Tag Archives: Oregon Cultural Trust

Listen up, Oregon: Your poet laureate is on the air

By Bob Hicks

Some Scatterers may remember this story, from way back in February, when Oregon was searching for a new poet laureate to replace Lawson Fusao Inada, who had filled two terms and was departing gracefully.

clip_image003Mr. Scatter suggested in The Oregonian that, historically speaking, the best qualifications might include a good beard (or at least a good shock of hair) and a cool-sounding name, like Colley Cibber or Seamus Heaney or Blind Harry or, well, Lawson Fusao Inada.

Once again ignoring Mr. Scatter’s unsolicited advice, Gov. Ted Kulongoski instead appointed Portland poet Paulann Petersen, who does not have a beard but does at least have an alliterative name.

Paulann Petersen, Oregon's new poet laureatePetersen seems like an excellent choice, actually. A good poet laureate is, in a sense, an ambassador of the word, and Petersen stressed that point to the committee that recommended her. “Poetry is not the domain of just a few, nor the realm of the elite,” she said. “Poetry is as natural and accessible as heartbeat and breath.” In April, Jeff Baker introduced her well in the pages of The Oregonian, and a few days later the O’s editorial board even chipped in with this nicely considered look at the laureate’s role and how Petersen might approach it.

This afternoon the Oregon Cultural Trust sent notice that Petersen will be the guest Tuesday morning on OPB Radio‘s Think Out Loud public affairs show, with host David Miller. Considering that poetry began as a spoken art form, this seems good and appropriate: We can all gather and listen around the virtual campfire. The show will be broadcast live 9-10 a.m., and rebroadcast 9-10 p.m. The shows are downloadable on the OPB Web site, too.

And that, fellow Scatterers, is the word.

In tough times, SAM’s calculated gamble

By Bob Hicks

The "Art Ladder," the main staircase of the original Robert Venturi portion of the Seattle Art Museum. The visible statues are Chinese funerary statues: two rams and a civilian guardian. May 5, 2007. Photo by Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

The Wall Street cowboys keep whoopin’ it up with other people’s money, the Dow dips and rises like a desperate trout on a line, the economists crunch numbers and announce happily that the recession’s over.

And in the real world, people brace for the worst. Jobs disappear. People take pay cuts and thank their lucky stars they didn’t get pink-slipped. Workers go on unpaid furloughs but keep the same old workloads. Basic benefits get deep-sixed. People simply drop out of the job market.

The state of Oregon trembles at the prospect of a half-billion-dollar shortage — a budget hole that will mean extraordinary cuts that are bound to include deep whacks in state cultural spending. This year’s crisis could make last year’s $1.8 million raid on the Oregon Cultural Trust seem like a mild practical joke. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Doors will shut.

Up north, they’re starting to swing already. In a bold and risky move, the Seattle Art Museum has announced that it will shut down most of its operations for two weeks early next year in a bid to cut costs enough to balance the budget. Janet I. Tu has the story in the Seattle Times. The cuts will also include a seven percent reduction in staffing and hefty salary cuts for top administrators.

“We are taking steps to remedy a tough situation,” said museum director Derrick Cartwright, who plans to take at least a fifteen percent salary cut. “I hope it will not impact the public.”

It will, of course. People will show up during those two weeks and the doors will be locked. Some people will be confused or disturbed or angry. Others will shrug their shoulders and possibly never show up again.

SAM and other major regional museums hold special roles in their communities. Even more than a symphony or opera or ballet or theater company, all of which routinely take breaks between performances, an art museum is looked on as a bulwark of reliability and stability. It’s expected to be open, except on Mondays. Only shutting down or curtailing a public library or a public school system — realities that more and more communities face — has a greater potential impact on a city’s sense of its cultural self.

