County approves public art ordinance

"By a 2-1 vote, the Kitsap County commissioners on Monday approved a public arts ordinance following months of community-rending debate and amendments to the measure.County Commissioner Jan Angel cast the dissenting vote, saying that while she enjoys the arts, she can't approve spending taxpayer money on cultural amenities.I will not obligate the people with another mandated, regulatory ordinance, said Angel, who represents South Kitsap. What we are looking at today is another mandate to the citizens using their tax dollars.Called the 1 percent for Arts Ordinance, the measure allocates 1 percent of the total cost of county capital improvement projects to fund, when appropriate, public works of art. In turn, that publicly funded art can be incorporated into a new or remodeled building.The idea is to invoke community pride in county structures, enhance the quality of life and encourage the arts industry. Meanwhile, opponents say the government shouldn't subsidize the arts.Citing a National Association of Counties survey conducted in 1999, Angel noted that most of the responding counties that have arts councils said they are privately run, nonprofit organizations, rather than public. The other 67 percent of the respondant counties didn't have any ordinance to fund art.Following the split vote, Central Kitsap resident and activist Bob Dietz congratulated the county commissioners for their study on the merits and demerits of the ordinance.You have been open to discussion, said Dietz, who spoke during a regularly scheduled public comment period. And the measure has been modified to a great degree.Following months of public input, county staff members excluded the use of impact fees for the arts and deleted streets and utilities from the list of capital improvement projects that could contain art. County officials now estimate that the program could incur an average of $37,000 in annual expenses, as opposed to the $130,000 originally predicted before the ordinance was amended. The definition of arts had also broadened to include architectural amenities and other creative uses, not just paintings or sculptures.The arts ordinance has spawned a lot of conversation, said Kitsap County Commissioner Tim Botkin before voting yes on the ordinance. And of the people I have heard from, they are pretty close to split in terms of being for or against the measure.Botkin said that opponents had two valid concerns, both of which were addressed in the amended ordinance.Botkin said that, in any event, current law doesn't prohibit the county from allocating funds for art in a Kitsap capital improvement project.Under current law the commissioners have complete discretion to use whatever funding they want, he said.On the other hand, under the arts ordinance, certain funds can't be used for the program and certain projects don't qualify, he said. The ordinance also calls for a nine-member, voluntary public arts board. Botkin says the board, accountable to the public at large, could accurately represent what taxpayers would deem as art and appropriate enough for particular projects.The board would be tasked with establishing criteria for the selection of artwork and make recommendations to the commissioners about certain artists or artistic pieces. All the while, the board could pursue private donations or funds to advance the program.County Commissioner Chris Endresen echoed Botkin's sentiments, but also said that the arts policy enacted under the ordinance can only improve the quality of life in Kitsap and perhaps encourage tourism and jobs as well. "

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