Issue 18 -- should I vote for it?

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Thu, 11/02/2006 - 01:49.

Issue 18 -- the signs make it seem so clear. "Arts & Culture". Yes! I'm for that! That's what my life is all about, really; five years earning my B.A. in fine arts, two years for a  M.A. in art history , 6 years of a Ph.D. in art history and museum studies. I go to art openings, visit MOCA and the CMA frequently, and I collect art. I go to the opera, the film festival, a few plays and musicals each year. I love to support arts and culture.

How could I not vote for issue 18? I have heard that issue 18 funds arts and culture by taxing cigarettes (I'm not sure where I heard this information, the act seem a bit nebulous to me). So it seems to me there is a dilema inherent in issue 18 -- moral and otherwise. If you want lots of money to be spent on arts and culture in Cuyahoga County (Oh, and I do. The more money this county spends on arts and culture the more likely I am to have a good job and fun things to do in my spare time) then that means that I want people to really smoke a lot. Myself, I don't smoke, and I don't think I could stand to start, so if issue 18 passes I should encourage smokers that I know to smoke more. Maybe I could even support arts and culture by buying cigarettes for smokers that I know? Give out carton of cigarettes for Christmas, donate cigarettes to the homeless. When I think about it, most of the people I know who smoke are artists. That makes issue 18 seem a bit unfair. Artist should n't be taxed to support their own art making. I know the IRS agrees, art supplies are tax deductible for artists.

But don't we want people to stop smoking? I frequently get emails from my employer about smoking ceasation classes they sponsor and I remember seeing ads on TV about state programs to help people quit smoking. Are n't there two other issues on the ballot to stop people from smoking inside and outside of nearly all buildings? Issues 4, 5, and 18 seem like they could cancel each other out. If  issues 4 and 5 pass will it mean that people will smoke less and arts and culture won't be well funded even if issue 18 passes? And what about all the cost of smoking? Will this tax that benefits arts and culture out weigh the cost of smoking to our already very fucked up health care system? The costs of smoking in America seem like they must be very high. First you have to consider the cost of all the people who get cancer, emphysema, heart disease. Then there are the babies born premature, children with asthma and chronic bronchitis and the related costs, people who require oxygen tanks, stomas, wheel chairs, respitory therapy, nursing home or hospice care. There is also the occasional accident where someone with a cigarette burns their house down.

What I have not heard is how much money we can expect to see from issue 18, how it will be spent and who decides how to spend it. I seems to me there must be a better way to fund arts and culture. The lesser of two evils is still evil.


A tough issue for me too

I agree with all your points and am especially concerned with the last one, being "how much money we can expect to see from issue 18, how it will be spent and who decides how to spend it". On the Issue 18 website they do have some details, but not specific enough for me. Ultimately, I support Issue 18 - more money for the arts is good. Here are the website's FAQ answers to your three big questions:

How much will this issue raise?
It is expected to raise at least $20 million annually for Cuyahoga County's Arts & Culture organizations. By Ohio law, this money can only be used to help arts & culture in this county.

How will the funds from this levy be distributed?
Organizations and artists will be able to apply for support under four grant categories:

  • Operating Support Fund: is a competitive grant program that provides matching funds to 501c (3) non-profit arts and culture organizations located in the Cuyahoga County. Funds are used for operational and administrative expenses.

  • Creative Development Fund: is a competitive project-based matching grants fund open to any non-profit organization that produces or presents an arts and culture project in Cuyahoga County. There are four potential grant applications: Arts and Culture Projects, Research and Development, Cultural Tourism and Organizational Development.
  • Artist Support Fund: is a competitive project-based grant open to individual artists who are residents of Cuyahoga County for research or development of innovative work that attempts to significantly advance the artist's career and discipline.
  • Extraordinary Initiative Fund: Special Opportunity grants are available to organizations on a competitive basis for the purpose of leveraging a unique circumstance to benefit citizens of Cuyahoga County and should advance the region's artistic and cultural sector. A limited number of grants will be awarded each year and a cash match may be required.
  • Who will evaluate applications and determine who receives awards?
    All eligible applications will be studied and evaluated by a peer panel of arts and culture experts drawn from outside the county to ensure their impartiality. The panel will conduct a review of the grants in an open, public session. Panel recommendations will be presented to the Board of the Cuyahoga County Commission for review and approval,

    I definitely know I'm against Issue 4 and for 5!

    Disrupt IT

    Sorry for the shameless self-promotion

    but there's a ton of info in our Issue 18 meet.the.bloggers* interview here

    I have listened to the first 10 minutes...

    I have listened to the first 10 minutes but it was just getting going. I will listen to the rest today... a great example of the value of podcasts and MTB. Thanks George

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    Now I've listened to the whole Meet The Bloggers

    I have listened to the complete MTB on Issue 18, and highly recommend all voters do the same. First of all, good work Meet the Bloggers - it is so useful having this available for citizens to listen to in making our decisions... especially on such tough calls Tim, your questions were especially helpful!

