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October 24th, 2012 BRENT WALTH | Elections
 

One Question: Do You Support the “Arts Tax” to Fund Schools and Cultural Organizations?

news5_artstax_3851ILLUSTRATION: Amy Martin

Portland voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to impose an annual $35-per-adult tax on city residents (with exemptions for those living in poverty) to help fund more arts teachers in Portland Public Schools and provide taxpayer support to private nonprofit arts organizations. Measure 26-146 was sent to voters by the City Council in June after years of debate how Portland could increase its public financing of the arts.

We asked the mayoral candidates how they will vote on the measure.

State Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland):

Yes. “I’ll vote yes with a love-hate relationship with the bill. I’ll vote yes—why?—because we should be investing in arts and arts education. It’s really linked to our distinctive strengths. The reason why it’s not a slam-dunk vote for me is I roughly hate the financing—I don’t hate it. I do not prefer the financing mechanism…. We are spending less per capita on arts than competitor cities like Denver and Seattle. If we want to have an economic plan that fits our distinctive strengths, it’s not all about just trying to be the cheapest date, but actually a better value proposition. The arts and the knowledge economy have a critical linkage.”

Charlie Hales: 

Yes. “We share some reservations about the mechanism for the arts measure. The larger question here is one of the reasons that I’m running. We have to round the corner from the permanent emergency that we’re in in public schools and a lot of other things, and the creaky tax structure we have. I want to work with the governor and his plan to open up the whole question of our tax structure, but we still have to live in the present.... I’ll defend Jeff on this one. Neither of us, I suspect, would have crafted this mechanism to fund the arts, but as voters and as leaders we’re given the opportunity to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on it, and I say ‘yea.’ I believe in the agenda.”

 
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