Why Being "In the Solution" Matters

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with Arts Advocates




Executive Director Danielle Brazell blogs on how providing a solution can be the most effective advocacy strategy.





Policymakers need to know what you want them to do in order for them to respond. You have to distinguish yourself from the myriad of voices all vying for attention.  Remaining positive, rooted in the solution, will set you apart from the rest.  And may the best idea win! 

After all, we all care about our communities. That’s why we are so highly engaged.

The solution you put forward may not be the one that gets put into place, but you will often find that your willingness to be in the solution garners the respect of the policymaker who now may call you a trusted partner, rather than an adversary.

Thanks to incredible advances in technology, and to the Brown Act (legislation by CA Governor Brown during his first tenure that ensures government transparency by requiring officials to inform the public of official meetings), public officials now have a multitude of channels to hear directly from stakeholders. This influx of input can easily sway an elected official’s perception and attitude toward any given topic.  Just a few hundred vocal constituents can sway an elected official’s position. That’s a great aspect of representative government. 

Far too often, however, policymakers receive the message of what not to do. While there is value in saying "don’t cut this program," it’s only one side of the equation.  What do you want policymakers to do?

This philosophy lies at the root of Arts for LA’s advocacy best practices and we’ve seen it pay off in spades. Our upcoming Advocacy Day at City Hall is a direct result of this best practice.  Arts day will connect elected officials with Arts for LA organizational members located within the City of LA.  We all share an appreciation for the role art and culture plays in building a vibrant economic, social and civically engaged Los Angeles. 

Another example is our advocacy campaign with LAUSD.  We moved from “stop the elimination of Elementary Arts Education” to “Support the Plan to Retain Arts Education in LAUSD.”  This framework, aligned with the Arts for LA policy framework, calls on LAUSD to use the existing State Arts and Music Block Grant (which brings approximately $9 million to LAUSD annually) as bridge funding to retain elementary arts teachers until additional revenue enters the district, either from the passage of a local Parcel Tax, and/or through new state-level revenue generated through a measure on the November 2012 ballot.  

Candidate surveys and forums are another way in which we remain "in the solution." Posing questions to candidates about what they would do to increase a city’s investment in arts and culture opens a dialogue rooted in possibility, rather than restriction.  Survey responses provide candidates and stakeholders the opportunity to entertain ideas on an important issue.  Arts for LA has been conducting candidate surveys for five years now.  Our most recent surveys for Long Beach and Culver City are available here.

A candidate forum like the one we are co-sponsoring in Long Beach this Wednesday is yet another strategy to create a conversation rooted in a solution. Ten candidates will focus their best thinking on developing creative solutions for arts and arts education in Long Beach.

It doesn’t mean we let our policymakers off the hook by doing their job for them.  Putting forward time- bound, actionable, measurable asks changes the conversation from "don’t cut" to "how can we save this?".  That paradigm shift is half the battle because it moves the policymaker into the solution as well.

As economic forecasts point to recovery, we must continue to pave the way for our future with effective solutions that will ensure arts, culture and arts education remain accessible to residents and visitors to our region.