Political Pundits – Glenn Beck

OK – Glenn,

I was watching one of your shows recently, and I have to say – the baby, whine has got to go!

I watched you for about fifteen minutes performing a whiny, baby-talk in an attempt to provide a sarcastic comment on some of  the recent democratic and far-leftist political actions.

I had to turn you off – it was excruciating.

Please don’t do that again.

Thanks!

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Sexual Predators – Unique Question

Sexual Predators – Unique Question

Strange question – don’t scream about the question or bringing it to a discussion forum. It seems there’s a bias created by your average citizen dumping all ‘sexual predators’ into one bucket.  I was reading Newsweek Magazine, (Aug. 3, 2009) – “A Bridge Too Far” about sexual predators living under a bridge because they aren’t able to find a place to live within a community.  We live in a NIMBY (not in my back yard society), and it not only affects where we live, but where we work.

True sexual predators are scary individuals, and should be separated from society if they are continuing to commit crimes or psychiatrists are absolutely sure they will commit another crime.

While I have heard statistics claiming sexual predators have a 80 – 90% recidivism rate, other research has identified significant differences in re-offense patterns from one category to another. Looking at reconviction rates alone, one large-scale analysis (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998)[i] reported the following differences:

  • child molesters had a 13% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 37% reconviction rate for new, non-sex offenses over a five year period; and
  • rapists had a 19% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 46% reconviction rate for new, non-sexual offenses over a five-year period.

Another study found reconviction rates for child molesters to be 20% and for rapists to be approximately 23% (Quinsey, Rice, and Harris, 1995).  Recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than for the general criminal population. For example, one study of 108,580 non-sex criminals released from prisons in 11 states in 1983 found…nearly 63% were rearrested for a non-sexual felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of their release from incarceration; 47% were reconvicted; and 41% were ultimately returned to prison or jail (Bureau of Justice Statistics).[ii]

But what about those who have committed crimes, but paid the price, and have decades of lawful behavior, or the crime was sex with a willing partner, although underage?   It seems ‘sexual predators’ should fall into four distinct categories (noted below). Wouldn’t it also be less punitive and be a better system for reporting, if these four types of sexual predator were labeled as such AND the # of years of ‘clean’ living?

  • SP1: The Romeo & Juliet couple (consensual); one is underage for state law for age of consent – but both are close in age – within two to three years; have been dating for more than three to six months; or both are under the age of 18) – those convicted of R&J crime, where even if the SP was only a few months or years older, the crime was from willing participants, and the state forced the conviction are labeled: SP1-15 (means R&J crime, 15 years ago) ; or people caught performing ‘sexting’ to their peers (underage kids at schools) or adults with provable ‘intent of harming’ the victim.  (This does not include incidences where the underage person reports the sex to a counselor, teacher, or other adult because they don’t wish to confront their predator.)  Any underage persons with this conviction should have their records expunged from the record upon reaching a majority.
  • SP2: The child pornography, peeping tom; used communications to try to entice or encourage an underage person to meet the predator (never touched; no physical contact; collects photos of children, but none are naked or in sexually explicit poses); those convicted, but never physically touched another person in the performance of the crime (labeled as: SP2-XX); or people caught performing ‘sexting’ to their peers (underage kids at schools) or adults with the ‘intent of harming’ the victim.
  • SP3: Physical sexual predation (has physically touched / harmed an underage child or committed rape; or collected other related souvenirs via mail, internet, or purchased from other sexual predators); those who have physically harmed or injured another (child or adult – labeled as SP3-V-XX [V standing for Violent]), or sustained the activity of the same (child porn). Even though they may have not physically touched a child, the person taking/selling the pictures has most likely harmed/touched that child inappropriately.  Those who have repeat offenses on the level of SP2 should now be moved to this new label/level.
  • SP4: Sexual predator has raped, criminally tortured, maimed, or killed another; using weapons and torture in the crime; resulting in death of the victim within ten years – either as an immediate result of the crime or by suicide of the victim as a result of the mental anguish traceable back to the crime and the perpetrator.  (Labeled SP4-V-XX-D[1] for murder during the crime or SP4-V-XX[10] noting victim died by their own hand a decade later.)  Those with repeat offenses on the level of SP3, are moved to this new label/level.

