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Tuesday marks the next step for Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed suspension to the city’s public art policy through the end of next year. Under that policy, the city sets aside money from city building projects to pay for including sculpture or other art elements.
The mayor’s initial reason for suspending the city policy was to save money at a time when the city’s “public safety goals cannot be adequately funded.” In advance of the City Council decision, his office provided a breakdown of the savings and it shows that less than half, about $634,000, of the $1.5 million in projects in question would be funded by the city’s day-to-day operating budget, the source that pays for public safety.
In the report, the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture recommends exempting the new central library’s $700,000 worth of planned public art from the list because the money is supposed to come from private donations.
One fire station, one lifeguard tower and one beach bathroom have been removed from the original list because mayoral staff concluded it’d cost more money to change the construction plan or redesign the project without the art component.
The mayor first proposed the halt when a TV report highlighted a plan to install a sculpture at a fire station when it can’t afford to keep all of its fire stations fully staffed. Sanders responded with a vague promise to suspend the program. Months later, he released details about what projects that suspension might affect. But a lot of questions remained, like why the central library was on the list, when the $700,000 for the planned public art elements there wasn’t the city’s money to save in the first place, but rather private donations.
The mayor confirmed this was just a symbol without much real savings.
“It’s really a gesture to let people know that we do care about public safety,” he told me then.