In case you missed the news over the weekend, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took back his obnoxious and politically tone-deaf proposal to take $415,000 out of the Cultural Affairs grant budget in order to fund some of his personal arts picks. Mike Boehm of The Times covered the about-face here. It occurred one day after I wrote about the issues here.
Two questions should be asked about the unsettled residue of this whole affair.
First, did the Villaraigosa Administration truly not understand how the grants system is set up — in a way that’s supposed to prevent political favoritism — until it was explained to them last week by Cultural Affairs director Olga Garay? I’m not sure which scenario is worse — that they didn’t understand how the grants work, or that they did understand and had decided to try to circumvent it.
Second, of course, is the continuing question of whether non-profit arts groups that enjoy low rents on city facilities will be asked to come up with half the market rental rates. From the Times article, it looks as if flickers of flexibility are emerging on this subject. Arts groups should try to defend the principle of rent subsidy, but they probably should also start alerting their supporters to the possibility of increased fund-raising needs that might be coming down the pike.