There really isn’t a black and white answer to the situation – it’s too many caveats and gray areas to consider/  While this methodology of labeling may be simplistic, it does provide an informative label that will tell the reviewers of the records instant identifying information, and if they wish to pursuer more details about the crime, they can then click on those links for more info.

Why Ask?

When recruiting, a sexual predator might be found in the system during a background check, but if convicted of SP1 and lived a clean life since, shouldn’t those who were convicted of Romeo and Juliet (hormonal) crimes be provided forgiveness, and still be considered for jobs.  They may be very qualified candidates, and will suffer for the rest of their lives for a mistake they made when young, naïve, and possibly stupidly in love.

In some states, their criminal record will have them listed as a sexual predator for the remainder of their lives.  They must register where they are living no matter where they move, or which state in which they are living.  Their neighbors might Google predators in their local or state police on-line sites and suddenly this ‘sexual predator’ has his/her neighbors looking at them with hate, possibly suffering vandalism, nasty notes, their cars get keyed, or their spouse or children become victims, also.

If you live in the state of Virginia, you can search for registered sex offenders near you by zip code: http://sex-offender.vsp.virginia.gov:80/sor/zipSearch.html This website is phenomenal because it lists their address, their crime, their status (parole, etc.), dates of conviction, etc.  What is interesting is I can’t find any evidence of any of the convicted sexual predators here on the list having been convicted of stalking, which may be considered a non-sexual crime (my viewpoint – they are too similar to distinguish apart).

But, some companies refuse to even consider these candidates.  Companies might refuse to consider any candidate with a SP conviction because to do so without distinction between the SP1 and all the others may provide them with a safety net against potential future liability.  There is no question that SP2-SP5’s should be rejected outright – especially if they potentially will be working with, for, or come in contact with children or with women if they have been convicted of child porn, indecent liberties, or using communications systems to contact minors, or even rape.  A school, a hospital or health care facility, or woman’s organization should be immune from any prosecution for failing to hire a convicted sexual predator.  Companies should be allowed to refuse to hire a person with this type of background and legally document it as ‘felony record may endanger current employee population.’

I’m sure any DOL or EEOC representative would have no issue with this documented decision if the company couldn’t find another more compelling reason to reject a candidate.  In our society, it is rather more comfortable for the rejecters to use an ambiguous or more work related reason (not enough qualifications or education) to reject the applicant versus being bluntly honest and telling them, “…can’t – your criminal record stinks…”  Or, write out the conviction, write an explanation in the box the size of your little pinky nail, and hope it won’t be noticed or the employer doesn’t care.

Or what about the companies who see the convictions, then decide it might be a method of getting cheaper labor at the advantage of the sexual predator.  Don’t think this doesn’t happen – it most likely does, where most sexual predators on the registry will do anything to get work, at any wages, to put food on the table and pay their bills.

Knowing someone has been convicted of a crime is one of the stages of information gathering in the  decision process – you weigh the pros and excuse the pun–cons.

Yet, those with the convictions are still crossing their fingers and not mentioning the conviction, hoping the company will accidently forget to run the background check process.  So what is the next best thing for these convicted criminals who are sexual predators to do?  Start their own businesses where they are the boss and there is no background check!  Which puts them right back into the arena where they might possibly have access to the same victims the sexual registry was trying to keep them apart from!


[i] Center for Sex Offender Management 
8403 Colesville Rd., Suite 720 
Silver Spring, MD 20910 
Phone: (301) 589-9383 
Fax: (301) 589-3505 
E-mail: Internet: www.csom.org

[ii] http://www.csom.org/pubs/mythsfacts.html

Solutions to the Dilemma of Waterside, Norfolk, VA

Waterside in Norfolk, VA – Economic Bust or Boom?

Waterside is failing (again) as an economic center and tourist and local draw as a tax-based income producer for the city.  What to do, what to do?  It’s simple enough to look at other adaptive reuse projects in other cities what the answer should be.  The Norfolk City Council should adapt the same or similar goals as other similarly situated cities.

