Archive for Monday, March 7, 2011

Senators say Gov. Sam Brownback’s order to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission was too hasty

March 7, 2011


— Senate leaders say Gov. Sam Brownback’s order to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission may have been hastily made and there may be enough votes in the Senate to reject it.

“His intentions were good,” Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said of Brownback’s proposal.

But Morris and Senate Majority Leader Jay Scott Emler, R-Lindsborg, said Brownback, also a Republican, had a short time frame to make a lot of budget decisions while facing a $500 million revenue shortfall.

Sworn into office Jan. 10 at the start of the 2011 legislative session, Brownback had 30 days under the Kansas Constitution to issue executive reorganization orders.

That forces any new governor to make a lot of decisions in a hurry, Emler said. Brownback, he said, didn’t “necessarily have time to poll everybody to find out how viable those ideas are.”

The inner workings

Brownback’s proposal to abolish the small state agency as a budgetary move has raised stiff opposition from across the state.

The Arts Commission’s supporters said it is one of the state’s most notable success stories.

It receives approximately $800,000 in state dollars and attracts more than $1.2 million in matching dollars that go to programs and services that reach every county in Kansas.

Of those matching funds, the KAC receives $778,200 from the National Endowment for the Arts and $437,767 from the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Under Brownback’s executive reorganization order, the KAC would be abolished, and its duties would be transferred to the Kansas State Historical Society. A newly formed nonprofit, the Kansas Arts Foundation Inc., would provide the support to “ensure Kansas’ participation in federal and regional arts programs,” said Landon Fulmer, Brownback’s policy director.

For the next fiscal year, the Historical Society would receive $200,000 in state funds as “seed” money to help draw down federal funds, Fulmer said.

Linda Browning Weis of Manhattan, who is president of the newly formed Kansas Arts Foundation, said she is confidant the group can raise more money for the arts.

The board includes philanthropists, business executives, artists and others who are all arts lovers, she said. “We expect to increase the federal matching opportunity exponentially through the vehicle of private funding. We are here to grow the arts,” she said.

KAC reaction

But Henry Schwaller, chairman of the Kansas Arts Commission, said the nonprofit Kansas Arts Foundation has not had time to develop a statewide comprehensive arts plan that would be required to receive the National Endowment for the Arts matching grants. Such a plan usually takes nearly a year to put together, he said.

While the supporters of private funding say they believe they will raise more than the KAC has attracted, Schwaller said there is no arts organization in Kansas that has raised $700,000 in nongovernmental grants for reprogramming. And, he said, many local arts organizations have expressed concern about having to compete against another foundation.

“Creating a Kansas Arts Foundation, a new, competing nonprofit arts support organization, would defeat its own purpose,” he said.

Questions abound

On a request from legislators, staff members have contacted representatives from the NEA and Mid-America Arts Alliances, asking if the Foundation, envisioned by Brownback, would qualify for federal programs in the same way that the KAC has.

Officials from both the NEA and Mid-America said they didn’t have enough information to answer that question, and they posed numerous questions about Brownback’s executive order and about how the proposed new system would work.

For example, one question was, “How will the NEA be assured of appropriate oversight if the duties of the former state arts agency are transferred to the State Historical Society and yet the funding is simply passed through this designated state agency to a separate nonprofit entity with different staff, separate by-laws and a separate board?”

Rural support for KAC

Many rural residents have voiced support for the KAC, saying it provides the leadership, organizational assistance and funding needed for the cultural enrichment that that they otherwise would not have.

"Without the KAC, a great many smaller, rural communities will suffer and the delineation between rural and urban and 'haves' and 'have nots' will grow," said Brenda Meder, executive director of the Hays Arts Council.

Over the past six years, the KAC has contributed more than $30,000 and provided strategic assistance to help the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills. The symphony has attracted more than 45,000 people over the years and has become a top arts event in the state.

“The Kansas Arts Commission imprimatur proclaims to the public that the event is held to a high standard and is worthy of taxpayer support,” said Cathy Hoy, board member of the Symphony in the Hills Inc.

Last week, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a resolution that disapproves of Brownback’s executive order. The next step of the fight will now go to the full Senate.

State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, who has been leading the charge to preserve the KAC, said Brownback’s plan is “not a feasible or prudent alternative.”


Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 1 month ago

Brownback is going to be very upset if Senators deny his plan to slash "government" jobs, given the Arts Commission creates thousands of jobs in this state.

Brownback has promised 100,000 new jobs for Kansans, though it looks like he thinks cutting a "government" job is the same as creating a new job.

