So I’m having coffee this morning with Jim Kelly, the head of King County’s 4 Culture, on the eve of what may very well be the vote that sinks the organization. He’s filling me in on the complicated politics that have resulted in this state when he stops, laughs, and runs his hands through his hair. “I didn’t start this year with this much gray hair, did I? I swear this is turning me gray.”
You know, he may be right. And if you care about the arts in Seattle, 4 Culture’s current dilemma will probably give you some gray hairs too.
As Kelly outlines it, the political fate of 4 Culture, King County’s arts funding agency, has always navigated around some fairly treacherous shoals from both Republicans and Democrats. The current crop of Republicans, emboldened by the neo-libertarian codswollop of the Tea Party, repeat the old trope that the government has no business funding the arts—or health care, food safety, transportation or any other “non-essentials.” Though they’re not the majority in our state legislature they’ve done an admirable job in voting as a block—which is where our Democratic legislators inevitably fail. It’s far too easy to peel off a few Democratic votes on any issue, even one like arts funding, where they’ve long been the standard bearers.
In this case, one of the greatest obstacles to arts funding has been caused by a Democrat, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp. Though on paper Chopp’s a good liberal, like many long-time politicians (he was first elected back in 1994 and has been Speaker since 2002) he’s got some strange and immovable ideas about how things should be funded. Specifically, he’s made it clear that he’ll have nothing to do with arts funding that isn’t linked to funding low-income housing.
While both issues are good liberal causes, it’s baffling why they should be linked, but there you go: politicians don’t necessarily think like you or me. The result of this odd tic is that funding for 4 Culture has to be wrapped around a package of legislation that has little to do with it. In fact the most recent bill for funding 4 Culture, SB 5958, was described as “providing local government funding of tourism promotion, workforce housing, art and heritage programs, and community development.” Funding improvements for the Convention Center and low-cost housing might be necessary, but danged if I can see why the hell they have anything to do with funding what’s probably the most efficient and effective arts funding source in Washington.
SB 5958 missed by one vote last week. Here’s our best chance of getting SB 5961, the replacement bill that dropped on Saturday, to make it through the session TOMORROW (which is set as the last day of the session):
You can go here: http://www.advocate4culture.org/ and e-mail ALL of the folks in the Legislature.
Or you can e-mail and call the following three key Senators.
Phil Rockefeller (D, Bainbridge): he’s been on the fence and needs to hop off.
Fax: (360) 786-1999
Same goes for:
Jim Kastama (D, Puyallup)
Olympia Office: (360) 786-7648
District Office: (253) 840-4701
And here’s another strategic thought:
Pam Roach, Republican (Auburn), has shown independence and a willingness to vote against her fellow Republicans often enough to really annoy them. Contact her at:
Office Phone: (360) 786-7660
Toll-Free: 1 (800) 562-6000
Fax: (360) 786-7819
All of this will take 10 minutes—and it’s really easy. No salesman will call, no one will yell at you, you don’t even have to mail in anything. And it just might save one of the best arts organizations in Washington.