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Advocate editorial board opinion: City should boost support for the arts

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 7, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2012 at 7:07 p.m.

When the economy suffers, one of the first things up on the chopping block is the arts. The Victoria City Council certainly didn't cut the arts at its Jan. 3 meeting, but, overall, it left the arts in a static condition.

We think our economy has rebounded nicely, and hotel occupancy is at an all time high, requiring more rooms in the city. And new ones are being built.

And the hotel/motel occupancy tax supplies the funds that support the arts. The latest information shows the hotel/motel tax fund swelling at about $1.3 million. But under state law, only 15 percent of the tax money can be used for the arts and preservation, according to O.C. Gaza, the city's communication director.

That 15 percent equaled $195,240, Garza said. But only $173,800 was budgeted for the selection committee that determined which organizations met the city's criteria.

The criteria for an art organization to be funded requires evidence that the art organization brings visitors to Victoria, and those visitors stay overnight at a hotel.

Still, there was about $20,000 more that could have been distributed to the arts groups if that was made available to the selection committee. And there was more in a reserve fund from last year's 15 percent total, according to Councilwoman Denise Rangel, who wanted more made available to the arts.

"The arts is a vital part of our community, not only visual arts, musical arts, theater and dance arts, but also preservation," she said.

"I am optimistic about Victoria's progressive stance on the arts. I am optimistic about our future. The arts help foster growth with allocations to outside agencies," Rangel said.

"I know some of the groups were disappointed. Some got more," Mayor Will Armstrong said. "I think the committee did a good job. There won't be any attempt to second guess any of their decisions."

However, Armstrong said he wanted to emphasize that the city is behind the arts.

"We've had considerable discussion involving the arts and how we can best benefit the community," he said.

We encourage the city to enhance Victoria's arts scene, which will benefit residents of the city and the Crossroads, especially now that the economy is improving.

"At our next meeting - Jan. 17 - I'm sure that there will be some announcements," Armstrong said.

Like Rangel, we remain optimistic that the city will broaden its support of the arts and preservation, using hotel/motel occupancy tax funds.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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