The Goals for Waterside should be:

  1. Develop the right mix of cultural facilities to meet the needs of the community and to make Norfolk a destination attraction.
  2. Develop an Art’s Council to promote and support the business of arts, culture, and science.
  3. Build Norfolk’ identity as a cultural center and destination by increasing the visibility of arts, culture, and science activities in Norfolk.
  4. Develop sustainable funding, public and private, to support arts, culture, and science.
  5. Employ arts, culture, and science to improve Norfolk’ quality of life, strengthen the local economy, and increase tourism.
  6. Ensure availability of arts education programming to youth through future community arts centers, collaborations between schools and arts groups, training and resources for teachers, and funding.
  7. Provide an economically sustainable source of tax revenue to the city supporting administration while making use of a formerly and historically failing economic center and city asset.
  8. Support of research and development of new ideas in the field of the arts, culture and development.
  9. Foster the arts and culture as a means to personal and social development.
  10. Promote young and innovative artists and pieces of art.

The businesses surrounding Waterside are already based in most of these goals above.  The Nauticus and Battleship Wisconsin provides a cultural draw for the museum and exhibits as well as for cruise liners who stop here for the tourist trade; Macarthur Mall provides a draw for serious shoppers; and Waterside Park entices locals to visit for the multiple ‘festivals’ and events throughout the year.

All Norfolk needs is the third base for a true economically attractive ‘triangle’ (linked with the park events) to sustain and build a hugely successful new economic tax base that: 1) attracts visitors from far and wide, as well as locals – including schools and primary students from the surrounding six cities, 2) builds up the region’s reputation for arts and culture using the vital, dynamic, and diverse resources of artists already in the immediate area, and 3) creates additional jobs and revenue for tax payers who are supported by this project.

Additionally there are several other venues in the local area, which fight traffic and weather that could be brought under a roof next to rich parking availability to ensure better success for the event – such as the Spring and Fall Stockley Gardens Art Festival in Ghent.

In addition to providing space for culturally related events, there should be enough space in Waterside to provide a ‘free to the public’ meeting events space for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and other related business building events such as a Chamber of Commerce satellite office, Small Business Administration satellite office, and meeting space for Business Networking events for groups that target and work with entrepreneurs to train, network, and interact to build business relationships.

Examples of Successful Art Centers

The Torpedo Factory, Old Town, Alexandria, VA[i]

The Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center (Friends) is a nonprofit membership organization presenting a variety of arts-related programs and events in collaboration with the Torpedo Factory Art Center, one of Alexandria’s best resources for the arts.

The Friends’ mission is to promote the Torpedo Factory Art Center as a vital part of the City of Alexandria and of the greater Washington metropolitan area. We fulfill our mission by building connections between the Center, its artists (in partnership with the Torpedo Factory Artists Association, a separate entity) and the community. We are a member-based public charity, meaning that, while we also seek grants and corporate sponsorships, the primary source of our revenues is membership dues that are fully tax-deductible to the members. The West End Business Association provides the City of Alexandria, Virginia’s West End businesses with networking, education and growth opportunities while offering unified advocacy.  For more information go to www.alexandriaWEBA.com .

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is the highlight of Alexandria’s Potomac River waterfront, attracting approximately 500,000 visitors annually. Visit 82 artists’ studios, six galleries, two workshops, and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. Sign up for an art class with The Art League School. Then stroll along the waterfront, shop and sightsee on nearby historic streets, have a picnic on the dock behind the art center, or eat in the area’s many fine restaurants.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center houses more than 165 visual artists who produce artwork in a wide variety of media including painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture. The artists invite visitors to join them in their studios and observe their creative processes. You may ask questions, learn about each of their art forms, and purchase original work.

In addition to 82 working artist studios, you will also find:

Activities and events the Friends sponsor both bring art closer to the community and bring the community closer to art. They include:

  • Our mentorship program, which matches high school art students with Torpedo Factory artists, an extraordinary opportunity which culminates in a student art exhibition in the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Target Gallery;
  • Cosponsoring the annual “Young at Art” show held at the Durant Center along with the Senior Services of Alexandria and Goodwin House;
  • “Art at the Courthouse” showcases art at the City of Alexandria Juvenile Court;
  • The Friends’ Guest Lecture & Performance Series, which brings accomplished speakers to the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Our next program features the Jane Franklin Dance Company, on April 22;
  • The Friends’ Artist of the Year program, in which the community recognizes artistic achievements of the Center’s artists.

