Opinion: Yes to 2A – A win for the arts and a win for all Boulderites

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

Friday, October 20, 2023

Want a different look? Read the arguments against 2A

By Deborah Malden
Yes to 2A

Yes for 2A is an official campaign advocating to get Measure 2A on the City of Boulder ballot

This November, Boulder City voters will have a unique opportunity to shape the future of our city by voting yes on Measure 2A. 2A is not a tax increase: It expands an existing 25-year-old General Fund sales and use tax that amounts to just 15 cents on every $100 in purchases and raises roughly $7.5 million annually for the city.

Without raising current taxes or cutting any city services, passage of the measure would extend the tax for another 20 years and dedicate 50% ($3.75 million) to the city’s Office of Arts and Culture to strengthen the ecosystem of Boulder Arts and Culture and 50% ($3.75 million) to the city’s general fund.

Continuation of the sales taxes that support the General Fund is critical. The fund supports many of Boulder’s core services, including public safety, human services, homeless solutions, facilities maintenance and other day-to-day operations.

Most constituents I spoke to expressed enthusiasm for more support for the arts, while questioning whether the $3.75 million dedicated to the arts would force cuts in services. 2A would not result in cuts to existing city services. This has been publicly confirmed at multiple City Council meetings by Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilman Bob Yates, both of whom are running for mayor this November.

According to city finance officials, an extension of the existing sales tax is needed to avoid service cuts — even with 50 percent dedicated to the arts. That’s in part because, starting in 2025, the city will have an extra $10 million a year in its General Fund spending power because of the new Boulder Public Library District, a separate entity that voters approved last year. The library district is kicking library costs out of the city budget forever.

Although the amount of dedicated arts funding would be transformative for the arts and community, it represents a modest 2% of the total fund. As important as it is, funding the arts is not the same as supporting other city priorities like facility maintenance and street repairs.

The difference? Potholes and many other city expenses are a cost – the cost of doing business and serving the community. Like paying your monthly utility bills, there is no economic return.

Art, on the contrary, is an investment. A just-released study shows that Boulder’s arts and culture nonprofits have an annual direct economic impact of more than $115 million. This includes additional spending from the public ($61.6 million), household income ($80 million), and city and county taxes ($4.6 million).

This is money that helps keep our businesses open, supports our families and workers, and provides additional funding to the city to support other priorities. 50% for the Arts will provide a much-needed lifeline to Boulder’s long-underfunded arts and culture sector.

In 2015, a cultural master plan was adopted that sets out how the city’s resources should be allocated to achieve a strong arts and culture ecosystem. Unfortunately, the current budget turned out to be insufficient.

Most Boulder residents are surprised to learn that our city spends less on cultural activities than our Front Range neighbors: Arvada, Loveland and Fort Collins. The city’s own research shows Boulder’s average per capita spending is 60% below comparable cities.

Chronic underinvestment in the arts leaves our cultural organizations, artists and arts educators struggling to make ends meet and meet community needs. And it risks emptying our arts and culture ecosystem at a time when Colorado communities are increasingly prioritizing the arts to attract artists and cultural programs, and with them the many benefits that a strong arts landscape brings to their residents and their economies.

Some critics of 2A suggest that the arts represent a single, narrow interest group. This largely misses the mark. Decades of research show that a thriving arts and culture landscape benefits the entire community—families, their children, seniors, residents of all income levels—helping us come together, making us individually and collectively healthier, more happy, more tolerant, more hospitable and more resilient.

Boulder faces many challenges that require extensive regional, state and federal resources, but supporting our arts and culture sector is well within our reach. Ballot Measure 2A is a win-win for all Boulder residents, ensuring the stability of essential services, nurturing our arts and culture scene, and building a more equitable, connected and vibrant community for generations to come.

Please visit 2aforall.com/ learn more and join me in voting Yes for 2A — a win-win for the arts and for all Boulderites.

Deborah Malden is the chair of the Yes on 2A campaign and a board member of Create Boulder, a group that advocates for art and arts funding in the city of Boulder

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