Ferreting Out More Funds -- SPOKANE -- Just when they thought this town's arts scene was coming along so nicely, beret-wearing members of the local arts-diocese are now wincing at the idea of a Jan. 19 meeting among Mayor Jim West's office, the Spokane Arts Commission and heads of local arts groups. The meeting could make a substantial change in the way the city's arts scene is run. The topic of discussion? As part of the never-ending search for untapped city revenues, rolling back a decades-old ticket tax exemption for local nonprofit arts groups.
Currently, nonprofit arts groups like Allegro, Dance Theatre Northwest and First Night Spokane are exempt from a 5 percent tax levied on ticket prices, which is paid by similar for-profit groups. City officials estimate that the move could mean some $100,000 in increased cash flow for the city.
Karen Mobley, head of the Spokane Arts Commission, calls the idea a "trial balloon" and stresses fervently that the talks, to be held at 3 pm in City Hall's fifth-floor conference room, are strictly a "discovery meeting" to explore the question of what it would mean to peel back the exemption. She insists that everything is "preliminary" and that nothing's been decided yet.
If the exemption were enacted, the hope is that any revenues collected from it could go to the Arts Commission to beef up arts programming.
"If we didn't have a conversation [about revenue]," Mobley says, "we wouldn't really be doing our job." She adds that so far the idea has received mixed feedback.
But there's nothing mixed about the feedback CenterStage honcho Tim Behrens gave The Inlander earlier this week. "Are they out of their minds?" he asked. "How can we really pay more?"
Behrens calls the idea "mean," "political" and "disingenuous," and says if it were to go through, most arts groups would just pass the 5 percent tax along to the customer, thus discouraging people from participating in the thriving arts scene. "It runs directly counter to every single thing that Jim West has said about developing downtown," he says, adding about the meeting, "I'll be there." -- Joel Smith
Bass Ackwards -- SPOKANE -- About half the nation may come down with a bout of nausea come Thursday, Jan. 20, when President George W. Bush is ceremoniously sworn in for a second term. It's Republicans' chance to do a little "neener-neener" at the millions of disappointed Dems, and they're sparing no expense. Current estimates have the whole inauguration ceremony -- complete with nine inaugural balls -- costing more than $40 million. But members and supporters of the Peace and Justice Action League (PJALS) of Spokane don't plan to sit around whining; in fact, they plan to hold a "bawl" of their own.
The Anti-Inauguration Backward March, or the Inauguration "Bawl," as it's being called, is the local adaptation of coordinated inauguration protests planned for every major U.S. city.
PJALS will lead an informal march from the Foley Federal Court House to the carousel at Riverfront Park -- backwards. That's right; in order to symbolize the backward steps they feel the country is taking by voting in W for another four years, protesters will be stumbling and bumbling through downtown backwards in the cold.
"From indications we've had, people think it's a great idea and are enthusiastic," says Rusty Nelson, director of PJALS, adding that the backwards march could draw as many as 250 participants, depending on the weather. There will be speakers after the march who will outline policies in the Bush Administration that have taken us backwards.
Despite the attention they're bound to attract, Nelson says he doubts there will be much backlash at the backward marchers.
"In the past, we've had some things like that, but on this occasion, with all that's gone on with the governor's race and other fallout from the election, I think that people who have strong disagreement with us will have something else to do." -- Cara Gardner
Ask Your Senator -- COEUR D'ALENE -- Whoever says politicians aren't accessible to the general public anymore should head over to the Kootenai County Administration Building, 451 Government Way, because Idaho Senator Larry Craig is there today, Thursday, Jan. 13, to meet with citizens. In a town hall meeting that begins at 4 pm, Craig will listen to concerns, questions and ideas the public has regarding the federal government. -- Cara Gardner