowment fund, according to The Kansas City Star.”
Very good news, too. One question: $413 million? Maybe that number wasn’t so towering at the utter height of the economy, but in this economy, ouch. Kansas City had better trot out its economic-impact numbers soon.

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Minnesota: Musicians Accept Pay Cut for Second Straight Year
MPR News, State of the Arts column, 6/14/10

“For the second year in a row, musicians at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) have agreed to a pay cut as a result of the poor economy. Last year the musicians took a 12 percent cut. This year it will be 11.3 percent. In a release, SPCO officials say management approached the musicians in February about helping with meeting the current financial challenges, and after numerous meetings the players agreed to the reduction on June 8. The salary reductions come on the heels of the announcement that senior management will continue to take a 10 percent pay reduction through the 2010-2011 season and will not receive retirement account contributions.”
Think that through: musicians have sacrificed more than 20 percent of their salary in the last two years. For certain areas of the arts, is this the start of a more profound, long-lasting contraction?

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