Writing this post kinda feels like kicking a three-legged, arthritic dog with a bad case of mange, because its subject (King County Council candidate Diana Toledo) was so thoroughly trounced the last time she ran for office, it would take major intervention by a wrathful, Old-Testament God (who hates His children and wishes disaster upon them) for her to win. Plus, she's clearly challenged in the whole facts/logic/political-strategy department.
But her proposal to fund arts education by cutting arts funding (specifically, eliminating 4Culture and the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs) is not only only wrong-headed, but factually inaccurate and legally impossible. It also contains some common misperceptions—about 4Culture, arts funding, and budgets—that are worth clearing up.
I am calling upon Mayor McGinn and KC Executive Constantine to dissolve the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the 4Culture agencies and put that money into Arts programs in the Public Schools.
As a mother of three beautiful children I am concerned that our youth do not have the same access to Arts programs that we had growing up. During the early years of development is it crucial that our children are engaged in the creative processes that allow for the expression or originality, development of individuality, and the building of positive self esteem in a safe learning environment.
[Blah blah blah.]
Let's take this step by step.
1) The headline and the hypocrisy. Who, exactly, are these "cultural elites" you're talking about, Diana? Do you mean the 240 arts organizations, 72 individual artists, and 60 (or so) group projects that will receive funding from 4Culture this year? Because that's a lot of elites. And one of those elites happens to be a certain David Toledo, Diana's p.r. manager and brother (if Facebook and Diana's campaign site are telling me the truth) who applied for and won a $5,000 award from 4Culture to put towards his nascent cartooning studio this year.
But David went on and posted a long (and also inaccurate) screed on Facebook supporting Toledo's insane ideas about how we need to "dissolve" 4Culture and OACA to save arts education in schools.
Hey Diana/David: Pick a lane. When you insist that a certain arts organization needs to die because it only supports "elites" and then apply for money from that organization, you look kinda... stupid, hypocritical, stupid, elitist, and stupid.
2) The political moronism. Funding for 4Culture (which comes from hotel/motel taxes, rental-car taxes, and other—very light—taxes on visitors) was recently saved by a dedicated grassroots campaign by Seattle's culture constituency. In fact, the culture constituency is throwing a party tonight at the Paramount to celebrate their victory. (Party details here.) So, if I understand you correctly Diana (and David), you're making a campaign plank of rejecting a major, hard-won political victory by the same people who might be voting for you.
3) The legal impossibility of her proposal. Showing a flat ignorance of how laws and budgets work is a bad move for someone running for office. Toledo says let's dissolve 4Culture and throw the money at schools! 4Culture is funded through lodging taxes and, according to state law, lodging-tax revenue cannot go to schools or school districts. According to RCW 67.28.180: "School districts and schools shall not receive revenues distributed pursuant to (a)(i) of this subsection."
If you want to get into the weeds, Diana Toledo (which I recommend—because if you're making bold, harebrained proposals in your bid for public office, you should at least know what's legal and what ain't), you can read the law here. By the way, Diana, do you know anyone who knows the first thing about state law on your campaign? Because I'm The Stranger's theater editor—i.e., a professional flake—but I seem to know more about the legal possibilities of your idiotic campaign ideas, based on false information, than you do. And that isn't good.
4) Toledo has a few other ideas based on false information. "I've often heard concerns and accusations of biased grant and funding systems, favoritism, quid pro quos... a major audit is needed."
Guess what, genius? 4Culture is audited every year by the Washington State Auditor's Office. And guess what they've found? Do you have any idea, Diana? You should take a stroll into the 4Culture lobby and see the framed letter from the Washington State Auditor's Office commending 4Culture's tight, well-run ship, celebrating it as one of the best-run organizations in the state.
5) Next up (I'm getting tired of kicking this mangy, three-legged, arthritic dog, but someone's gotta do it), Toledo's claim that "it is not the responsibility of the government or the taxpayers to fund adults who choose the artist-lifestyle." I'm just going to quote Jim Kelly, the guy who runs 4Culture: "We don't pay anyone to 'live the artist-lifestyle.' We are looking to purchase—to contract—artistic services and programs for the citizens of and visitors to King County." Translation: 4Culture funds projects, not "lifestyles."
And let me ask you, Diana: What exactly is the "artist-lifestyle"? Is that code for something? Like, say, queer (lots of artists are queer) or immigrants (lots of artists are immigrants) or agnostic (lots of artists are agnostic) or vegetarian (ditto) or people who like the color blue (ditto) or... what? What does an "artist-lifestyle" look like? Because I know lots of artists, and they live in all kinds of different ways. Some of them are even straight, white, male teetotalers.
6) Let me quickly round up the next few inaccuracies. Toledo suggests that if 4Culture's space were rented out to a private concern, we could raise even more money for arts education. Guess who owns the building and cashes the rent checks? An independent nonprofit. Not the government. Not the school board. Not anyone remotely associated with funding local schools.
One more, for you masochists who are still reading this. She (and her elitist brother/campaign p.r. guy/4Culture-money-getter-to-fund-his-artist-lifestyle David) gripe about the 1% for arts law, assuming that because (for example) the Brightwater treatment plant cost $1.8 billion, that arts funding will get $18 million (for queer/immigrant/agnostic/vegetarian/prefer-the-color-blue lifestyles). Wrong! The 1% for arts program funds the visible parts of public-works projects. Brightwater? Most of it's not visible to the public, which means that it gets a small fraction of that $18 million. And the deep-bore tunnel, which she (and/or her p.r. agent/brother) cites as getting lots of of dough for artists is under the surface of the planet earth. Meaning it will only get 1% of the funds that pertain to visible aspects of the project.
In sum: Please don't vote for Diana Toledo. She doesn't know what the hell she's talking about.
Also, and this is a small thing but dear to my heart, she doesn't know how to use punctuation. Check this sentence: "The Office of Arts & Culture's [sic] document supports my argument that we must return Arts [sic] to the Public Schools [sic]."
Neither Diana Toledo, nor her brother/p.r. manager, who was just awarded $5,000 from the organization he's devoted to dissolving, knows her ass from her elbow—not in law, not in philosophy, not in political strategy, not in punctuation.
Diana, you are not even marginally qualified for office. Not even an office as picayune as county council.
(Many thanks to Slog tipper Holly for bringing this nonsense to my attention.)