Friday, April 22, 2011
Dallas mayoral candidate Edward Opka appeared most creative in discussion of arts
As we guessed, all candidates "love" the arts. Now it's a matter of what they'll do about it.
Election season is certainly upon us. With budget cuts at the forefront of Dallas politics, programs supporting the arts are at serious risk. Members of the art community and their supporters are concerned about what each of the mayor hopefuls will do to preserve and promote the art community of Dallas. On Wednesday evening at the Nasher Sculpture Center, mayoral candidates Mike Rawlings, David Kunkle, Ron Natinsky, and Edward Okpa gathered before citizens and news cameras to discuss their positions on the future of the Dallas arts.
On allocating a portion of Dallas’ hotel/motel tax revenue to support the art: Unlike its neighboring cities, Dallas does not do this. All of the candidates, except for Okpa, were interested in allocating a portion of the hotel/motel taxes to the arts. Kunkle did stress that the art community should be more active in rallying for such support. Okpa, who did not address the question, did have an alternative. He suggested that parking meter fees be allocated instead.
Candidates were next asked how they planned to attract corporations to Dallas, to increase jobs and stimulate the economy. According to Natinsky, continuing to support the arts and other improvements for Dallas residents' quality of life was necessary. Okpa said that a better effort in embracing the diverse cultures of the city would be the answer. Rawlings stated that now is the time to court corporations, but the city will only be successful if the arts and other programs are nurtured. Kunkle was also positive on attracting companies to Dallas, but stressed that it would only benefit the city if the employees lived in the city.
Next, candidates were asked what role the arts play in their fiscal plan. For Rawlings, supporting the arts is personal. His daughter is a painter. He believes that in order to attract artists to Dallas, the city needs to create a community for them. Kunkle believes that it is not as much an economic issue, rather the city will grow and prosper based on the strengths of its neighborhoods and communities, like the arts. Natinsky said that first Dallas must concentrate on growing jobs, which will lead to growth of the arts. He said that the city must do a much better job of marketing the arts and revitalizing the downtown area, were he believes the artists will be. Okpa’s stance was to embrace the communities of Dallas and the history of the people, which would encourage civic growth.
With continuous talks (and actions) concerning budget cuts, the candidates were asked their opinions on its affect on school art programs and how they felt about creating partnerships with organizations such as Big Thought. The challenge will be getting funding, according to Kunkle. Again, he encouraged the citizens to rally for such support. Natinsky stressed that steps be taken to ensure funding is available and that matching donations from private groups be solicited. Okpa’s suggestion was much more creative. He suggested that the city host a children’s art week, with an auction of kids' work. His idea is two-fold: raise money for art programs and acknowledge the talents of Dallas’ youth. Rawlings said that the city must take an active role in supporting arts in the schools. Making use of fiscal and human capital, volunteers and organizations such as Big Thought would ensure a great school system.
Finally, the candidates were asked their positions on re-districting the city to create a unified arts district. Of the four, Okpa was the only candidate that did not support such a measure. As long as the common goals are met, he believes it does not matter who or how many represent a district. Both Rawlings and Natinsky stated that it makes much more sense to have one representative for one group of people. Kunkle also agreed, but placed responsibility on the people to also “fight” for their neighborhoods.
On Election Day, May 14, we will see which of the candidates the arts community — and the rest of Dallas — support.
Pegasus News Content partner - The Assignment Desk, DFW
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