nucanak spoke of the social contract that other governments have between the arts and government. If I had to guess, Volkswagen is probably bewildered with the request for funding from various arts and charity groups. In Germany, government pays for close to 100 percent of the arts. It does result in higher tax rates, but the German people seem to appreciate it, along with other government services. Germany's growth and financial health have not suffered from the higher tax burden.
The "involvement" of government in the arts occurs on a far more minor scale here. However, such involvement needs to have public scrutiny to avoid becoming political. When Ron Littlefield, starting in 2005, diverted funds from arts organizations to start his own city department of cultural affairs, the act appeared to be more political than effective, especially given the salaries of those who ran it. The funds diverted to salaries and other costs of the department were in part previously parceled out as grants to arts organizations.
When Hamilton County pitched a hissy fit in 2011, and eliminated funding for the arts to compensate for the loss of sales tax revenues to the city, it calculated that it made what it considered a small group pay for its loss of funds to the city. Never mind that the funds paid for much of the arts in Hamilton County Schools,free classroom trips to the Tivoli to hear the Symphony, art classes, etc. This too was political, for a different reason. There is some evidence that part of the county funds were restored by the discretionary funds of various county commissioners, but this does not substitute for a stable county funding policy.
What several areas such as Oklahoma City, Boulder, CO, and the like have done is red-lined a portion of their total budgets to the arts, in the range of 1-2 percent. Then a citizen's panel is appointed to parcel out the funds with full transparency. This makes government funding of the arts more collective and less political than the two incidents that have occurred in Chattanooga and Hamilton County in recent years. It is an idea worth considering.
So long as the arts (and recreation, for that matter) brings in funds to the area, why should it not be supported by the government? Because all of us are the ultimate beneficiaries, and thus for this reason, all of us should pay proportionality. Additional funding can be provided by individuals and foundations. Since the arts benefit the entire community, the private sector is not in a position to totally fund because it does not exclusively benefit. Only the government can provide collective funding for collective benefits.
We do need a process to insure that such funds are wisely appropriated, and do not serve a political purpose. Nor should government entities and politicians who do not contribute, be able to access or take credit for the arts in the manner of government entities who do contribute to the arts.
Re: aae 1049: But why stop with the sale of the Tivoli? Why not have the city and county sell off the softball diamonds, Chester Frost Park, Coolege Park, the Chattanooga Greenway, etc.? Just think of all the funds the government would raise to reduce taxes, to say nothing of all the operating expenses that would no longer be part of the government's budget...
And for soakya: VW did not come here for the tax package alone. There were similar tax incentives being dangled by other states, including Alabama and Mississippi. Alabama spent more on tax breaks to get Mercedes to come to Tuscaloosa than Tennessee did on Volkswagen. Thus the idea that VW came here just for tax breaks does not ring true, because they were not unique. And least we forget: VW could have located anywhere in Tennessee to get those tax breaks. They chose Chattanooga not randomly, but by design.
What is unique about Chattanooga is our quality of life, of which the arts and our recreation facilities, along with our geography, play a vital part. Even if you do not partake in the arts or recreation opportunities, you benefit from the attraction of those who do; the spending of their incomes and the taxes that they pay, all of which is reflected in government revenues.
Payment for the arts and recreation is proportionate. Since property taxes pay for most of our local government, the poor pay little or nothing depending on the amount of real estate they occupy, while the affluent pay more with their higher assessed residences. Thus when thinking of preserving the arts by having government raise per person funding by the price of a latte, or a pack of cigarettes, or a six pack of beer, we are speaking of an average cost and burden on the average citizen. Some would pay more, some pay less and some pay not at all.
Against this cost is the benefit of attracting companies, workers, visitors, etc., all of whom contribute to the economic well-being of Chattanooga. If the arts does this, then it should be worthy of government support. While you may not see yourself as benefitting personally, you do benefit economically. How much personal benefit you derive depends on how much you participate in the many facets of the arts that are offered for free. If you elect not to participate, then that is your right. However, you still benefit.