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Flashmob, voting & online petition in support of the arts in Buffalo

Submitted by BFLORome and Thomas Dooney:

BFLORome: The Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance along with Empower Arts Buffalo have put forth an online petition that will go directly to The Erie County Legislature in an effort to win support to override County Executive Collins’ expected veto to restore funding that he has cut for over 30 cultural organizations.
 
In bipartisan effort, the County Legislature has proposed an alternative budget which:
 

  • Totals approximately $100,000.00 less then the budget drafted by Mr. Collins
  • Restores funding to eligible arts organizations
  • Would not require any additional tax to citizens of Erie County

The organizations in question represent ‘shovel-ready’ economic drivers that stimulate revenues for many local businesses, starting with the restaurants, cafes, and bars which patrons visit before and after cultural events.  If you think of the thousands of locals and visitors who attend small theatre productions, art openings, etc., on an annual basis, you may realize the amount of revenue this means.  Vendors such as wine shops, food stores, art shops, paint/lumber supply stores, fabric stores, costume rental stores, to name a few, will also be directly affected.  Think of the many local artisans who are employed by these companies that will feel the affects of this decision.
 
The cultural value that these organizations contribute to the City of Buffalo, WNY, and Erie County is immeasurable.
 
Here is the link for the QUICK & EASY electronic petition.  A comprehensive explanation of the revised budget and points of fact regarding this issue is stated in the petition’s overview.  There is an option for you to request that your name be withheld if you choose to do so.
 
Thank you! – BFLORome

COMMENTARY: EAB Flash Mobs And D-Day In The Battle Of The Budget by Thomas Dooney:
 
Mere hours remain until the deadline for the Erie County budget for 2011. As the clock ticks, factions are trying to impact the public and legislators to for important say in the final version of the financial plan, particularly for funding to thirty or so arts organizations eliminated from consideration in a budget drafted by County Executive Christopher Collins.
 
Out of this maelstrom a group calling itself Empower Arts Buffalo comes into the fray. EAB is an ad hoc, grassroots assembly of artists… mostly young, mostly unaffiliated or independent… that wants to impress upon the broadest public that the momentum of a thriving arts community is threatened by the budget elimination to arts groups proposed by Christopher Collins. Their principal attention-getting tactic is the flash mob.
 
In brief, a flash mob is a group of people who appear, seemingly at random from the crowd at a public location, to perform a planned action, designed to amuse or to confuse or, in the case of EAB to educate, the surrounding passers-by. The group performs and then quickly disperses.
 
EAB made its flash mob debut a week ago at the lighting of the Fountain Plaza Christmas tree. Costumed as stereotypical arts figures (tutu-ed ballet dancers, white-faced mimes, Hamlety actors and such), they caroled the skaters rinkside with a sleepy version “Silent Night” (because it will be a silent night in Buffalo without the arts) and rousing “Joy To The World” (because it’s not too late to keep arts alive – see video).
 
This past Saturday, a second EAB-organized flash mob took place at Galleria Mall. Mob-participants embedded themselves surreptitiously amongst the holiday shoppers. Any one unaware of the event would not have suspected in advance what was about to happen except for a steadily thickening crowd near the winding staircase in front of the J.C. Penney store.
 
At the tick of noon, embedded singers established the pitch. A hundred or so voices joined in to sing “Welcome Christmas (Fahoo Foraze)”, from the animated cartoon of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Shoppers stopped. Browsers gazed. Strollers stalled. Some passers-by even join in the song. As the music trailed off, some of the group held signs reading “Support the Arts” and “Empower Arts, Buffalo!” and then dispersed. Television coverage on the Saturday evening news increased exposure to this message exponentially (see video).
 
An encore of this particular flash mob event is scheduled for another popular, to-be-named mall in the coming weekend. Because EAB believes in a future for the arts this flash mob will take place whether the vote this week in the Legislature, and any responding action by the County Executive, favors or fails funding of the arts.
 
