Statement: “We’ve cut them each year, and they are responsible in arts and culture for about 20,000 jobs. There’s a multi-ripple impact on that,” Mayor Jerry Sanders said in a press conference revealing his proposed 2012 budget on April 14.
Analysis: Since the mayor earlier this month released his proposed budget, his plan to cut library hours by nearly half has gotten the most attention.
My colleague Liam Dillon asked the mayor why he cut $7.4 million from libraries but didn’t cut the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture, which is budgeted to disburse $6.4 million in grants to arts groups and community festivals this year.
“We’ve cut them each year,” Sanders replied.
But the city’s arts and culture funding hasn’t been cut each year since Sanders came into office. On the contrary, the funding stayed relatively stable, even increasing slightly the first two budgets under Sanders. The city did make a significant 8.9 percent cut last year.
Historically, there have been cuts to the city’s arts and culture funding. Compared to fiscal year 2002, arts funding at the city is down 33 percent, and staffing has dropped from 10 to six.
But only one of those big cuts has happened in Sanders’ tenure, and not “each year” as he said.
There’s a second piece of Sanders’ statement that caught our attention: “They are responsible in arts and culture for about 20,000 jobs. There’s a multi-ripple impact on that.”
By citing such a large number, Sanders was tenuously connecting the city’s grants to arts organizations to entire sectors of creative jobs, most of which don’t get any city funding.
The city recently estimated (and the mayor touted) the economic impact of the local arts and culture sphere as a way to justify the $6.4 million it grants organizations.
The 70 groups that got city funding last year employed 7,000 people, according to the city’s report. City money is just one piece of the arts groups’ revenue streams, and certainly not all of those 7,000 people were employed due solely to the city’s grant.
But Sanders used an even more debatable employment connection to justify not cutting arts. The city’s report also listed the number of jobs in the entire arts-related sector in the city: 22,727. Those jobs are in places like design and architecture firms, art schools and photographers — the vast majority of wouldn’t be eligible for city funding.
I asked mayoral spokesman Alex Roth why Sanders said the larger 20,000 number instead of the 7,000, which was tied more closely to the city’s funding in the report.
“He may have misspoke,” Roth said. “Whether it’s 7,000 or 22,000, I think his point just was that there are economic considerations that came into play. The economic impact of the arts — there is an economic impact there that you wouldn’t necessarily see with libraries.”
Using this job number to defend arts funding is problematic for two reasons. Just because those organizations that get city grants employ 7,000 people doesn’t mean the city’s money is responsible for all those jobs. Moreover, by using the larger number of jobs in the arts-related sector, the mayor overstates the connection between city funding and job creation. Roth said the mayor’s point was that there are a large number of people in San Diego employed in jobs connected to the arts.
“Whether that’s through jobs that receive direct city funding, or those that may benefit in some peripheral way from the funding we give to these other organizations,” he said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say they might indirectly be impacted if we cut.”
Since the budget hasn’t been cut for arts and culture each year in Sanders’ administration, his statement fits our definition for False. And the statement’s veracity certainly isn’t bolstered by the tenuous link he invoked to the larger job number. If you disagree, please explain why in the comments section below.
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Kelly Bennett is the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach her directly at email@example.com or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.