'Tis the Season
Danielle Brazell blogs on what Budget Season 2011 may have in store, and what we can do to be a part of the solution.
We've been talking about it, planning for the unknown, and now Budget Season is here. It starts with the news from the state about the budget, quickly moves to the County and then cities and school districts. It's an-interconnected web, with each entity trying to ensure adequate resources. Sound familiar?
While the Governor's budget proposes level funding for school districts (whew!), it seeks to hand over local control to counties. That would be good news in strong economic times, but during an economic downturn local control is subtext for local responsibility. Counties are being pushed to cover more direct costs for housing, public assistance and other services, including Community Redevelopment Agencies. Although this can be good news for schools, it's not good news for municipalities that invest in arts and culture with redevelopment funds.
Locally, cities and school districts continue to grapple with unprecedented structural deficits. City Council and School Board meetings are dominated by fierce debates on where and how to cut.
But don't let this context bum you out! The professional nonprofit arts and arts education sector is not only innovative and tenacious: we are focused, organized and poised to be part of the solution! Arts for LA is focused on developing strategies that support our collective advocacy model. These include:
Arts for LA surveyed over 50 candidates running for City Council and School Board in the City of Los Angeles, Pasadena and Burbank. The purpose of the survey is to engage candidates about their awareness and support of arts and arts education.
The survey itself is a huge feat, but the real opportunity lies in animating that survey by sharing it with our friends, neighbors and colleagues. Then, attend a candidate forum and ask a question about arts & culture. You can ask one of the questions from our survey, or create your own. That gives the candidate another opportunity to respond publicly about how they value arts and arts education in their district.
Advocacy Team Initiative
Our dynamic advocacy field manager, Abe Flores, has been conducting advocacy trainings in Pasadena and the City of Los Angeles. We are launching in Long Beach next month, with Culver City and Santa Monica to follow. These trainings provide a comprehensive opportunity for advocates to learn how to advocate effectively for arts and arts education at the local level. Expanding the network of empowered, informed advocates throughout Los Angeles County strengthens our collaborative capacity to ensure arts and culture is valued in our region.
Focused around three core issues-- Arts Education, Cultural Economy and Civic Engagement-- the 2011-13 Policy Framework's overarching goal is to maintain cultural infrastructure in Los Angeles County (88 cities and 81 school districts). Each issue area has designated advocacy targes, messengers, tactics and success indicators. The Framework is a one-sheet that lists priority areas and provides measurable ways to advance arts and culture in each area. It's our collective advocacy guide over the next three years.
Member Meetings are a chance for Team Arts for LA to listen in real time to organizational members who are impacting communities through the arts and arts education in dynamic ways. It's also a chance for folks to network, engage in peer learning and strengthen relationships based on mutual areas of concern. If you're a member, look for an email invitation to the meeting in your County district. If you haven't yet joined Arts for LA (either through your organization or as an individual) I hope you will. From grassroots to cornerstone, Arts for LA's diverse membership reflects our collective voice. Together, we represent a broad coalition of corporations and individuals working for the public benefit.
Strategic, collaborative, empowered... that's what Arts for LA strives for. And, although we enter this advocacy season with tremendous challenges ahead, we do so with greater resources, knowledge and clout than we ever have in the past. We all play a crucial part in our regional advocacy strategy, from asking your city council candidate an arts-related question, to encouraging your board and staff to attend an advocacy training session, to mobilizing your network to vote. It's all part of this incredible effort to strengthen public support for arts and arts education in Los Angeles County.
I invite you to be an active member of this unprecedented regional advocacy effort. Share the survey results with your network, attend a candidate forum and ask one of our five questions, join Arts for LA, encourage your Board and staff to attend one of our upcoming advocacy trainings, subscribe to our newsletter, share the Policy Framework with your members, or make a suggestion by commenting on this blog below. Each of these opportunities for engagement is necessary and essential to Arts for LA's mission.
With Budget Season upon us, now more than ever, our ability to coordinate and collaborate will only aid our mutual goal of fostering a healthy environment in which arts and culture may thrive and be accessible to all in our region.