On the other hand: When times are lean, what can you do but take extraordinary steps? SAM’s move is a calculated gamble. It’s more than budget-balancing, it’s shock therapy. Will potential donors see the move as tough, hard-headed pragmatism, or will they see an organization in trouble and tiptoe away? Obviously SAM is counting on the former: People will see an organization willing to make tough but necessary decisions and will want to put their money on the group that willingly faces reality. SAM could end up a “winner” in the increasingly difficult nonprofit funding race — but at what cost?

What do you think? Is this a smart move? How will it turn out? What can other cultural organizations learn from it, and is Seattle’s situation a harbinger of things to come in Portland? Let’s get the ideas rolling. Comments, please.


PHOTO: The “Art Ladder”, the main staircase of the original Robert Venturi portion of the Seattle Art Museum. The visible statues are Chinese funerary statues: two rams and a civilian guardian. May 5, 2007. Photo by Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday scatter: money and manure

“Money, pardon the expression, is like manure,” the indefatigable Dolly Levi maintains in Thornton Wilder‘s stage comedy The Matchmaker. “It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”

Actress Ruth Gordon in 1919, at age 23. Wikimedia CommonsFunny, isn’t it, that both money and manure hit the fan in the world of politics? This isn’t a condemnation. It’s the necessary nature of the political beast. You shovel and shovel, and spread and spread, and hope you’ve put the seeds in the right places. In tough times, the process tends to get heavy on manure and light on money — and these, as you might have noticed, are tough times. Do we spend our way out of our economic mess, or batten the hatches and risk total shutdown?

It’s a red-flag question for partisan bulls and bears, and trying to step through the muck dispassionately, looking for solid footing, is no easy chore. Dolly, I suppose, is a liberal, although at the time the play hit Broadway in 1955 she might have been considered an early Rockefeller Republican.

When it comes to money and the arts, Oregon has a long tradition of deciding there just isn’t enough manure to go around. The state’s system of cultural spending is a little more like the theory behind growing world-class wine grapes in a marginal climate: stress the vines, and they’ll concentrate their fruit better.

Continue reading Thursday scatter: money and manure

Oregon Day of Culture: Shake your arty booty!

Basic CMYK
Art Scatter has deep anthropological roots (when we say we’re cultural anthropologists, we’re not kidding) so we tend to think that every day is a day of culture.

But Cynthia Kirk of the Oregon Cultural Trust has reminded us that next Thursday, Oct. 8, is officially Oregon Day of Culture — and that, this being a government project, that “day” is actually an eight-day week that began yesterday and culminates on the 8th.

The ancient and venerable commissars of the Art Scatter Politburo know one place they’ll be packing their lunchbags of borscht and pelmini on the 8th: to The Old Church, where the sprightly Third Angle New Music Ensemble‘s string quartet will be performing a free noon concert of Ernest Bloch’s String Quartet No. 3 and selections from Zhou Long’s Chinese Folk Songs. Regular readers of A.S. may have noticed that Mrs. Scatter has recently become general manager of Third Angle.

As for today’s activities, we reprint Ms. Kirk’s press release. Go forth, and multiply across the face of the culture:

It’s October 2, National Arts & Humanities Month and the second day of a weeklong celebration of Oregon culture, culminating in Oregon Day of Culture on October 8 and marking the anniversary of Oregon’s unique cultural tax credit.

Ernest Bloch and children; date unknown. Wikimedia CommonsThe Oregon Cultural Trust organizes Oregon Day of Culture to encourage Oregonians to Celebrate! Participate! Give! in support of Oregon humanities, arts and heritage. Oregon Day of Culture asks Oregonians to consider the every day value of culture in every community.

Taken as a whole or by community, www.oregondayofculture.org comprises a fascinating and compelling bird’s eye view of Oregon culture’s diversity and vibrancy, in just one single week.