History of the Torpedo Factory

No kidding! The Torpedo Factory Art Center was an actual torpedo factory. It’s not just a catchy name for a building bursting with art studios.

It all began the day after Armistice Day, November 12, 1918, which was the anniversary of the official end of World War I. Ironically, on that day the U.S. Navy began construction on the original building, which became the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. When fully operational, it was responsible for the manufacture and maintenance of torpedoes for the next five years. Work stopped and the facility served as a munitions storage area until World War II. Production on the Mark XIV, a submarine borne torpedo, and the Mark III aircraft torpedo then resumed at an intense rate; in fact, men and women worked around the clock and were given only two days off a year. Gradually as space was needed, ten additional buildings were added to the complex.

The green torpedo currently displayed in the main hall was actually made here in 1945. This Mark XIV torpedo is painted bright green so that the Navy could find it in the water when it was tested. Its log book, in the exhibit case, tells its history, and lists the submarines on which it traveled. The silver colored torpedo displayed in the back hall is a type which was dropped from airplanes and was not made here at the Torpedo Factory.

When peace was declared in June of 1945, the furious activity at the torpedo factory came to a grinding halt. Eventually, the U.S. government decided to use the buildings for storage space: the Smithsonian stored art objects and valuable dinosaur bones; Congress stored documents; the military kept German war films and records in sealed vaults.

In 1969, the City of Alexandria bought the complex of buildings from the Federal Government. However, it was several years before an acceptable plan for their use was adopted. Marian Van Landingham proposed a project that would renovate the building into working studio spaces for artists. Van Landingham was President of the Art League at the time, as well as Projects and Programs Director of the Alexandria Bicentennial Commission. Her proposal was endorsed by the Commission. With Van Landingham’s experience in the arts, public relations, and politics, she was the perfect choice to become the first city-employed Director of the Art Center and the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association was born.

Work began on the building in May of 1974, with artist volunteers and City personnel working together to remove the debris of 55 years. Bulldozers and firehoses were initially needed and 40 truckloads of debris were eventually removed. Studio walls were built, electricity and plumbing expanded. The entire exterior was repainted. By July, artists had converted the huge space into a complex of bright and clean studios. Most of the studio spaces had been reserved by that time from a list of juried artists. On September 15, 1974, the Torpedo Factory Art Center opened to the public.

In the 1970s, the artists were so passionate about their studio time they were willing to work in very uncomfortable conditions. Freezing winter temperatures were barely addressed by an ancient boiler which blew a little heat to the first floor and attempted to power furnaces on the upper floor. Shivering artists could only detect heat from those furnaces by leaning on them or touching them directly. They would bundle up in coats, wear gloves with the fingertips cut off, and run coffee pots of boiling water in an attempt to hold off the chill.  With no air conditioning in the summer, the artists would battle the Alexandria heat by working in the constant breeze of a fan. Many would bring frozen bottles of water from home which they would sip as they melted through the afternoon.

From 1982 to 1983, the building underwent a major renovation as part of the City’s waterfront development plan. During that year, all of the artists packed into a much smaller building next door and continued to work. Many artists worked literally elbow to elbow in unimaginably tight quarters. That building still exists as non-affiliated retail and office space.

The Torpedo Factory building was gutted entirely, including all pipes, electrical units, windows, and flooring. A second floor was constructed. A ventilation system and central air and heating were added as well. The artful spiral staircase and main staircase were both added at this time. The artist studios were built to address the specific water, lighting, and electrical needs of each resident artist. A grand reopening celebration was held on May 20, 1983.

Today, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to over 160 professional artists who work, exhibit, and sell their art. Along with over 1,000 cooperative gallery members and some 2,000 art students, the Torpedo Factory Art Center draws artists from across the region and attracts visitors from around the world. The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a working example of how the arts can revitalize a community and serves as a prototype for visual arts facilities throughout the world.

