May 1, 2010; Source: Los Angeles Times | It’s not fun to be mayor, nowadays. Ask Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Facing constrained revenues, the Mayor pulled $415,000 to fund four projects he wanted to support (including $250,000 for the city-owned cable TV station), resulting in defunding 36 already-approved small neighborhood arts groups and cutting the grants of another 271 by 7 percent to 15 percent.
The cut would have also taken $150,000 that had been dedicated to the preservation of Watts Towers (also known as the Towers of Simon Rodia, an amazing unique piece of folk art that needs to be saved).
Under pressure from widespread protests, Villaraigosa relented—sort of. One of the criticisms he faced was that his action could turn the cultural affairs grants into earmarks like those of other cities (that we’ve written about here in the Newswire) that favor only politically connected groups. He may have restored funding for the neighborhood groups, but he has instructed the City Council to fund his four selections somehow.
The Mayor may not have rescinded his plan to end the policy of giving several neighborhood arts centers rent-free leases (instead charging them 50 percent of market rental rates). There’s no question that the Mayor had to decide among competing public goods, leaving some combination of his four desired projects, 300 or so small arts groups, the Watts Towers, and the City Council dissatisfied. No, it’s not fun to be a mayor trying to achieve multiple goals with limited resources.—Rick Cohen