Just a few selections from the October 1 schedule:

  • Dedication of Oaks Bottom Mural, RACC, Portland, Noon
  • Ballet Fantastique’s Visions d’Amour – 10 Ballets in Paris, Eugene, 4 PM
  • Coos Art Museum’s Fall Fling for the Arts, Coos Bay, 5 PM
  • Common Ground, outdoor Flickr projection on the OSU campus, Corvallis, 5 PM
  • Teen Mystery Night, Hillsboro Public Library, 5 PM
  • This is Our Universe exhibition, KindTree production, Eugene, 5 PM
  • Sculptor Lee Kelly at PNCA, Portland, 6 PM
  • First Friday, Columbia Center for the Arts, Hood River, 6 PM
  • Street Painting Demonstration, Firehouse Gallery, Grants Pass, 6 PM
  • Music for the Arts, Umpqua Valley Arts Center, Roseburg, 6 PM
  • Celtic Music, Salem Public Library, 7 PM
  • A Ferry Tale, Frog Pond Grange, Wilsonville, 7 PM
  • Groovin’ Hard: Buddy Rich, Portland Jazz Orchestra, 7:30 PM
  • XY&Z: A Word Art Extravaganza, Write Around Portland, 7:30 PM
  • The Dining Room, Lumiere Players, The Heritage Center, Tualatin, 7:30
  • A Chorus Line, Stumptown Stages, Jefferson High School, Portland, 8 PM
  • Jazz at Newport, Newport Performing Arts Center, 8 PM
  • Plus a multitude of evening theater, music and dance performances in Ashland, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Portland, Eugene, Oregon City, Roseburg, Salem, Tigard

Greek Festival, Portland, All Day

Caw Pawa Laakni – They Are Not Forgotten, Támastslikt Cultural Institute, Pendleton, All Day

Linn Benton Community College Hispanic Heritage Month Exhibit, Albany, All Day

Culture Inspired Art, Coos Historical & Maritime Museum, North Bend, All Day

Oregon 150 Quilt Show, Benton County Historical Museum, Philomath, All Day

and much, more! Many Oregon Day of Culture events are free!


Inset photo: Ernest Bloch and children, date unknown. The composer spent his last years at Agate Beach, north of Newport on the Oregon Coast. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The choir sings: Let’s kiss and make up

The angelic choir/Gustave Dore for "The Divine Comedy"Here at Art Scatter we just love a heavenly chorus. Harmony’s our thing, and we’re fond of kittens, too.

So why do we find ourselves hesitating to lend our voice to the call for a new song of reconciliation with the Oregon Legislature over its co-option of $1.8 million from the Oregon Cultural Trust? Maybe we just don’t like the tune. And maybe we think it’s not all that great an idea for everyone to be singing the same song.

Our friends at Culture Shock are taking the lead at keeping the Trust issue out in the open. Their latest reports are here and here, and they’re well worth reading, including the comments. Among other things, Culture Shock passes along in full yesterday’s tactic-shifting statement from the Oregon Cultural Advocacy Coalition on behalf of the Trust, a statement that includes this key passage:

Now is the time to change gears and recognize the difficult work of leadership. Legislators completed a brutal week where they voted on a package of bills that contained items they all personally disliked. They took votes that hurt and feel they did their best with few alternative options. They need some breathing room to get beyond the budget rebalance and focus on issues of the 2009 session.

In other words: The deal’s done, the point’s been made, and now the smart thing to do is back off, be team players, and work behind the scenes so we can get it back in the future and not lose even more. That’s the way politics works.

But that’s not the only way politics works. It also works by making noise. And if you’re lucky, the noisemakers and the peacemakers work in concert, each checking the other’s extremes and keeping them on course.

A little background, if you’re just checking in on this: The Oregon Legislature, in an attempt to fill an $855 million hole in the state’s current budget, made cuts across the board — including $1.8 million from the Oregon Cultural Trust, a state-administered fund that distributes grants to a variety of arts, cultural, historical, educational and tribal organizations in every Oregon county. Scroll down at Art Scatter and you’ll find several previous postings.

