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The big news last week (aside from the elections) was the on again, off again, ready to go, not ready start of construction for the Performance Hall for the Arts of Collin County. Presently the project is in official "go mode", but the Frisco City Council may put the brakes on the project if it approves a second referendum on the bond sales for the hall.
During the same week, the North Texas Historical Center announced that because of funding cuts by the Collin County Commissioners Court, they may have to close their doors forever. The Historical Museum is in the old ca. 1911 post office building in McKinney.
At the center of the downtown McKinney square sits the old Collin County Courthouse, now the home of the McKinney Performing Arts Center (MPAC).
MPAC too is facing an uncertain future as the McKinney City Council has begun a 're-visioning process' that could spell the end of the Performing Arts in downtown McKinney.
All three projects, are victims of the poor economy. Local cities and the county are expecting tax revenue shortfalls and are looking for ways to trim their budgets. Because private donations are also affected by the downturn, these cultural institutions are in financial trouble.
Given the current 'hard times', it makes sense, at least on the surface, to kill funding for arts and history in order to preserve core functions, such as roads and public safety. No elected official, especially in this economy, is wiling to ask voters for a tax hike for the Arts.
But there are good arguments to be made for funding these entities.
One is simple economics.
While it is true that when times are hard, the prudent consumer stops discretionary spending, it is also true that in those same hard times, the savvy investor builds his portfolio. He buys when prices are low.
In the case of the Arts Hall, proponents argue that construction costs are cheaper than they have been in a long time, and much cheaper than they will be in the future. This is the time, they argue, just as America did in the Great Depression, to invest in our community. The costs are low, and the project will bring in much needed jobs.
During the Great Depression, this country invested not only in building parks, roads and buildings, but also in the arts and history. For example, "Federal One" consisted of, The Federal Art Project, The Federal Music Project, The Federal Theatre Project, The Federal Writers Project and The Historical Records Survey.
These programs were created because the government saw an opportunity to preserve its people's culture - culture that was threatened by economic and technological forces that could have doomed the traditional arts.
Now, no one I know is remotely suggesting that Collin County embark on its own New Deal, but it is critical to recognize that our past and our culture is also threatened today. The poor economy has greatly reduced the availability of private donations. If the public subsidies are also killed, we may loose our historic treasures like the old courthouse and post office forever.
Preserving MPAC and the Historical Museum require small, not huge investments.
If we as a community value our own culture, we can easily find a way to afford these projects.
We need to force budget cuts on all three of these programs. But they should be cuts, not mortal blows.
In the end, having a diversity of cultural venues enhances our communities and our quality of life. They bring people to our cities. They make our neighborhoods more attractive investments.
They are who we are.
Can we afford to loose them?
From North Texas E-News
Town hall meeting planned March 9 to discuss McKinney Performing Arts Center
By City of McKinney
Mar 5, 2010
McKINNEY, TEXAS (March 3, 2010) – A town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the Courtroom Theater at the McKinney Performing Arts Center (MPAC). Mayor Brian Loughmiller will speak on the city’s arts facility and take questions from attendees.
The meeting is open to any citizen who wants to attend and present their opinion surrounding MPAC and council’s previously released plan for the future of the city’s arts facility. Unlike the public input meetings, this town hall will give residents the opportunity to directly address and to be addressed by the Mayor during a Q&A session.
This town hall is part of the ongoing process to determine the future course of MPAC. The process started with initial feedback from arts groups who regularly use the facility. One of two scheduled public input meetings hosted by the McKinney Arts Commission (MAC) has been held to review the proposed plans, ask questions and give feedback. The MAC serves as the advisory board to the City Council about expenditures of city funds designated for promoting or sustaining the arts in McKinney.
UPDATE, March 8, 2010
The Frisco City Council voted today to leave intact the planned bond sales for the Arts of Collin county Performance Hall. From a City of Frisco press release:
FRISCO CITY COUNCIL TAKES "NO ACTION" DURING SPECIAL CALLED MEETING INVOLVING ARTS OF COLLIN COUNTY PROJECT
(March 8, 2010) "No Action" was taken during this afternoon's 'special called' Frisco City Council meeting, which revolved around Frisco's position on the Arts of Collin County project.
By voting to take "no action", Frisco continues to be a partner in the Arts of Collin County project.
Today's "no action" move means there will not be a proposition on the May ballot asking voters to revoke Frisco's remaining $16.4 million of the $19 million dollars in bonds approved by voters in 2002 for the Arts of Collin County.
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