Letters (Feb. 2, 2011)

Cutting arts funding not a helpful option

In the Jan. 26 Free Press, Rep. Bob Brookens gave a thoughtful analysis of the state budget situation in regard to cutting the Kansas Arts Commission. He is still researching the question, and I commend him for his efforts to educate himself on the issue.

But the proposal from Gov. Brownback is what I want to focus on. He wants to eliminate the Arts Commission’s budget of $500,000, but toss them a one-year amount of $200,000 to transition to a private non-profit agency. This, in the light of trying to fill the budget gap of $500 million. That’s $500,000,000.

If you do the math, you can see that the Arts Commission budget is only 1/1,000 of the budget shortfall. This isn’t a drop in a bucket; it’s a drop in the ocean.

Which leads us to understand one thing. This proposed cut isn’t about balancing the budget. It has nothing to do with balancing the budget. What this has to do with is the opportunity for the governor to take his shot at dismantling the partnership the government has had in supporting the arts.

What is no doubt behind this action stems from way back in the 1980s during the Reagan administration. There were a couple of incidents where money originating from the National Endowment of the Arts trickled down third-hand to local arts organizations, who in turn gave contest prize money to a few artists who made controversial artworks.

Of course, that was way beyond the control of the NEA, but still they took the heat for it from some congressmen. And there have been some in Washing­ton who have been trying to cut or de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts ever since.

Rep. Brookens is correct in observing, “To some, funding for the arts is always a waste of money. To others, it is a part of the very fabric of their community. We need to work to understand each other’s views if we are to live together in community. We must think beyond our noses.”

Those who think government funding of the arts is a waste of money may not be aware of history. Governments have financially supported art as far back as the Egyptian era. Perhaps the peak of commissioned art was in the Renaissance. Without it, some of the greatest works of humanity would not have been created.

And, for those who think we especially should not fund arts in an economic downturn, we should remember the Depres­sion-era WPA artists who were hired and commissioned, along with other WPA construction workers. And that was a time of far more severe economic conditions than now.

The average person is often not aware of the positive impact of fine-arts funding, and the ripple effect of arts grants and economic activity.

On Jan. 25, the Newton Kansan had a guest column by Matt Schlonager, past president of the Newton Area Arts Council. It read, “An economic impact calculator developed by Americans for the Arts estimates Newton Area Arts Coun­cil organizations generate $1.3 million in economic activity, about 35 local jobs, and $55,000 in state government revenue annually.”

Is Newton willing to give up that, and further damage its economy?

Should the city of Hillsboro pull its support from the Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Festival, and its $1 million impact on Marion County?

The Jan. 20 Wichita Eagle stated, “Nonprofit arts generated more than $49.1 million in local economic activity (spending by organizations and their audiences). The nonprofit arts support 814 full-time jobs in Wichita, generating more than $20.3 million in household income to local residents.”

Would they want to give up that economic activity, especially now?

There are tough problems in Topeka to solve, and regardless of our personal party affiliation, I hope our prayers would be with Gov. Brownback and the legislature to seek wisdom and creative solutions to solve them. I do not envy their jobs. But the numbers are clear. Pulling funding from the Kansas Arts Commission is really a drop in the ocean, and is an idea that really has nothing to do with balancing the budget.

Tell your legislators to spend their time on better things.

Brian D. Stucky


Tucson tragedy no reason to limit guns

Gun-rights advocates view gun ownership as a constitutional right and as a duty to keep and bear arms in defense of self, home, family, neighborhood and nation. Gun-rights advocates have been in America since 1776.

The Tucson tragedy was caused by a person, who did what he did, and he is responsible for his action. I tire of this rant that if there is a shooting, that all gun owners are nuts and guns are bad.

There are a lot of opinions about Tucson. Mine is this: The Democrats are using this to make America feel guilty about the terrible beating they took in November at the polls. And this shooting of Gifford, a Democrat, was too coincidental with the upcoming State of the Union speech and a critical vote on the Obama health-care plan.

Also, President Obama and Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano have been hostile toward Arizona’s strict illegals law enforcement. President Obama needed national sympathy for his Democratic causes, and the timing of the shooting couldn’t have been better to cast a bad image on Arizona. And Gifford was the sacrifice.

We have strict gun laws, but they are not enforced. The Bureau of Tobacco & Firearms, when asked if they make arrests when a background check reveals a cause for it, the spokesman said, “We aren’t on a witch hunt.”

Ask your local law enforcement to talk to a person you believe may be unstable and may have a firearm: “We can’t do anything until he or she does.” Too late. Where are parents, brothers, sisters, other family members in the lives of unhinged people?

No to clip capacity and gun laws. Every time some liberal proposes gun laws, they go for confiscation, and law-abiding Americans have to defend our Constitution.

America, wake up.

Anton Epp

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