Unfortunately for the Legislature’s budget-balancers, the Trust’s money doesn’t come out of the state’s general fund: It’s donated by citizens directly and specifically for the Trust’s purpose. (In this case, the money came from sales of Oregon cultural license plates for people’s cars.) In normal circumstances — and certainly in private exchanges — money in a trust fund is inviolable: It can’t be grabbed for other purposes. To do so is, literally, a violation of trust, and that’s been the focus of this controversy.

So. Done deal or not — and I believe it is — the snatching of the Trust money has long-term implications, no matter how benevolent the Legislature’s short-term goals were. It’s still a violation of trust, its legality is still questionable, and it still raises the possibility that people will simply stop donating money to the trust because they have no assurance that their money will be used for the purposes they gave it. You can’t sweep that sort of stuff away. And you can’t sing it away.

You can work out compromises, using that old political one-two combo of kicking and kissing. Culture Shock’s Culture Jock passes along a KGW-TV news report that suggests Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, is leading an effort to translate the hijacking of the Trust money into a loan. That’s a promising development, and worth tracking.

Culture Shock’s Mighty Toy Cannon points out in a comment on one of his site’s recent posts that “the Legislature’s ‘brutal week’ [to quote the Cultural Advocacy Coalition’s Wednesday statement] began with a caucus at which party leadership banned negotiation on individual items on the sweep list.” That’s important to keep in mind. This was a lockstep vote by state Democrats, who agreed beforehand that the budget sweep was an all-or-nothing deal — and because they know how to count, they knew it would be “all.”

To certain key segments of the state’s cultural interests, political reality now says “It’s time to kiss and make up.” These are mostly the people, including those at the Trust, who have to play in the political arena all the time; people whose overall effectiveness relies on their ability to maintain good working relationships with the politicians whose votes ultimately decide these things. This is, indeed, the song they need to sing.

That doesn’t mean YOU need to kiss and make up, or that it’s a good idea for you to do so. In fact, it’s a very good idea for a whole lot of people to stay on the offensive on this issue. A cardinal rule of politics is, if you don’t make noise, you get forgotten. Stay quiet, and the raiding of the Trust will be both history and precedent. It’ll be easier next time. The Legislature needs to be consistently reminded that the public knows what it did was wrong, and that people will remember — and that votes are attached to those feelings.

So, choose for yourself where you line up now. If you think that tactically it’s time to play nice, by all means, do so. If you think it’s better strategy, and truer to your gut, to kick up a fuss, keep kicking.

The Legislature can act in lockstep if it wants to. That doesn’t mean the public — especially the public in a healthy representative democracy — has to do the same.


Postscript: I appeared Tuesday morning on KOPB public radio’s Think Out Loud public-issues show to talk about the Trust issue. Paul King of White Bird Dance and I were studio guests. Rep. Mary Nolan, D-Portland and Oregon House majority leader, spoke at length via phone, explaining the Legislature’s point of view, and Christine D’Arcy, executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust, also spoke via phone. Other phone-in guests included Steve Dennis, owner of Earthworks Gallery on the Oregon coast, and Greg Phillips, executive director of Portland Center Stage. The discussion was lively, and you can download the show from the Think Out Loud site.

Oregonian to Legislature: Hands off the Trust fund

Enough is more than enough, The Oregonian’s editorial board declared this morning.
Licence to thrill
In an editorial headlined Hard times no license to rob the arts, it takes the Oregon Legislature to task for its hijacking of $1.8 million in donated money to the Oregon Cultural Trust, in addition to other failures to respond to the multiple crises facing the state’s cultural institutions.

Calling the heist of the Trust’s money a “snatch-and-grab,” the editorial board calls for the Legislature to restore the $1.8 million to the Trust. And it goes further: It criticizes the Obama administration for proposing stiff new restrictions on philanthropic gifts to nonprofit groups — new rules that would limit tax breaks to individuals but also potentially dry up funding to groups that desperately need it:

The Obama administration doesn’t get it, either. The administration has included in its tax plan a proposal to cap the tax credit for philanthropic gifts to nonprofits, including arts and culture institutions. Fine, raise income taxes on the wealthy, but why, just when things are getting awfully hard out there for nonprofits, reduce the incentive for people of means to help them survive?

