The ongoing obituary of the Scottsdale Cultural Council

by John Washington on March 2, 2016

“Instead of a city of arts and culture, we are a city of entertainment,” [Agnese] Udinotti says. “It’s a party city now.”

But Scottsdale’s arts scene has ebbed and flowed in the past. There’s a chance at another comeback, right?

She’s cutting with her opinion.”It doesn’t come back.”

Becky Bartkowski has penned a hard-hitting piece on the Scottsdale Cultural Council, but I don’t think it’s hard enough.

Becky mentions SCC’s $4 million annual contract with the city. However, it’s important for us taxpayers to recognize these additional facts:

  1. SCC is a PRIVATE BUSINESS and it’s a NO-BID contract, which is specifically prohibited by Scottsdale procurement policies, without detailed justification that SCC never had.
  2. It’s a 20-YEAR contract, whereas those same procurement policies specifically discourage multi-year contracts without detailed justification. Again, SCC never had such justification.
  3. SCC occupies taxpayer-owned facilities for free.
  4. Major maintenance on those facilities is almost always funded by…the taxpayers.
  5. SCC keeps all the proceeds from ticket sales; nothing is shared back with the city.
  6. SCC leverages its arrangement with the city and control of taxpayer facilities to garner millions of dollars in grants and additional private and corporate contributions, and provide millions of dollars in tax write-offs to the contributors.
  7. Worst of all, the SCC contract provides ZERO objective performance metrics, and even the most basic metric–attendance–is a closely-guarded secret to which the taxpayers who fund the organization are not privy.
  8. Neale Perl’s predecessor, the infamously inane Bill Banchs earned $250,000 per year and had a $500,000 “office of the president” line item for his expense account. I think it’s safe to assume that Perl’s salary is in the same ballpark.

The Scottsdale Cultural Council is at the intersection of What’s Wrong with Culture in Scottsdale, and What’s Wrong with Scottsdale City Government. It’s looking like this intersection is one of those ever-more-popular roundabouts, from which there seems no escape.

I’m not a culture guy so I don’t know how to fix that first avenue. However, I know EXACTLY how to fix the cross street: Don’t vote for the clowns that allow this to happen. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane has a clear track record of 12 years of voting to approve the annual subsidy and other bumps, which on his watch have totaled more than $50 million.

Virginia Korte has been supporting them a lot longer than that. Ditto Suzanne Klapp. And new challenger Dan Schweiker is practically campaigning on his support for the Cultural Council.

Make sure you are paying attention when it comes time to vote in the August primary and the November General Election in Scottsdale.

Source: Scottsdale Art Is Dead; Long Live Scottsdale Art | Phoenix New Times

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Pabst March 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Well said!
Art and government go together like oil and water anyway. There is definitely a crowding out affect that happens when these types of venues don’t have to compete in the open marketplace and only have to ensure through a very limited number of people that the flow of money continues to come in from some unknowing taxpayers.
-Mark

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John Washington March 2, 2016 at 8:26 pm

An astute Scottsdale Citizen shared this via email:

“It’s sad that Scottsdale has never capitalized on nor properly leveraged a vibrant creative/arts community. With the extraordinary investment the City has made over many decades, it should have happened long ago. But a pathetically inept and underpowered board that has never had to perform (fundraising) and that is shielded by public investment makes it impossible for the collective and individual “divisions” to do more than struggle under a needless Council bureaucracy surviving and making choices that other less privileged nonprofits do.”

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Bob Littlefield March 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Every year (over my objections while I was on the City Council) the Mayor and his allies in the City Council majority have given 4.5M taxpayer dollars to this favored special interest. Halting this subsidy for three years would have provided all the money needed to fund the $12.5M Street Pavement Replacement item that was defeated in the last bond election! This is especially ironic in light of the fact this supposed “art” subsidy has had no positive impact on the arts in Scottsdale!

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John Washington March 4, 2016 at 10:26 am

One of my ScottsdaleCitizen readers who wishes to remain anonymous sent this:

May your words resonate with the citizens of Scottsdale.
We must strive to retain the uniqueness and beauty of
our very special city. We must strive to stop the invasion, the raping, of our downtown area by profiteers, aided by certain city officials, interested only in benefiting themselves at the expense of our citizenry.

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