Those who planned these events chose to not announce blame on the Christopher Collins (or any other party, for that matter) either by name or by title. The goodwill demonstrated on the part of the organizers is remarkable considering how deep feelings run amongst the individuals in the group. Organizers insist upon presenting a common message that the greatest number of people can grasp, that includes participants as well as target audience. EAB flash events are not confrontational but opportunities to engage attention and to pose questions or ideas. A flash event equally involves both audience as well as participants and makes taking action on issues easy and rewarding.
 
EAB serves as a frontline infantry in the effort to earn community awareness in general as well as financial support in specific for local arts. The flash mob events are models of form, entertainment and economy. They surpass in every way the tactics used by Christopher Collins himself in his interests in this matter.
 
The Story So Far: Last week, Collins purchased pricey radio time to broadcast to voters a message requesting support for his original, draconian financial plan. He has also used a robo-call system to phone his message into homes. There are two egregious points in Collins personal persuasion tactics.
 
First, whether by phone or by radio, Collins misstated that the revised budget, as drafted by bipartisan effort of the Legislature, would raise taxes. The revised draft totals at $100,000 less than Colllins own budget and does not call for any additional tax. Importantly, the Legislature’s draft restores funding to arts organizations
 
Second, since Collins claims he is all about responsible use of finances, spending funds to sway public support of an executive decision from his campaign coffers seems a misuse. I wonder how those who donated money to put him into office might feel about their money being spent for non-electoral advertising.
 
There is inherent bullying of Collins’ actions. Collins uses money as ammunition to push forward a deprivation budget. He bought a leveraged position for himself which arts groups, libraries and County Departments denied funding could ever afford to do in response.
 
Since the end of September, when Collins announced his draconian financial plan, there have been a variety of responses to the elimination of arts funding. There have been sporadic demonstrations that, like EAB’s flash events, employed theatrical and artistic tactics to earn public and media attention. In addition, the arts concerned public have made themselves present. This strong show of interest certainly strengthened the Legislature in working together to create a less expensive, more service focused budget which was presented in the first week of December.

Collins cultural cut
s protest
 
Legislature votes to restore funding
 
This weekend, around the time EAB was caroling at Galleria, Collins negotiated with fellow Republicans who sit in the minority of the Legislature. They drafted yet another budget which would increase funding to county libraries, reduced from $4 million to $1 million in Collins’ first budget, to $3 million. This increase will allow libraries to maintain services at current levels into the next year. Funding to the unfunded arts organizations remains at zero.
 
Legs. Raymond W. Walter (R – #4), Maria R. Whyte (D – #6) and Lynn Marinelli (D – #11) appeared Sunday morning, on WBEN radio’s “Hardline”. Marinelli stated her belief that County funding of arts was similar to tax breaks or incentives allowed to other businesses in development and thus worthy of inclusion in this year’s budget, especially given the increased attendance at arts attractions amongst residents and tourists.
 
Walter challenges the financial soundness of the Democrat’s accountancy in this matter. Whyte and Marinelli reference review of this plan by EC Controller Mark Poloncarz. Whyte countercharged County Executive Collins to show accountancy that would prove increased tax burden. Both women predicted that the next day Collins would wield his veto powers.
 
And now…:  Lo, Collins did so. A total of 154 vetoes including, as expected, funding to the arts. And this is the reason why arts supporters are now phoning and emailing Republican legislators, to use constituent sway to try to find a tenth vote in the minority caucus to buffer the nine vote Democratic majority to create a two-thirds majority as the fifteen member body reviews each prospective expenditure in the budget an a line by line basis.
 
Today, Tuesday, artists and arts administrators will attend this voting session, taking hours of productive time away from their offices, rehearsal halls and studios. They will first gather on the steps of Old County Hall at 1:30 p.m. They will proceed to the 4th Floor for the 2:00 p.m. session.
 
And, endowment in this year’s budget for arts or not, plans for the next year’s approach to the county should already be in the planning.
 
Photo: Standing Ovation : Flashmobsters rise after their sing-in and to deliver their message.

Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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