This is good to see. Maybe we’ll get some traction on this thing yet.

Hey, Eugene: Thanks for standing up when it counts

The State Legislature pulls a heist.

I’m tired of the Oregon Legislature-raiding-the-Oregon Cultural Trust story. You’re tired of it. We’re all tired of it.

Unfortunately, as the Legislature moves on from the distress of trying to plug an $855 million budget hole to the mind-boggling challenge of filling an estimated $3 billion shortage for the 2009-11 cycle, the pattern’s been set. The Legislature appears to have got away with its $1.8 million hijacking of Trust money — it’s not tax money — and is sure to notice there’s another $10 million or so sitting there just waiting to be grabbed. State Democrats (with friends like these, etc. etc.) have made it clear they’re using the bash-the-arts card to establish their credentials as tough guys on the budget, even though they must be aware that by confiscating money donated in trust they are violating every normal rule of fiscal stewardship and are very likely trashing the Trust for good. That’s as in, trashing a state program that until now had actually worked as it was intended.

So, keep on the alert. This game is far from over.

In the meantime, thank goodness for Eugene. Oregon’s Second City gets it. (I know Salem’s passed Eugene in population and is technically No. 2, but Salem is also the seat of state government, and I’m feeling a little peckish on that subject right now, so in terms of intellectual and ethical heft, Eugene gets the nod). While The Oregonian has largely ignored the Trust raid issue except for fellow Scatterer Barry Johnson’s tough questioning on his Portland Arts Watch blog, the Eugene Register-Guard has been reporting it hard and also editorializing. So I want to say, thanks, Eugene, for doing your job.

Here is the Register-Guard’s editorial on the subject, and here’s a news post from this morning from the Yamhill County News Register, not exactly a paper with overflowing resources but one that’s willing to cover the news. Both are worth perusing. Thanks, R-G and NR. Keep up the good work.


Illustration: From Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs, J.M. W. Silver. Litho, 1867. Project Gutenberg via Wikimedia Commons.

Legislature takes its ax, gives state culture 40 whacks

It’s over. As Oregonian political writer Harry Esteve reports here on Oregon Live, the Oregon House has just passed its down-to-the-skeleton emergency budget by a vote 0f 37-22. The vastly pared budget, identical to the version passed Tuesday by the Senate, includes the expected raiding of $1.8 million in direct donation — not tax payments — to the Oregon Cultural Trust. Gov. Ted Kulongoski is expected to sign the new budget early next week.

So that’s that — for now. And if nothing else, it diverts some of the spotlight from State Senator Margaret Carter, who’s lucky that people in Oregon are mostly pretty polite, or her performance on Tuesday might have gone viral by now.

Cicero Denounces Catiline: Fresco by Cesare Maccari/Wikimedia CommonsLike her fellow Oregon state legislators, Carter — chief of the Senate’s budget committee — is stuck in a politicians’ nightmare. The economic catastrophe has forced her and her colleagues to make deep budgetary cuts guaranteed to prompt howls of anguish and cries for their heads. Nobody knows exactly where this thing’s going, but the best guess is that before cuts the state budget hole is $855 million right now and will be $3 billion for the 2009-11 cycle. That’s a lot of enchiladas. Legislators face the distressing challenge of dealing with a situation that has no good solutions: Whatever they do, on some level it’s going to be wrong.

So it’s no wonder they get testy.
And in announcing the state Democrats’ lockstep approach to the new budget, Carter got testy, indeed, as reported by David Steves in the Eugene Register-Guard:

“There are those who are whining all over the place about ‘you cut this and you cut that,’ ” she said, wiping away mock tears during a speech on the Senate floor. “The fact is that we had to cut. That’s why I call this the shared cut and shared responsibility model.”

