it was an interesting time; i was certainly heartened by some of the clearly supportive councillors, the presentation of John Reid of the volunteer organization Ottawa Arts and Heritage Advisory Committee and the groundswell of support from the audience/rally participants. i enjoyed listening to the Raging Grannies and the evangelical Oni, Julian Armour, Paul Dewar, Peter Honeywell, seeing the dancers, the mask wearing actors. i carried a copy of Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets from Chaudiere Books as my own way of showing support for the literary arts. i was heartened to see fellow writers and organizers of reading series, performers, publishers and more at the rally.
what still sticks in my craw though is His Worstship, Ludicrous O’Brien’s question regarding whether or not the economic benefits of the arts were direct benefits to the City’s coffers or just to the City at large. first this is a stupid question. if more tourists stay in our hotels, drink at our bars, visit our museums due to festivals, performances, readings, arts, culture and heritage organization activities, the City gains financial benefit and I’m not just talking about parking tickets.
as to whether the arts is a direct source of revenue to the City bureaucracy or even should be, that’s just craziness. Is an intersection a direct source of revenue? a defibrillator? What the arts does is provide valuable services to Ottawa. we shouldn’t have to say that. it’s clear.
I didn’t like having to sit in that Council Chamber today; I didn’t like listening to the shenanigans and bullying tactics of the councillors and the Mayor who actually ordered one petulant and overbearing councillor’s microphone to be turned off. I didn’t like the way groups were pitted against one another.
nope, i didn't like having to be there, and i doubt many of the audience wanted to be there either, but we had to go. It’s our job to protect the arts and our obligation to make sure the City is a vibrant and worthwhile community. Because we live here and we work here and it’s our city.
One thing that surprised me was how little city councillors and presenters knew about the process by which art organizations and individuals are awarded funding. They have no idea about the proposal process, the helpful facilitators who are employed by the City, the juries that are made up of individuals and experts in the community, the number of rejections, the follow up reports, the audits, the whole annoying but necessarily bureaucratic process. This is an area where City money is being carefully scrutinized and spent, yet the councillors and the Mayor knew nothing. Perhaps it’s because the amount of money is so tiny: one third of one percent. A smidgen. As Councillor and friend of the arts, Clive Doucet said, they are spending four days deliberating one third of one percent.
Promises have been made and broken when it comes to the City’s obligation to the arts. There has already been money allocated and spent on developing strategic plans such as Arts 20/20. Commitments to fund the arts to a certain level have not been honoured. We’ll see what happens, but watch out for that sneaky Ludicrous or Lex Luther or whatever you want to call him. He’s trying to establish a case that the arts should offer a direct return on investment to the green elephant that is City Hall.
On another political note, is anyone else glad to hear of plans to turf Herr Harper and his thugs off the Hill through this coalition of Liberals, NDP and Bloquists? that made me smile. that and a lovely conversation with friends at the Manx post rally.