This wad of money is used by the city under its obligation to promote San Diego (to, well, other tourists). Sounds like it benefits everybody, no? Well, it does, but perhaps not in the most balanced/effective way.
The TOT pool is divvied up to fund other programs/services. Imagine the TOT as a pie consisting of 10.5 cents. 5.5 cents of the tax goes directly to the city's General Fund used for general government purposes. Four cents are to be used solely for the purpose of promoting SD, while one cent may be used for any purpose the SD City Council chooses. Currently and somewhere squeezed within the TOT pie slice, only half a cent goes to funding arts & culture programming. It used to be a full penny.
So at the recent Oct. 8th San Diego City Council Economic Development and Strategies Committee meeting, a number of arts-organization leaders and artists occupied the seats in Council Chambers in support of the "Penny for the Arts" campaign. Speakers from the SD Commission for Arts and Culture presented the proposed initiative which was followed by members of the public to speak of their approval or opposition. The councilmembers that were present raised questions, discussed the importance of arts & culture programming in San Diego, and voted unanimously in favor of the campaign.
What touched me the most were the parting words of Councilmember Sherri Lightner, who currently oversees District 1 of San Diego. She said that what was presented in the meeting stood for a good case in the upcoming Oct. 22nd meeting. We can see from the numbers spoken the great return on investment that arts & culture has on the City. However, she pointed out the lack of presented stories that show the impact from such programming and how the quality of life is affected from arts & culture. This is not an easy thing to measure, but important to address.
Agreed. I thought about my position as an artist and of brief memories stemming from childhood of "what brought me here" in the first place. I grew up in a poor family and recall our inner-city living and constant relocation from one project housing to the next during my first half of childhood. My parents, who had very little knowledge in understanding and speaking English, relied on free public programming so that there would be something for my siblings and me to do. These were programs and events that would help educate and inform us, and keep us away from drugs and gangs. But there were also ones that would touch and inspire us despite our socio-economic background and the burden of uncertainty my parents faced when they sought work and stable housing.
I remember us playing around & touching the public art in the park every week, the theater games we had participated in a free workshop we attended, going to the museum where my favorite activity was pressing a button that would light up what seemed to be the largest map of California in front of me. The beautiful glow from underneath this map is what amazed me each time I pressed that button. Thinking past another kid that likes to press buttons, I saw and felt something that felt good inside of me. I wasn't able to to articulate it at the time, but that glowing light represented a kind of hope for myself, my family, and our future.
This is why I feel for arts & culture organizations and programs: I want future generations of disadvantaged families and children to have access to something fine in life. Arts & culture must continue to be supported; it is what feeds and nourishes our well being. It is this quality of living that is difficult to measure but is exponentially priceless.