The Goggle Factory, Reading, PA

The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts[ii] is a prime example of adaptive reuse in architecture, and derives its name from the original structure from which it evolved. Where there is now a hub of community activity bringing people together in the arts and culture, there once stood a leader in the safety industry whose groundbreaking innovations spanned over a century.

In 1871, during a time when the United States depended solely on Europe for optical lenses, Thomas A. Willson & Co. erected the first factory for the manufacturing of optical glass for lenses and reading glasses at the corner of Washington and 2nd Streets in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Eventually the company changed hands first to Ray-O-Vac Corp. in 1956, and the following year to Electric Storage Battery (ESB) Co., but maintained the Willson Products name through the atomic age and space age, still leading the safety industry in research and development of equipment to meet the needs of a technologically advancing society. By 1981 the company was manufacturing more than 3,000 separate items in protective gear, and at that time became Willson Safety Products.

Willson shifted its focus to the development of new varieties of respirators, gloves and other protective equipment in the 1980s. They stopped manufacturing safety eyewear and began to purchase those products offshore. The company teamed up with Christian Dalloz, a French-based company to create protective eyewear, and Willson became Dalloz’s largest customer. Dalloz bought Willson Products in 1989, and changed the company name to Dalloz Safety in 1997.

Between 200 and 300 people were employed at the Dalloz plant in Reading, but due to outdated equipment and manufacturing processes, layoffs began. By 2001 fifty employees remained, and in May, 2002 the Dalloz Safety plant in Reading closed.

A 130-year history of safety industry innovation and leadership came to an end, and the future of the buildings that had been erected to accommodate the Willson family’s enterprising manufacturing was uncertain. In the midst of hopes and plans for the revitalization of the greater Reading area, the City of Reading recognized the value and the character of these buildings, and their potential to serve the community in a whole new way. Plans to develop a community arts and cultural resource center began, fueled by the proven success of similar adaptive reuse arts center projects. By converting abandoned factories, these community arts centers have revitalized their areas, maintaining local historical and architectural integrity while inspiring a cultural and economic resurgence as the community and visitors come together to create, appreciate, and celebrate the arts.

Boston Massachusett’s Action Agenda to Enhance Revenues and Resources for Massachusetts Cultural Organizations

Considering our highest priorities

It was powerful, and personally gratifying for us to witness this overarching change. But, frankly, much of our work and most of what we heard was more specific and pragmatic. Grounded in the realities of building codes, giving trends, and legislative realities, each of the five committees considered its particular priorities for change, understanding that the Task Force’s final action agenda would grow from these five sets of recommendations.

The work for those assembled at the February 2004 meeting was straightforward: after welcoming remarks from Paul Grogan, Task Force members reviewed five sets of draft recommendations. From there, we hoped that we could reach an understanding of our highest priorities. Throughout, it was the big question—what are the next steps?—that was the group’s overriding concern. The answer would be found in the issues and recommendations that had the greatest traction and the strongest connection to all parts of the sector.

Here is the Cultural Task Force’s action agenda.

1. The highest priority of the Cultural Task Force and, indeed, the entire cultural community, is a significant, sustained state investment in cultural facilities.

The buildings and places in which we work, create and present art and artifacts, and bring the best cultural experiences to a broad and diverse public have a tremendous impact on the cultural sector’s service to its community. A state-supported grants program to provide a portion of the capital funds for maintenance, improvement, and new construction is the greatest need of the cultural community and the highest priority for the Cultural Task Force. Funding, however, is not the whole answer. In addition, the implementation of state and local laws, policies and regulations that support the development of artist spaces, new facilities, the adaptive reuse of historic structures for new cultural purposes, and the maintenance of existing facilities is key to the revitalization of communities and to realizing the benefits of our cultural organizations.

Cultural facilities, including artist spaces, touch all segments of the sector, impacting programs, operations, and budgets to a degree that the general public doesn’t recognize. The audience’s attention is appropriately focused on the stage, the exhibits, the lecturer, while it is left to others to worry about the sagging roof, inadequate rehearsal space, and too small stage. And while only a few among us have the vision to look at an abandoned building and see the economic and social revitalization of an entire community in its rehabilitation, we all yearn for the positive benefits that museums, theaters, and art centers can bring to our neighborhoods.

