Public issue campaigns and Election Days have always inspired me. How we determine our public leadership and resolve civic issues is fascinating. Our participation in the democratic process, particularly at the local level, is a special opportunity to sustain vital civic services and assets and chart a positive path for our community.
My interest in campaigns, elections and politics was raised to a higher mark in 2006, when an impassioned group of arts and culture advocates, community leaders and enthusiasts capped several years of tireless efforts. The outcome of their work and the consensus of Cuyahoga County voters was the first comprehensive public sector investment for the County’s arts and culture assets through a new cigarette tax.
A number of factors led to the arts and culture referendum’s passage. Not the least of these aspects was how the arts and culture folks put to use the skills they learned and the relationships they made working on other local issues campaigns. We have worked for the passage of library issues, health and human services issues, parks and schools issues. We prepared for an arts and culture campaign by joining forces with our colleagues in other areas of civic importance to back their efforts.
In doing so, we have seen our sector become a recognized political force. The resources our sector is able to bring to bear to run any campaign are volunteers and a fiscal commitment. These resources played a crucial role in helping to pass important issues, and will certainly be essential when we campaign to renew the cigarette tax.
With those factors in mind, I hope you will give thorough consideration to four important issues on the ballot this year relevant to our sector’s work.
A shipping port may not immediately seem intimately involved with the arts and culture scene, but the mission of the Port Authority is driving economic growth within the county — which attracts creative talent, and helps builds new audiences and supporters for our arts and cultural organizations and artists. Economic development throughout the area has been made possible by both the infrastructure maintained by the Port Authority and a development finance program that has helped build, maintain, or expand various cultural institutions within Cleveland—including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cleveland Museum of Art. The Port issue is a renewal; it won’t increase taxes and will simply continue the current cost of about 30 cents per month for the owner of a $100,000 home; for that, it supports over 18,000 good paying jobs and connects our region’s economy to the world.
The arts are used to strengthen community ties in many different ways. A strong arts community can strengthen support systems within a neighborhood—keeping children engaged, involved, and out of trouble. Arts programming for seniors provides services that supports families and the health of these individuals. Art therapy is successful in treating a myriad of different physical and emotional disorders. As healthcare and medicine continue to evolve, it is important that a complete spectrum of treatments be available to county residents particularly as we address issues of mental health. The HHS levy is a replacement of 2.9-mill increase and an increase of 1 mill, which will cost about $3.84 more per month, per $100,000 of home value. The issue provides critical services like protections for the elderly and children in need, Life Flight and emergency care at MetroHealth Medical Center, and crucially needed mental health and addiction services. It is interesting to note that MetroHealth’s Art Studio is one of the oldest art therapy programs in the United States.
Parks are an essential component of our arts and culture infrastructure—serving as a place for recreation, but also creative experience. The Cleveland Metroparks system hosts a wide range of programming for the arts and culture community, including photography classes, art exhibits focused on nature, gallery presentations, and activities for all ages that inspire creativity, innovation and exploration. The parks system is also an active force in attracting creative talent and businesses, as green space is often a highly desired asset when individuals make choices concerning their living location. The Metroparks issue is a renewal of 1.8 mills, and an increase of .9 mills. Its’ approval would mean that homeowners would pay about $2.50 more per month, per $100,000 of home value. Our county has never failed to support the Metroparks levy, and this issue is extremely important since it provides about 62% of the Metroparks’ total operating budget.
While only on the ballot within the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Library is an incredibly important piece of the city’s arts and culture education infrastructure. The library is a tremendous resource for anyone involved in arts and culture. From teaching people how to make movies, paint, draw, knit or write poetry to providing access to a wealth of information about the arts industry, technique, and history, the Library’s art and culture collections are amazing. The collections’ subjects include but are not limited to rare music recordings, photographs, prints, theatre objects and architectural drawings. The Library and its branches are important spaces of display for local artists. The Cleveland Library issue on the ballot this fall is a renewal, so it won’t increase taxes. It will continue the current levy of 5.8 mills for another four years, and it accounts for nearly half of the Library’s operating budget.
As a member of the arts and culture community please join with me and other colleagues to work for the success of these issues. Take a bit of time and learn more about them and share that information with your friends and networks. Together we can help support these civic matters that produce a more prosperous, healthy, green and knowledgeable county that is second to none.