Monday, March 22, 2010

Austin Theatre Arts Under Threat: City Council May End or Curtail Grants and Subsidies

Austin's mayor and city council are contemplating a revised and much more restrictive ruling of the Texas Attorney General's ruling on uses of the Hotel and Occupancy Tax, one that is likely to sharply cut or eliminate City grants and subsidies to arts organizations, including theatre.

This e-mail advice and request just in from the Greater Austin Creative Alliance :


We are aware and extremely concerned about what is going on at City Council in regards to changes to the HOT funds ( Hotel Occupancy tax). We are doing all we can to double check all of the facts as to what has actually transpired so we know what we should immediately address. Tonight it is essential for all Arts supporters from the Austin community to stand strong at the City of Austin Arts Commission meeting at 5:30 TODAY City Hall, Room 1029 to discuss the fate of the Arts in Austin. Please hold tomorrow from 11 to 1 pm open for a meeting at the Dougherty Arts Center. We will be sending out more information as soon as we can.

Greater Austin Creative Alliance

Latifah Taormina, Executive Director

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ALT provides, below, an email link and text suggested by Michael Mellinger and Andrew Long, ready to send directly to the Council.

"Use your voice and stand up for the rights of all Austin Artists and Art Supporters NOW.

"The following is a link to the online form for emailing mayor and council simultaneously:

Dear Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers,

It has recently come to light that the Council is considering applying a narrow interpretation of the State Attorney General's ruling concerning the use of state Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds. Under the current interpretation that has been in place for years in Austin, HOT funds have been used to support a wide variety of creative, community-based arts organizations. These groups increase the city's livability, complement its artistic temperament, and boost tourism by putting Austin on the map as a city with a vibrant and exciting arts culture.

All that will change if the city adopts a narrow view of the AG ruling, which states that only projects proving a direct, quantifiable impact on tourism are eligible to receive HOT funds. But there are many ways to interpret and evaluate an arts group's impact on tourism. As City Council members, you have the discretion to continue interpreting the existing statute in such a way as to not wipe out over a hundred arts organizations that are currently enriching the lives of Austin's citizens-particularly the largely under-served populations of children, the elderly, lower-income, and people of color. Even the city's own Special Opportunities and Capacity Building programs will be ineligible for funding under this narrow interpretation.

As a citizen of Austin, I am asking you to reverse your recent decision to change what kind of programming is eligible for Cultural Arts funding.

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