The Task Force is not alone in calling for a comprehensive solution to the growing crisis in cultural facilities. The 175 people that attended the two Listening Sessions convened in January to gather the concerns of cultural leaders also identified our current ways of dealing with our buildings and artist spaces as a growing problem. This informal consensus is backed by more rigorous studies, among them the survey conducted on behalf of the Task Force that identified over $1.1 billion in repair, expansion and new facility needs and the LINC needs assessment 88 that identified the lack of affordable living, studio, rehearsal and presenting spaces as significant barriers to Boston’s individual artists, their audiences, and our city’s competitiveness.

How can we meet this need for cultural facilities that are safe, affordable, accessible, and adequate to the aspirations of our artists, cultural organizations, and the residents of our Commonwealth?

A significant, sustained state investment in a capital grants program that provides a portion of the funds for planning, repairs, expansion, and new construction is the highest priority of the Cultural Task Force and, indeed, of cultural leaders and audiences across the Commonwealth. State funding will leverage private support and is an investment in jobs, economic growth, and community vitality.

2. The Task Force recognizes the economic potential of cultural tourism and sees its growth and development as a high priority.

When cultural organizations and tourism-related businesses and government agencies work together to increase tourism revenue and improve and maintain our cultural assets by marketing and supporting them, both are better off.

Cultural tourism is a powerful economic force for creating jobs and generating earnings and tax revenues. The successful efforts of Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and other cities across the country showed us how a collaborative, cross-sector approach can benefit the cultural sector, the travel/tourism industry, and the entire economy. We want to unlock the potential synergies of culture and travel.

The deliberations of the travel/tourism committee and of the full Task Force have set the stage for cross sector collaborations that maximize the potential of cultural tourism. The next step is to continue to build relationships of open communication and trust between cultural organizations and travel-related businesses and government agencies.

The course of that dialogue has also been charted. The first step is to develop a joint approach to collecting and sharing actionable data upon which to base decisions about marketing and programming. The hotel/motel industry collects room-night data; theaters collect subscription and ticket sales information; some museums track zip codes while others only guess at where their audience comes from. A shared understanding of their common audience, the cultural tourist, is necessary before the culture and travel sectors can move forward together. Difficult, but achievable. An investment in culture based advertising and marketing that is based in collaborative research and grounded in an understanding of the customer will be returned in economic growth and community vitality.

3.  The Cultural Task Force recommends greater investment in service and advocacy organizations to develop the sector’s cohesion and enhance its ability to meet its collective needs.

The group identified a list of needs—management and fundraising technical assistance for small and mid-sized organizations; board recruitment and training; links with corporations; improved communication about the sector; a forum for ongoing dialogue; sustained, shared leadership—that seemed to cluster, but had no readily identifiable center. Parts of this list are being addressed by the sector’s service organizations, but not with the breadth, depth, or scale that could be gained by greater investment. The group recognized the need for further study, consideration and collaboration, and added this cluster of related issues to the agenda.

Several examples show us what is being accomplished and where there are gaps. Arts Boston, one of the state’s largest service organizations, is focused—quite appropriately—on its 170 member performing arts groups, leaving the visual, media, history, and other cultural organizations to fend for themselves. Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences and Humanities (MAASH), serving the breadth of the cultural sector as its statewide advocacy group, is growing in strength. But, while MAASH membership is broad, its mission focus on policy and advocacy leaves such needs as technical assistance unaddressed. The Massachusetts Cultural Council, of course, serves the full cultural sector through a range of grants and programs, including technical assistance, but much of the list is beyond its current scope and budget.

Yes, there is a growing understanding that by developing the sector’s cohesion and ability to meet its collective needs, all cultural organizations, regardless of size or mission, can thrive and better serve their constituencies. Two indications of this new awareness are MAASH’s expanding membership list and the increased impact of its legislative advocacy. Likewise, the cultural community knows that if it is to be included in the broader civic conversation, it must begin by reaching out to those with shared interests. Individual organizations and coalitions of groups, along with MAASH, are beginning to take the lead in some of these discussions.