    I won't say whether I decided for or against, but am disturbed that the campaign has been intellectually and visually unimpressive - downright ugly campaign material (website, signs, mailers and ads)... for an ARTS campaign... imagine the potential here (e.g. having local artists design the ads and material. The fact so little creativity went into this effort is very discouraging. Seems like politics as usual, and I am sick and tired of politics as usual in this community. The proponents interviewed on Meet The Bloggers did nothing to dispel this impressing... pretty status quo stuff. And, I resent that Hagan has said "don't bother talking to me about saving the Breuer". If he is so inconsiderate about public funding and feelings about arts and culture, why should he or his co-workers have anything to do with distributing $20-25 million a year of taxpayer money for that, or get any credit for enhancing arts and culture in our community. I would feel much better if there were no politicians or institutions involved in all this at all.

    All that considered, if 50% of the money is actually spent well, even if just for the Cleveland Orchestra to retire their debt and MoCA to put toward their new building, that may be worth the tax, and the rest of the arts and culture community can struggle on, no harm done. Smokers who don't like it should buy their smokes in another county or online... and, ultimately, we should quit.

    Yesterday, there was an exhibition of the work of John Jackson, at Zygote Press, and an opening for a show on Green affordable housing design at CIA., and the Peoples Art Show at CSU, and one of the last shows ever at 1300. Those who attended at least one or two of these shows actually care about visual arts in NEO. And, I'm certain John Jackson didn't care if he got cigarette tax revenue to be an artist, and neither will any other true artists in NEO. In the end, rest assured, the artists will continue taking care of making art, sin funded or not, as it is in our blood. NEO is a great arts community because of the artists and those who already support them here, and we all know who are those people and respect them greatly. Huge props to all of them!

    Listen to the Meet The Bloggers interview in Prop 18 and vote with your minds, and we'll see where things wind up a month from now when the County has figured out how to count 100,000+ "absentee" ballots..

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    the sin's of our artists

    I have spoken to many artists and arts promoters, who, despite their love for and involvement in the arts, will vote no on Issue 18 because they feel it is wrong to tax a segment of the populace for the good the whole. Tax the whole they say. They didn't vote for the sin taxes of the past either.

        I have posted about a Plastax - 15 cents on every plastic bag carried from a store -- a more equitable tax that would also effect a change of behavior and improve public health. I have suggested other perhaps more widespread "sins" we could tax to produce a pool of funds, such as lawn chemicals, landfilling, leaf removal, etc.

        I felt a lot better about campaigning for Issue 31 (despite the lack of info shared as to how funding would work) than I do about Issue 18.

        When we determine that something is a sin, demonize it and tax it, we open the door to adding a long list of sins that might be taxed, but government policy stops us dead in our tracks. Petrolism reigns, and taxing plastics or aerosol cans or ammonium nitrate is unthinkable when those lobbies are still so strong. It is easy to push the cost onto someone else and easiest to tax something that has had so much bad press.

        If Issue 18 passes (and it looks like a slam dunk), artists and arts consumers will indeed be obliged to say thank you for smoking. If it passes easily, we may feel snarky about how much money nonprofit arts orgs and their patrons have spent to get money from smokers. Clevelander's spent the bucks on this campaign.  

    “Arts & Culture Action Committee contributions so far range from a total of $130,000 from Playhouse Square Foundation to $25 donations from residents. Arts and business leaders who make up the campaign's executive committee have given large sums, including $20,000 from arts advocate Barbara Robinson and $15,000 from Jamie Ireland.

    The array of other contributors includes Eaton Corp. ($15,000), the Greater Cleveland Partnership ($5,000) and a tiny Cleveland arts-education center, the Rainey Institute ($100).”

    How might that money have been spent to support a more innovative approach? I suspect we’ll never know.  We can remain curious as to how it will play out. Will people stop smoking in droves or will the lever of the arts, funded by carton after carton cause the city's economic renaissance? Either way,  artists are  being counted on to provide the lever, no matter how unfairly placed the fulcrum.

    Sin taxes beyond smoking

    Interesting points, Susan. In Canada, when you go to the supermarket, you pay for the bags you use (if you are smart, you bring your own). Another observation... As I was driving up to Canada this weekend it occurred to me how easy it would be to use technology to track cars and trucks and tax drivers for speeding and other dangerous behavior (Progressive Insurance has been experimenting with such black box capabilities for years). We have millions of people breaking the law all day and night, and society pays trained professionals (police) to sit on the roads with low technology trying to catch enough of them to pay their own wages. With today's technology, society could track all those vehicles and each month send a bill to those speeding or driving dangerously. Technology could also idenitfy those likely driving drunk. The tax would generate $ billions per month. People would change their behavior, making roads more safe, and those most dangerous would be removed from the rest of society. More people would move nearer to where they work, there would be less pollution...

    We are so primative.

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    After considering the state

    After considering the state of arts and culture in Cuyahoga County (more precisely Cleveland) for the past few days. I think whether or not issue 18 passes, Clevelanders are poised to be more supportive of the arts. Will we be able to raise the money needed to support projects such as the new building for MOCA, the CMA expansion and renovation, CIA's new campus and many other more modest but still very important projects? It may be a difficult road, but I am optimistic. I'm still undecided about which way I will vote. If issue 18 was a plastax like Susan described there would be no question in my mind. Then, I would be happy to vote YES.

    one more smoking gun

    will there be smoking in the casinos? and another question--will the pay for minimum wage employees (artists certainly among them) be higher in them? barely earn and learn that sin pays. is that the message we are sending to first time voters?
    a minimum wage earner has to work 90 hours/week to pay rent for an apartment in the city of Cleveland...