Iowa Budget Targets Cultural Spending Print
Commentary/Politics - Letters to the Editor
Tuesday, 24 April 2001 18:00
During the past year, literally hundreds of Iowans have told me they want to support the cultural environment in Iowa. More than 200 of you did just that when we marched to the Capitol on February 22 in support of Cultural Advocacy day. We were seen and heard in the Capitol. I was proud to be one of you. However, 200 voices will not be enough for the challenge that lies ahead during the remaining weeks of this legislative session.

The next fiscal-year (FY02) budget targets were released recently. If implemented at the level proposed by the Iowa legislature, the impact to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) could be a 10.8 percent reduction from the current fiscal-year (FY01) budget. This 10.8 percent reduction, added to the cut the department took in FY01, would represent a 12.3 percent reduction to DCA’s operating budget since FY00. During these same two fiscal years, every grant program showed an increase in the number of requests for funding. The requests for technical assistance to local historical societies and arts councils continue to increase. The public expects and demands quality programming at the state museum. Researchers come from across the United States to use the collections in our research facilities. The historic sites we own and operate are part of a strong cultural-tourism economy within the state.

What would this level of proposed cuts mean to the Iowans we serve?

• a $95,000 cut to Arts Council grant programs (Operational Support Grants and Arts Education Grants);

• a $47,000 cut to Iowa Community Cultural Grants and Cultural Enrichment Grants; and

• a $254,000 cut to the Historical Society and Historic Sites programs. The Society would consider closing all facilities two days per week and reducing educational-outreach programs. This would affect the museum, research library, and educational programs in the State Historical Building, the research facility in Iowa City, and all historic sites (Western Historic Trails Center, Montauk, Gardner Cabin, Plum Grove and Toolesboro).

What can you do? Phone or e-mail your legislator. The phone number to the Senate switchboard is (515)281-3371. The House of Representatives switchboard is (515)281-3221. Leave a message stating why you are calling, your name, and phone number. All legislators are available through e-mail by typing in their first and last name in small letters with an underscore between the first and last name, followed by “@legis.state.ia.us.” If John Smith were your legislator, you would type in: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . If you are unsure who your legislator is, you can go to the Web site for the Iowa legislature at (http://www.legis.state.ia.us), scroll down until you come to “members,” click on “find your legislator,” and fill in the blanks.

Second, make an appointment to visit your legislators when they are home for the weekend. Meet with them and tell them what your concerns are.

Third, encourage your family, colleagues and friends to contact their legislators. Those of us who care about culture take for granted that everyone knows how important it is in our lives. Yet, whenever a cut is necessary, “culture” is the first to go. This department has taken cuts in the past two years – years when the economy was strong and revenues were up. Why? This is your chance to be heard.

I believe that you will do what for the past year you told me you wanted to do – speak out and be heard. Please contact me if you have questions. I leave you with some interesting facts.

Did you know:

• what the number-one answer was in a recent national survey of 25,000 young people when asked, “What’s your anti-drug?” (The answer was “music.”)

• that 88 percent of museums offer educational programs for students from kindergarten through 12th grade?

• that for every 50 cents of public money invested, museums generate $1 in private support?

• that students with four years of arts classes score 85 points higher on student-achievement tests?

• that 1.3 million full-time jobs are supported by not-for-profit arts?

• that the presence of cultural institutions defines communities, turning “anyplace” into “someplace”?

• that the arts account for 6 percent of the U.S. Gross National Product? The construction industry accounts for 4.8 percent.

• that spending on performing arts events was roughly 1.6 times greater than spending on spectator sporting events between 1992 and 1997?

• that arts and history activities provide safe havens for youth, reduce criminal activity, and teach job skills?

• that cultural attractions are the number-one choice of baby boomers?

• that $1 million spent on renovation of historic property creates five more construction jobs and three more permanent jobs than new construction?

• that property values in historic districts rise faster than the rest of the community’s real estate?

Patricia Ohlerking, Director,
Planning and Partnership Development,
Department of Cultural Affairs,
Des Moines