However, there is as yet no common understanding of how the breadth and depth of this multifaceted need—for shared leadership, technical assistance, cross-sector partnerships, advocacy, marketing, a setting for ongoing dialogue, and so on—might be addressed through an organization or set of organizations. United fundraising agencies serve these functions in smaller, more cohesive communities, but not only is united fundraising off the table for the complex cultural community of Greater Boston, but the need encompasses a much broader geography.

Some sectors have one or more well-developed intermediary organizations that mediate between the individual nonprofits and the larger worlds of government, philanthropy, and industry. One example, LISC—Local Initiatives Support Corporation, 89 an intermediary organization serving community development nonprofits—is represented on the Task Force. Is this a good model for the cultural sector? How would we develop and support such an organization? When individual organizations are still keenly competitive over limited funding, is it possible to make the case for sector-wide benefits? While the answers are still unclear, the path forward is very apparent. The question has been defined. Now, the conversation and the shared leadership evident in Task Force meetings, must continue.

What will it take?

The Cultural Task Force has taken the first steps. It has explored many different strategies and recommended those with the greatest potential for impact. It has agreed on its highest priority—cultural facilities—and identified specific action steps for the many different players who will need to be engaged in making significant changes in current policy and practice. Individual Task Force participants have committed themselves to ongoing advocacy, as well as to work in the specific areas, such as facilities or tourism, where they have particular expertise. And, most powerfully, by coming together to set a common agenda, Task Force members have formed a core group of advocates to make the case for change.

MAASH, our statewide advocacy organization is central to this effort. MAASH works to increase awareness among legislators, other government officials and the general public about the cultural sector’s impact on the Massachusetts economy, educational system and quality of life, and to increase state cultural funding, including the Massachusetts Cultural Council appropriation. Membership in MAASH supports this work and connects us to the tools and information we need to be active advocates.

All of us must all carry the message. Broad, grassroots advocacy will be the key. Individually, we work in theaters, museums, and historic houses. We are trustees. We are artists, scientists, historians. Together we are cultural advocates. We are members of the audience. Together we are the cultural leaders who  will show the way to new strategies for supporting our cultural organizations.

Why?

Strong cultural organizations are essential for strong, healthy communities. They are essential to education and public learning. They foster an environment of creativity and innovation that attracts artistic, commercial and hi-tech entrepreneurs to our state. They create jobs and support Massachusetts’ businesses through their spending. They attract tourists and new businesses by creating distinctive institutions that build neighborhoods and create community identity.

We have much to gain by increasing our support for cultural organizations. Conversely, if we persist in starving our cultural institutions of the resources they need to thrive, we will all fail to thrive. We have much to lose if we continue to do business in the same old way. It isn’t working. Other states are reaping the economic benefits of an active cultural tourist industry. Other cities are adding jobs and tax revenues. Other communities are graduating creative thinkers, able to frame old questions in new ways to come up with answers that will change tomorrow.

As we have noted before, we live in an extremely competitive environment. To lead in today’s world, we must leverage all of our Commonwealth’s assets, or lose to cities and states that are investing in an infrastructure to rival ours. The nonprofit cultural sector must be included in policy conversations about economic and community development. We must increase our financial support of cultural organizations. Investment in our cultural sector will lead to significant, measurable results as well as important intangible benefits. Investment in the strength and vitality of our cultural sector is an investment in our communities, our schools, our economy, and our souls. It is an acknowledgement and a celebration of our common wealth.

Footnotes and full article: available at http://www.tbf.org/tbfgen1.asp?id=1779

City of Fort Collins, Colorado

In February 2004, the Fort Collins City Council appointed a group of community representatives to develop a set of recommendations intended to address the economic vitality and sustainability of Fort Collins. Members of the “Economic Vitality and Sustainability Action Group” (EVSAG) were carefully selected to represent a broad and diverse range of community interests and perspectives. The group met continually for four months and created a report and recommendations. Since that time, two additional advisory groups have been formed, EVSAG II and EVSAG III to continue the work and recommendations of the original advisors. The 2004 EVSAG document identifies the need to diversify and broaden our economic sectors and offers as a strategy investing in efforts to highlight our community’s cultural activities and identify Fort Collins as a “Cultural Destination.”