A few places picked up on the mockery right off the bat, including fellow Scatterer Barry Johnson on his alternate-universe blog, Portland Arts Watch.

When I reported here Tuesday on the Senate’s budget bill I skipped Carter’s little performance of pique because I wanted to concentrate on the issues. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this IS one of the issues, and an important one.

Politics is a messy and often ugly process, but one good thing to remember is this: If you’re going to pick people’s pockets, at least apologize to them and treat them with a little respect. What you don’t give, you don’t get back.

Among the “whiners” for whom the senator shed mock tears: advocates for homeless people and schools; 911 emergency system workers; university officials. Greedy fat cats, all.

And, of course, artists and their supporters, who for some reason seem upset that the Senate grabbed $1.8 million they contributed voluntarily to the Oregon Cultural Trust on the state’s promise that the money would be used for cultural purposes only and would be strictly separated from the state general fund. We discussed the moral and legal implications here, although the legal ramifications are much murkier than they appear on the surface: As with George W. Bush, apparently, if the Oregon Legislature does it, it’s legal.

I don’t believe Margaret Carter is the callous person her comments on Tuesday made her appear. I do believe it’s easier to make tough decisions that have bad consequences if you can imply that the victims of your actions somehow deserve it. The whiners. The me-firsts. The selfish cultural types who think we owe them the world.

Continue reading Legislature takes its ax, gives state culture 40 whacks

In the Oregon Legislature, a matter of broken Trust

This is exactly what was never supposed to happen. This is the breaking of the devil’s deal the Oregon Legislature made to keep the culture lobby off its back.The pickpocket, in  formal attire/Wikimedia Commons

This is what happens when an entire state thinks that “fiscal responsibility” means tax kickback checks to citizens in flush times, $10 corporate income taxes in all times, trying to balance the state budget on a two-legged stool (property and income taxes, but no sales tax to keep the stool from tipping over), and a pig-headed refusal to recognize — in Oregon, of all places — that you need to plan for a rainy day.

Don’t look now, but it’s pouring.

And that’s why the Oregon Legislature, trying desperately to fill the gigantic hole in the state’s budget, is cribbing money from every place possible — including the Oregon Cultural Trust, as we reported in this earlier story and as political writer Harry Esteve explains in this morning’s Oregonian.

Let me be clear: I don’t blame the Legislature for looking at every penny available from every source as it tries to deal with this fiscal crisis. It’s a no-win proposition: No matter what our legislators do, on some level it will be wrong. This is a debacle made partly at the national and international levels, and partly by Oregon’s long history of pretending it can have a little bit of everything in life without having to pay for most of it. Now the piper’s at the door, demanding to be paid. And it’s the Legislature that has to figure out how to do it.

What’s depressing is that we’ve been down this road before. And the Oregon Cultural Trust was set up to ensure that in the toughest of times — which once again, we seem to be entering — vital cultural projects and organizations won’t be cut off at the root.

The deal the Legislature made on the Trust when it passed enabling legislation in 2001 was essentially this: Culture in Oregon will be pay-as-you-go, but we’ll help. We’ll establish a small beginning balance, we’ll sell cultural license plates to help fund the Trust, we’ll provide a nice tax break for contributions to cultural groups, and we’ll administer the thing. And then, please, leave us alone.

What that means is that every cent from cultural license plates and donations to the Trust has come into the state coffers with a clear, specific and supposedly inviolable earmark. The money was given for cultural purposes and no others. Using it for any other purpose is a moral violation of trust, and probably a legal violation as well: There is long legal precedence in the United States in favor of donor intentions.

Picking the Cultural Trust pocket, even in times of extraordinary fiscal crisis, is foolish in the long run in three ways.

First, once burned, twice shy. Why would anyone donate to the Trust again once it’s been made clear that the state can and will take the money and use it for something else? That precedent surely will strangle the Trust and cripple or even kill it.

