Arts increase meets March madness

Government's many lovers of sports terminology like to call legislation that will pass easily a "slam dunk." But real basketball fans know that no matter how absent the defense, would-be slam dunks will sometimes bounce harmlessly off the rim.

Beefing up the One Percent for Arts program—which places one percent of city capital project budgets into a fund for on-site visual art—seemed an easy sell. Arts activists and an arts committee assembled by Mayor Paul Schell had both recommended upping the allocation to 1.5 or 2 percent. Then, City Council President Margaret Pageler took advantage of her temporary majority late last year to push through legislation keeping the increase out of next year's budget (on a 5-4 vote). With the addition of new members Heidi Wills and Judy Nicastro, an increase in the One Percent for Arts program seemed like, yes, a slam dunk.

But the proposal has been swatted back into committee, and its supporters aren't confident of scoring with this topic in the future. "I thought we were going forward, making progress on this thing," says council member Nick Licata. "And now the floor is shifting below my feet."

Licata says recent council discussions of public support for the arts have focused on large outlays for major cultural facilities including the Benaroya Symphony Hall and the Seattle Center Opera House, giving short shrift to programs like One Percent for Arts, which gives small grants to local artists. "People are confusing building edifices with supporting artists," he says.

The best-known vote shifter is council member Richard Conlin, who had pledged to vote for an increase (he wanted 1.5 percent, not 2 percent) but instead led the effort to table the legislation. It will return in May when Schell releases his full set of arts-related recommendations. Conlin says that he objected to Pageler rushing the issue last year, and he doesn't want to see arts advocates make the same mistake. He argues that pushing program changes through council by a narrow margin might lead to their reversal the next time the council's membership changes. Instead, Conlin wants to craft a bill that can earn the backing of all or most council members.

Licata isn't thrilled with the prospect. He says that members originally opposed to the change are now coming up with amendments to exempt certain types of projects from the One Percent for Arts requirement. If enough of these amendments pass, the program could actually lose money from the change. "We may end up voting against the legislation if it ends up hurting us more than helping us," he says.

Based on the full-court council shuffle on this vote and the recently defeated circus animal ban, this lineup of the City Hall Nine doesn't look like championship material.

Censor this!

OK, we're not the Word Police, but can we please do something about "censorship"?

No, we don't mean the practice, but the word itself. Although word misuse is epidemic in modern culture (for example, when was the last time anybody correctly used the words "fetish" or "junkie"?), there are times when things go too far.

Every disagreement over speech simply isn't "censorship." Someone should tell this to national newspaper columnist John Leo, who describes the campaign by gay activists seeking to block Dr. Laura Schlessinger's new TV show as left-wing censorship. The annoying radio sex therapist herself calls her critics "fascists" (if things get worse, maybe she'll call their campaign a "Holocaust").

Sure, it may not be nice for people to write complaint letters to Dr. Laura's corporate employers and their advertisers, but letter-writing campaigns and boycotts hardly qualify as "censorship." Perhaps a better description would be "criticism"—or even "democracy."

Likewise, redneck baseball thrower John Rocker didn't face "censorship" when he was fined for his stupid comments about gays, immigrants, and minorities. He was merely disciplined by his bosses, who want to make fans of all ethnic backgrounds feel welcome to squander their money on major league games and merchandise. It's a free country—Rocker can quit the major leagues at any time and find a job commensurate with his nonpitching abilities. Hey, someone's got to pump that gas.

Even the owners of the California community newspapers that banned any positive references to gays or abortion in their pages aren't really censors. Their employees had the right to quit their jobs and blast their employers—and, to their credit, many did just that.

In fact, the only real example of censorship in recent news events is the high school principal who confiscated all copies of the school newspaper because it included a humor column about farting. Perhaps this could be John Leo's next cause.

ISO ideal top cop

Sorry to hear that so few Seattle citizens have been participating in a series of meetings aimed at establishing the most important characteristics of our next police chief.

Against all odds, we have managed to intercept the supersecret internal memo listing the qualities that Seattleites want in their top cop. Our ideal new police chief should:

*be tall, preferably over six feet,

*have "dreamy blue eyes" and a "full head of hair,"

*be able to laugh at him/herself,

*like "long walks on the beach," and

*be "Herb-friendly."

We're assuming that last one refers to maintaining a cordial relationship with Acting Chief Herb Johnson. Interested applicants should leave a voice message in Mayor Schell's "private mailbox."

 
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