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Council will be reconsidering the $50,000 grant for the private fundraiser for “The Lens“. Three councilors voted to put it back on council’s agenda for reconsideration. Tentatively, the vote will take place next council meeting on March 1, 2016.

Whether you support the $50,000 grant, or not, show up in person and let your voice be heard. This is your money, and not ours. If you feel that this is prudent use of taxpayer money, come and explain why. If not, tell us why. Your voice matters. But above all, regardless of your position, I encourage everyone to follow two simple rules: be nice, and give due respect to all voices. 

While I did not find the arguments in favor to be persuasive during our last meeting, I have an enormous amount of respect for our passionate supporters of downtown public art. They sincerely believe that this piece of art will be a signature piece of public art, transforming our Midwestern college town into a world class city alongside Bilbao, Sidney, London, Chicago, or Los Angeles. They may well be right. We may one day bask in the piercing iridescent radiance of “The Lens”, gazing up and giving thanks for providing clarity to our perceived parochial myopia, and for illuminating the shadows of our cultural obscurity.

Even so, unless a compelling argument is made to the contrary (I will keep an open mind), I will not support it. I don’t believe our town should be measured by how cultural elites view our community, but by how we address the needs of all our residents, even if it brings us a few steps down in the coolness meter.

We live in a community where some residents cannot afford to make the basic payments of life: food, housing and transportation, even while working 80-90 hour weeks. And while not every decision can be based upon how those three basic needs are being met, I believe this one firmly calls into question where are priorities are.

  • If we can fund $50,000 to further a $500,000 piece of public art work, we can support our friends and neighbors’ affordable housing needs.
  • If we can fund $50,000 to further a $500,000 piece of public art work, we can support our non-profits’ efforts to address food insecurity.
  • If we can fund $50,000 to further a $500,000 piece of public art work, we can increase transportation options for our friends and neighbors seeking to get back on their feet through hard work.

Budgets are about choices and priorities. If you believe that our community has done everything possible to address these needs, and you view it as a bridge to being a world class city, then come and support it. I do not. Too many needs remain unmet for too many. While I am fully cognizant that this decision will result in opprobrium from “Lens” supporters, that is a small price to pay for standing up for all of our residents. Will you come and stand with us?