Sunday, February 11, 2018

Councilmembers Are Misinformed. We're Setting the Record Straight!

Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove, Rod Dembowski, and Kathy Lambert are spending lot of King County taxpayer time on social media spreading information about 4Culture and Ordinance #2018-0086 that is simply not true. Here are the facts:

WRONG: Councilmembers have stated this ordinance does not allow the council to amend the 4Culture budget only approve or reject. 
FACT: We’re not naive. Numerous staffers at King County have confirmed what we suspected - Councilmembers will hold a budget hostage if they don’t get what they want. Allowing the Council to approve or reject the budget leaves the door wide open for them to demand pet-projects be funded and those they deem unsavory to be censored. 

WRONG: Councilmembers have stated 4Culture is an elitist organization that only funds big institutions in Seattle.
FACT: You’re joking right? Jump on to 4Culture’s website that lists “past grants” and check out just the first few pages. 10 Degrees, 206 Zulu, 3 Ring School of Circus Arts are the first three organizations that pop up. Those are not exactly elitist or big. The first two support artists of color and the LGBTQ community and 3 Ring School of Circus works with low-income families in Issaquah. 

WRONG: Councilmembers have stated 4Culture gives grants.
FACT: The fact is all award funds distributed by 4Culture are EARNED. Additionally, nearly all dollars awarded by 4Culture are decided by CITIZEN review panels composed of citizens who are dedicated to the arts, history, and culture. 

WRONG: Councilmembers have stated that 4Culture doesn’t fund refugees, immigrants, or people of color.
FACT: This falsehood is particularly hard to stomach. At this moment, Gallery4Culture features Mexican-American artist Marilyn Montufar and the Mexican Consulate proudly hosted her opening on First Thursday Gallery Walk. Again, visit the past grants section of their website, you’ll quickly see councilmembers are WRONG. 

WRONG: Councilmembers have stated 4Culture’s budget is voluntarily appropriated by the King County Council every year to 4Culture to support its mission.
FACT: State law defines the use of the funds and existing county ordinance defines 4Culture’s role. It’s not as if the council has to sit down each year and decide whether or not to use these funds for arts and culture or some other random use like waste water treatment.

Dembowski: “Councilmembers will not be involved in grant decisions or specific proposals. I take seriously my duty to ensure that the budget fairly supports initiatives that fund organizations and artists, across the spectrum of our diverse county, and to ensure that overhead is kept in check so that these funds get into the community.”
Advocate4Culture: Councilmembers are already involved in grant decisions and specific proposals in many County programs. We’ve been hearing from County employees that they are directed by councilmembers to give monetary awards to groups that never even applied for support. Not only are these groups not earning these funds, they didn't even ask for them. 

Dembowski: “I have been a strong supporter of 4Culture and its purpose, and am optimistic that increased collaboration with King County will strengthen the case to further support its mission and funding.”
Advocate4Culture: Really?  If you are such a great supporter of the arts and culture community, why couldn’t you talk to 4Culture, or anyone outside of the council chamber, when you and Councilmember Upthregrove were writing this ordinance?  How about asking 4Culture how you could pitch in to help rather than trying to win political points by flinging mud?  

Dembowski: “Looking at recent grant data from 4Culture, I am concerned that funding has, for too long, not been fairly distributed to all communities. For example, over a three year period (2012-14), grants to organizations and artists in my district totaled between $217,986 and $243,674 per year for a three year total of $700,694 (4.99% of all funds). This put District 1 organizations 7th out of 9 districts in funding. “
Advocate4Culture: We’ve looked at their numbers too. Have you also seen that the vast majority of applicants don’t come from your district? The old “you can’t win if you don’t play.” phrase works well here. We've talked with several people who have served as "panelists" for 4Culture and they've said that 4Culture ask them to prioritize applicants from outside Seattle. Applications from outside of Seattle have a far greater chance of being funded. 

Dembowski: “And we put Access for All on the ballot last year, and came close to passing it. However, one of the chief criticisms of the proposal centered on weak oversight of the significant investment of public dollars.  A second criticism was that too much concentration of funding left behind many areas of the county and smaller organizations.”
Advocate4Culture: Councilmember, Access for All isn’t the same as 4Culture. 4Culture may have become the organization that managed these funds, but if Councilmembers were the ones to put Access for All on the ballot, maybe you should have figured out your 'criticisms' before you did so. Doesn’t putting a measure on the ballot cost like a MILLION DOLLARS? 

Dembowski: “I personally testified before the legislature to help secure this funding stream.”
Advocate4Culture: Funny, we were there for every hearing through 2011 and we don’t remember seeing or hearing from you at all.  We don’t recall your being there in support of 4Culture. You must be mistaken. 

Dembowski: “Funding for the period 2015-17 shows that organizations and artists in my district received just 2.66% of all funds, ranking 8th out of 9 districts. While I don’t advocate for precise equality in distributions countywide, this data points to an out-of-balance and inequitable funding record, depriving small and diverse arts, culture, and heritage programs from growing and thriving countywide.”
Advocate4Culture: Again, did you know that applications from outside Seattle have a far greater chance of being funded by 4Culture?  If you didn’t know this you should have taken 5 minutes to ask 4Culture for the numbers, like we did.  What arts or history groups in your district have not applied to 4Culture or did apply and feel that their applications were not considered in a fair and equitable manner? What citizen volunteer from your district who has worked as a reviewer or advisory member agrees with you that funding allocation is made by an unfair process? 

Have you announced all of 4Culture’s opportunities in your newsletters? Do you tell your constituents at your town halls that they can apply for grant funds? What have you done to spread the word? Using this as an excuse to seize power when your office has done virtually nothing to help is hypocritical at best.

Let's keep setting the record straight advocates!