Emergency for LA’s Arts Community

I’m writing you about an emergency for the artists and arts organizations of Los Angeles. You may know about the Pasadena Playhouse closing. What you may not know is that some Los Angeles City Council members want to redirect the 1% of the Transient Occupancy Tax designated for the Department of Cultural Affairs back to the city’s general fund. That would be a jobs disaster for Los Angeles’ artistic community: the Pasadena Playhouse times a thousand. We need to rally the artists and audiences of Los Angeles to prevent the gutting of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

In addition, I’ve just been informed by Danielle Brazell at Arts for LA that

“We have also received word that the CAO’s office is recommending that all 09-10 unencumbered grants be revoked. There’s a budget and finance committee meeting on Monday. Although two separate motions, if either goes through it could be catastrophic for grantees.”

In the microcosm, the latter would mean Theatre West would lose a $6,500 grant already approved for our Storybook Theatre. We’ve already spent the money upfront on the two productions, a requirement for reimbursement under the DCA grant. Awfully difficult climate to make up budget for already paid for activities! In the macro, it would mean literally hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions of dollars in already approved grant monies not going to organizations across the city.

The Transient Occupancy Tax is a 14% tax on hotel rooms. For over 20 years, one percent of those 14% is dedicated to funding the Department of Cultural Affairs, whose $2,200,000 grant program supports hundreds of large and small arts organizations. Thousands of jobs at theaters and museums are stimulated by those grants – which have to be matched with private monies. Even beyond the immediate impact on the arts community (most of which are hanging on by their fingernails and can’t take any more hits), the ancillary businesses that feed off our work – restaurants, printers, hotels, parking lots, all will be affected adversely.

Theatre West is only a small organization with a budget under $500,000 but at least two local restaurants report 40% more business on nights when we have a show. That extra revenue is the difference between survival and bankruptcy for those companies. Those restaurants will close if Theatre West folds up, putting another 40 people out of work. Our printer gets $50,000 from us annually. He also does a few other non-profit arts organizations. He will go out of business, and put 12 people out of work if those non-profits aren’t there to give him printing jobs. The landlords who rent the restaurant and printer and theater spaces for an average of $3 per ft, will lose hundreds of thousands per year. And it goes on and on.

There are always going to be those who say the arts are a luxury we can’t afford. The truth in Los Angeles — according to Jack Kyser, chief economist for LA, Inc, and author of the 2009 Otis Report — is that the arts are an economic engine that employ over 35,000 people directly and contribute at least that many jobs indirectly in tourism, restaurants, printing and ancillary businesses, not to mention the economic multiplyer at other local businesses where those employees shop like grocery stores.

Los Angeles cannot afford the easy short term solution of finding a few million dollars in tax revenue for the general fund from the 1% of the TOT dedicated to the Department of Cultural Affairs, and we hope you will join us in urging those misinformed City Council members to rethink their support for that measure. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to strategize on how we might reverse this unfortunate idea before it becomes law. Also contact these individuals:

  • Call City Council President Eric Garcetti’s office and tell him these are bad ideas: (213)-473-7013 or email him at Councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org or Garcetti@council.lacity.org.
  • Call Budget & Finance Committee Chair Bernard Parks office and tell him these are bad ideas: 213.473.7008 or email him at Councilmember.parks@lacity.org or parks@council.lacity.org.
  • Call Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office and ask him to veto both these ideas: 213.978.0600 or 213.978.0721 and comment at “ask the Mayor

john-gallogly.jpgAs I understand it, the motion will be before the City Council on Wednesday, February 3 at 9 a.m. It will not go through the usual committee process. It would mean the end of virtually all grants through the Department  of Cultural Affairs.

Danielle Brazell is the Executive Director of ArtsforLA. Terence McFarland is Executive Director ofLos Angeles Stage Alliance. Please make sure they are copied on all correspondence. Her email is dbrazell@artsforla.org. Terence is terence_mcfarland@mac.com.

John Gallogly

Mr. Gallogly is the executive director of Theatre West and a member of the board of directors for California Arts Advocates.

Articles by John:

Published by the LA Progressive on February 2, 2010
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