Second, this can’t be legal. If the Legislature ends up appropriating this $2 million-odd for other purposes, it almost certainly will be slapped with a lawsuit. And how much will it cost for the state to defend a suit it will probably lose?

Third, who you gonna trust? Not the Legislature, which has broken its word. Not the governor, who says it’s OK. The erosion of public trust in government is a problem with serious consequences for democracy — as trust goes down, more and more people simply tune out, choosing not to take part in the political process at all. For government, trust — even trust shaded with skepticism — is vital. Break it and you’ve broken yourself.

For some background on the beginnings of the Oregon Cultural Trust, on how we got to this point, and on how frustratingly familiar today’s “news” sounds, read on:

Continue reading In the Oregon Legislature, a matter of broken Trust

Salem swings the ax: Arts heads on the chopping block

Fresh on the heels of this afternoon’s news that the Oregon Historical Society is shutting down its research library comes this report from the Oregon Cultural Advocacy Coalition that the Oregon Legislature has targeted OHS for an additional $350,000 cut — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for slashes in arts and cultural funding as the Legislature tries to make sense of the economic crisis.

150-cake_1Things are looking bad, folks. Most egregious is the Legislature’s attempt to liberate $1.8 million from the permanent fund of the Oregon Cultural Trust — vital money that Oregon citizens contributed specifically for that purpose, and, as the Cultural Advocacy Coalition notes, a violation of those citizens’ trust.

Time to pitch in with your two cents’ worth, or you won’t have two cents to pitch.

Here’s this evening’s report from the Cultural Advocacy Coalition. Happy 150th birthday, Oregon. Here’s hoping we make it to 151:

Help Preserve Oregon Arts, Culture, and Humanities Funding

Take Action!
Read and Take Action Today

The Cultural Advocacy Coalition representing Oregon’s 1,200 cultural non-profits in Salem is closely monitoring budget and legislative developments in Salem.

If you read the newspaper and listen to broadcast media, you know that Oregon is facing one of the most significant budget shortfalls in its history. The State issued its revenue forecast on Friday. Revenue projections are now an additional $55 million over the previously announced shortfall of $800 million in the State’s General Fund. Lottery revenues are also down.

Legislators issued a “cut list” last week.
It contains proposed reductions and fund sweeps for all agencies to re-balance the 2007- 09 budget, assuming an $800 million hole. This represents a serious threat to state funding for culture.

In this proposal are the following reductions in current year spending:

$211,384 cut to the Oregon Arts Commission
$350,000 cut to the Oregon Historical Society
$ 64,085 cut in lottery funds to the Office of Film and Television

Finally, and most sobering: the “funds sweep” list of Other Funds includes the recapture of $1.8 million from the permanent fund of the Oregon Cultural Trust. The $1.8 million includes $1.3 million in cultural license plate revenue generated since 2003 – plus interest.

The Cultural Trust was authorized by the Legislature in 1999 – ten years ago – to grow and stabilize funding for culture – in good times and in bad. To skim the Trust fund and re-allocate cultural license plate fees for the General Fund is a violation of trust with the buyers of the plates who assumed they were supporting Oregon culture with their purchases. To raid the fund to pay for other state services simply violates the very purpose of the Trust and the intent of the Trust’s thousands of donors: to protect and invest in Oregon’s cultural resources.

This situation is very serious. Not only are legislators dealing with a large revenue shortfall and the potential of an additional $55 million in cuts, there are efforts under way to hold k-12 school funding from further reductions.

Take Action Now.

Use the Cultural Advocacy Coalition’s website to send a message directly to your legislators. You can use one of the messages on the website – or write your own message to convey the importance of cultural funding in your city, town or county and why the Oregon Cultural Trust needs to be remain intact and taken off the fund sweep

Work to re-balance the state budget is proceeding very quickly and may be completed by this weekend. Weigh in with your opinion. Click here to send a message to your legislators NOW.