The city also completed a Strategic Employment Opportunities report in 2006 to help craft the region’s economic development strategy by identifying what types of industries to target for growth and retention. The report identified six industry clusters, including “Uniquely Fort Collins” which focuses on businesses whose products and operations contribute to the eclectic, innovative, and high quality of life in Fort Collins, specifically through artistic and cultural entertainment, recreation, and hospitality.

Fort Collins is recognized as the Best City to live in America by Money Magazine in 2006, and claims second in 2008.  The strong history, new initiatives, and changing nature of the region set the stage for the development of a Cultural Plan for the city. The City of Fort Collins Cultural Services Department and Arts Alive laid the ground work and established a vision:

“To identify Fort Collins as a uniquely creative community and a destination for arts, culture, and science that enriches the lives of our citizens and visitors, and serves as an economic engine.”

Through a community cultural survey, cultural assessment and inventory, educators survey, cultural planning forum, and meetings with local arts, culture, and science organizations, leaders, and citizens, the Cultural Plan sets fourth six goals to move towards the vision.

The Fort Collins Cultural Plan is guided by an ambitious and expansive vision for the role of arts, culture, and science in the quality of life of Fort Collins and economic development.

The Vision: To identify Fort Collins as a uniquely creative community and a destination for arts, culture, and science that enriches the lives of our citizens and visitors, and serves as an economic engine.

  • Elected officials and business leaders will elevate awareness and support art, culture and science to a place of prominence.
  • An Arts Council will be named and funded to serve as an umbrella organization to promote and support the business of arts, culture, and science.
  • Fort Collins will be a hub of cultural opportunities supported by cultural facilities that best serve the community and its visitors – from museums and performing venues, to arts education centers and festival grounds.
  • Our nonprofit art, culture, and science organizations will thrive and grow creatively by being financially stable through sustainable funding.
  • Our community will be a destination in the state for those seeking unique and interesting cultural, artistic, scientific, and outdoor experiences.

The Cultural Plan[iii] goals include:

  1. Develop the right mix of cultural facilities to meet the needs of the community and to make Fort Collins a destination attraction.
  2. Develop an Art’s Council to promote and support the business of the arts.
  3. Build Fort Collins’ identity as a cultural center and destination by increasing the visibility of the arts, culture, and science activities in Fort Collins.
  4. Develop sustainable funding, public and private, to support arts, culture, and science programs.
  5. Employ arts, culture, and participatory science to improve Fort Collins’ quality of life, strengthen the local economy, and increase tourism.
  6. Ensure availability of arts education programming to our youth through future community arts centers, collaborations between schools and arts groups, training and resources for teachers, and funding.

PURPOSE AND PLANNING METHODS

The purpose of the planning process is to work together as a community to ensure that arts, culture, and science thrive in our community and provide excellent quality of life, become an integral part of our unique community identity, and help drive the local economy and tourism.

The impetus for a cultural plan evolved from multiple conversations that were taking place around Fort Collins’ arts, culture, and science community.

  • Arts Alive brought together a group of community leaders to begin discussions on developing sustainable funding for the arts and culture in Fort Collins.
  • The City of Fort Collins identified the need to renovate and expand current cultural facilities.
  • The Downtown Strategic Plan was published and noted a new performing arts facility as a strategy.
  • The Economic Vitality and Sustainability Action Group brought forth recommendations and identified several strategies addressing arts and culture and the downtown.
  • The Downtown Development Authority embarked on a visioning process around the Beet Street Chautauqua-like programming for Fort Collins.
  • Americans for the Arts published Arts & Prosperity: Economic Impact of the Arts II and III, in which Fort Collins was a case study.
  • Discovery Science Center began planning for relocation and joined forces with the Fort Collins Museum to realize a new, merged institution.
  • Many other organizations were seeking new or expanded facilities, such as the Rocky Mountain Raptors, Center for Fine Arts Photography, Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, etc.

[i] http://www.torpedofactory.org/

[ii] http://www.goggleworks.org/

[iii] http://www.fcgov.com/cultural/pdf/cultural_plan-report.pdf

“The Greatest Distance on Earth…

…is the 14 inches between our mind and our heart.”

Grandmother Aggie, Takelma Band, Rogue River Indian Tribe, Oregon (quoted from ODE magazine, January 2010)