Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A&P Spending Decisions a Mixed Bag

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission voted yesterday to dole out funding of $143,250 for 19 proposals from among more than $292,250 in requests. The commissioners are to be commended for supporting the Dickson Street Music Festival to the tune of $20,000 this year and for declining to fork over $38,000 for a New Year's Eve party at the mall.

Neither newspaper report mentions whether the Fayetteville Downtown Partners bothered to make a request this year for funding the Fayetteville Arts Festival, but it is clear that they got not a nickel. No problem for the commissioners to give $1,500 for a militray shrine to glorify war, $6,000 for a coaching clinic, $30,000 for a golf tournament, or $5,000 for a water-ski contest (just where in Fayetteville would that be held?).

The only other things that might be called a cultural contribution was $10,000 to the Walton Arts Center Broadway Series and a pidling $2,000 to TheatreSquared. Total up the categories, and you have $32,000 for the arts (22.3%). The bulk of the funds went to sports events and the UA athletic foundation. There goes the flimsy Hog University Inc. claim not to use our tax dollars for their athletic spectacles.

Here's the rub. The HMR Tax funds are supposed to "be used for the promotion and encouragement of tourism," which the A&P Commission, dominated by hotel and restaurant representatives, has narrowly defined as getting "more people to stay at hotels and eat at restaurants in Fayetteville." That short-sighed and self-interested approach ignores the larger effort to deserve and promote the claim to be the Athens of the Ozarks. Many local events could confirm and enhance our cultural significance and make our community more intellectually vibrant as well as a cultural tourism destination integral to our economic development dreams.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Alderman Robert Rhoads need to provide better leadership for a change in thinking. The public needs to be represented by someone other than Bob Davis, who has his own conflicts of interest. The "hospitality" interests -- Chairman Pat Gazzola, Neal Crawford, Maudie Schmitt, and Tim Freeman -- need to have a broader vision of their mission than personal financial gain only for their businesses. For starters, they could read the Walton Arts Center commissioned study Arts & Economic Prosperity III.

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