Lawrence city commissioners shouldn’t be in a rush to add about $100,000 a year to the city budget to hire a new director of arts and culture.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that the city’s Cultural District Task Force saw a new city position as the quickest and easiest way to boost the city’s effort to coordinate marketing and cultural events in the city. However, it is commissioners’ duty to evaluate the addition of such a position against all other city needs in its budget discussions next summer and not be pushed into a hasty decision based on the need to meet a February deadline for a grant application that may or may not provide partial funding for the position for the first year. Even if the grant is approved, the city would have to find ways to fund the $100,000 and any additional costs that attach themselves to the position in future years.
The request for a city arts and culture director seems not unlike a request last year for a new staff position to guide the community’s efforts to attract retirees to Lawrence. Although that proposal drew initial support, city and county officials eventually determined that effort should be folded into an existing agency, Douglas County Senior Services. The city also has a central arts agency — the Lawrence Arts Center — for which it already provides significant financial support. Perhaps there’s a way to fold the work of the proposed new arts position into an existing agency’s charge, as the city did with the retiree job.
There are any number of community efforts that would benefit from having a full-time paid city staff member to push them forward. Taxpayers obviously can’t afford to fund all those positions, and city commissioners shouldn’t be rushed into a quick decision on this one.