Just hours before he was arrested for fraud, Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion Jr joined with six of his eight colleagues in a vote to adopt a budget that scissors $1.1 Million from the county’s arts budget, reducing the allocation by about 25%.
This vote was taken after a long evening of testimony from members of the public, who beseeched commissioners not to decimate a successful, nationally-recognized program that over the last decade has help transform Broward cities to cultural destinations, generated considerable revenue for the county, positively impacted both formal and informal education for residents, and nurtured an arts community that has attracted artists and students from around the world.
“Tough shit,” sayeth the commission. “No new taxes, and no more arts.”
I was one of the 130 speakers who offered two minutes of input for commissioners to ignore. Here’s what I said:
Commissioners, Citizens, Artists:
My name is [Squathole]. I’m a Broward County resident since 1985, and a home owner in eastern Hollywood since 1988.
I’ll be brief.
You know all the arguments about how beneficial the arts are. I don’t think that’s what all this pivots on. It comes down to revenue, or the shortage of it, and it appears that the only way to generate more is to raise taxes. But raising taxes is usually political suicide, especially when times are tough.
Given all that, here’s my modest proposal: Raise taxes and blame the artists. Tax for Art. Call it the “Arts Tax.”
When you hear the howls of protest, as you most assuredly will, blame us, the artists. Let us handle it. We’ve done a poor job of making our case for the arts with the very people who are most impacted, not the government or the funding sources or the ever-shrinking supply of private investors and sponsors or artists and aficionados themselves, but the man in the street, the 2.5 person household, the paycheck to paycheck American worker.
Give us the chance to show them where their money goes, and the difference it makes to their everyday existence. After all, we are them, and they are us. Artists are laborers, too, the same as AFSCME but without the pension and the health care. Put the pressure on us to forge this link.
Remember, art is supposed to inspire, to alter perspectives, to provoke. An Art Tax will do this in spades. Art will become the talk of the town, maybe the nation. Headline: “Raising Hopes, Courageous Broward County Commissioners Embrace the Arts, Raise Taxes!”
You know what the arts have done for Broward County, and what they need to keep on doing.. Don’t pull the plug, we’re all go down the drain.
Finally, remember, with Tax for Art, we’re not behind you on this, we’re out in front of you, advocating this cause and singing your praises. We’re your partners in this. We — the arts — give you a good deal. And a good deal more.
Sure hope the commissioner was wearing clean underwear when he was taken away.