Monday, March 6, 2017

In a March 7, 2017 email message to the nation's mayors, CEO and Executive Director of The United States Conference of Mayors affirmed the mayors' support of the National Endowment for the Arts with the following statement:

Mayors to Congress: National Endowment for the Arts Provides Benefits for All Americans

Mayors came to town last week and met with key power leaders of the Senate and the House, warning that possible budget cuts affect the lives of all Americans.

At a special box lunch meeting chaired by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY), mayors heard her recall the fights of previous years to eliminate federal funding for the arts. Elected 16 times to the House of Representatives, 2 terms in the New York State Assembly, and 3 times in Monroe County Legislature, Congresswoman Slaughter co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus with Republican Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ). The Arts Caucus has 158 bipartisan members. Past years have shown the NEA has substantial Republican support.

At our lunch, mayors also heard from Bob Lynch, Americans for the Arts President and CEO and Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Executive Director, Americans for the Arts Action Fund give strong arguments, practical strategy, and inside information which is most helpful as we garner support to stop those who would attempt to damage or destroy our nation's role in providing arts benefits to all, the rich, middle class, low income, poor and disadvantaged.

The United States Conference of Mayors have supported the NEA since its inception in 1965. The independent federal agency got its biggest boost by President Nixon's appointment of Nancy Hanks who served as chair from 1969 to 1977.

Throughout the history of the NEA, it has taken a few major incoming hits. President Reagan's OMB Director proposed severe cuts and Charleton Heston, Moses himself, stepped in to lead and defend federal funding for the arts. Another attack came in the early 90s and the "Save Big Bird" campaign was launched and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial and Congresswoman Slaughter stood with the Americans for the Arts to continue funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This year, 2017, we will face another fight. While a large part of these funds - 40% - go to our 50 state art councils, it is the mayors of the United States who will be fierce and vigilant as we prepare, with our allies, for battle.

$148 million for Arts in a Federal Budget of $3.8 trillion is not a lot of money when compared to other spending categories within the U.S. and it is a mere pittance when compared to other nations. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts supported in the last Presidential Campaign a $1 per capita, approximately $318 million for the nation.

Included in the NEA funding is our Mayors Institute on City Design, now in its 31st year having served nearly 1,100 mayors in 65 national institutes.

On March 20-21 here in DC, we will join with AFA for our 30th National Arts Advocacy Day. Mayors and more than 500 grassroots advocates will come to Washington to push Congress to stand with us and the millions of Americans to continue federal funding for the arts.