WilburNether 7 years, 1 month ago

The Arts Commission "creates thousands of jobs in this state?!?" That is pure nonsense. Let the artsy types pay for their own recreation and entertainment.

zzgoeb 7 years, 1 month ago

Our system of government includes checks and balances for a reason. All interested parties can decide and debate what is best, and KAC is "best" for the arts!!! The move to "privatization" means only the few, the mighty, the rich can decide, and not under the light of day. The Senate should "check" the governor's plan, and keep the "balance" for Kansas and Kansans!!!

johnnyreb 7 years, 1 month ago

Since the Arts Commission "creates thousands of jobs in the state", shouldn't we steal more money from the working stiffs and give it to the Arts Commission? The federal stimulus worked so well, I think you may be on to something! Hmmmm....

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 1 month ago

Indeed, and since drinking water is good for you might I suggest you go out and drink 5 or 6 gallons over your lunch break?

johnnyreb 7 years, 1 month ago

gudpoynt - stick to complaining about your crappy teaching job.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

I think it's more likely that Republicans decided it was better to fund the Arts Council, for a rather piddling $700,000, in order to appear slightly less Scrooge-like to give them a little breathing room when they cut education and Medicaid funding, etc. where the real money is.

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

They might have also heard from a few constituents on this one.

Kontum1972 7 years, 1 month ago

wonder how the artist felt who has to paint brwnblks portrait...or is the guvenor going for that etch-a-sketch save some bucks..

overthemoon 7 years, 1 month ago

Or one of those paint-over 'oil paintings' sold at Michaels...'created' by off shore 'artists' making a couple of bucks a day.

overthemoon 7 years, 1 month ago

The Governor blew it on this one. He did not do his homework and had no idea of the impact on federal funding. He did not gather together those people who understand the KAC and hear their concerns or solicit better ideas from those who know how this sector works. He should have put together a board that was not made up of cronies and campaign donors and instead sought the involvement of people with the experience and engagement in real Arts programs. Had he gotten the KAC and major Arts organizations on board with his plan, we might have come up with a hybrid plan to supplement the KAC with a private foundation to relieve the use of public funds while maintaining a viable organization.

Most importantly, he has made it clear that any other proposals he makes will must under greater skepticism and mistrust because of the extraordinarily poor handling of this one little issue.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 1 month ago

OTM: "The Governor blew it on this one. He did not do his homework and had no idea of the impact on federal funding." === I think you are right on this one. The gov is no dummie, but he's sometimes in the thrall of the ideologues. Picking on the arts is a favorite Republican strategy because they don't think the constituency is active enough to fight back. Governments have supported the arts for thousands of years. That's how we got most of the great art of the past, not to mention many of the buildings. Of course, for a thousand years or so, most of the 'government' funding came from the church, the de facto government. America's genius was realizing that the two must not be the same thing. It may take Governor Brownback a while to figure this out. It's good to see cooler heads may prevail on at least this topic.

BigPrune 7 years, 1 month ago

I think the infighting is the result of people who run for office claiming to be a part of the Republican Party in order to get elected, but are in reality Democrats. This will only benefit in weeding out the weaklings of the party - the people who claim to be moderates but are liberal democrats - though I'm sure a few conservative will get thrown into the mix as a minority.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"I think the infighting is the result of people who run for office claiming to be a part of the Republican Party in order to get elected, but are in reality Democrats."

Yea, you can only pretend to be heartless and stupid for so long.

Dan Thalmann 7 years, 1 month ago

"Many rural residents have voiced support for the KAC" and then a person from Hays is quoted. I think it is funny that this Lawrence J-W reporter called Hays "rural." You city folk live in a bubble. Come and live with me in the rural area outside of a dying town of 400 and then we'll talk rural. I'm not seeing the arts council money out here. If you city people like it so much, go private and fund it yourselves.

Dan Thalmann 7 years, 1 month ago

Bozo's comment count - 20,716. My comment count - 85. And you've been registered about 10 months longer than me. Who's the one who never leaves the house?

thatonedude 7 years, 1 month ago

And you accuse writers from Lawrence of being "city folk". Don't complain about generalization when you commit it yourself.

Dan Thalmann 7 years, 1 month ago

Census 2010 puts Lawrence at 87,643. Is that not a city?

HR 7 years, 1 month ago

Hays is considered rural because of its proximity to ..... rural Kansas. Actually, the City of Hays received a Governor's Arts Award (from the KAC) a year ago. They are very active in partnering with many entities to help make Hays a thriving arts community. And they are supported by the KAC.

7 years, 1 month ago

and why should our governor be bothered with pesky details in his decisions? careful and thorough decision making might be construed as second-guessing himself!

Kontum1972 7 years, 1 month ago

hmmm...i recall that during ww2 over in europe....artist's took a hit too....Sieg....

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

The budget had nothing to do with this decision. It is a small amount of money that brings a lot more into the state.

This decision was about ideology; about appealing to the anti-elitist, anti-intellectual right wing populists in the GOP.

Maybe there aren't as many of them as previously assumed.

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