Hidden Letters to the Editor: Culture Tax

Today’s Scottsdale Republic Sound Off (hidden, as usual, from AZCentral readers):

Would you support raising Scottsdale’s sales tax to benefit arts and culture?

I wish I could say I did not see this coming from a mile away, con­sidering which council member brought it forward, but I knew it was just a matter of time before this stunt was going to be pulled. While I would love to see the Desert Discov­ery Center and the Western Museum, I don’t want to have it coming out of my taxes. Even if the times were good and the money was flowing, I still would never support this idea. Back to the drawing board, council mem­bers.

— Michael Merrill , Scottsdale, neighborhood activist

Scottsdale has a long history of supporting arts and culture, but a new tax to fund a Dis­covery Center or a Western-themed attraction would be misguided.

Today’s children and teens want interaction, not gunfighters. And the galleries we do have are suffering economically. If only Scottsdale could do what Mesa did and bring headliners to town instead of watching the casinos reap the reve­nue that would otherwise stay in our coffers. Arts and culture are supported by the inquisitive and the inspired, which a good educational system develops. Until our schools gain additional funds, let’s hold back on the arts. Now, a tax to benefit education? I’d vote for that.

— Hope Kirsch , Scottsdale, attorney

The sales tax being proposed to help finance arts and culture in Scottsdale seems inconsequential — too small for a taxpayer to con­sciously register when making a purchase. After all, what’s two cents on $10, if not a drop in the bucket? Yet this “minor” tax increase would reap millions of dollars a year for Scottsdale. You see, small numbers have a way of adding up, as do taxes, which, if you’ve noticed, have increased exponentially in 2013 for business owners and employees. With this in mind, I currently don’t support tax hikes of any kind.

— Sondra Barr , Scottsdale, magazine editor

The cultural spine — art gal­leries, spring training and fantastic restaurants — that winds its way through Scottsdale is why our city carries an international “cool” factor. We embrace that uniqueness. So while I applaud Councilwoman Linda Milhaven’s chutzpah, her tax idea ain’t going to fly right now. Political proposals are hard-fought bargains, well-coor­dinated and truly the art (pun in­tended) of the possible. That’s espe­cially true when a tax hike is on the table. As a father of three, I see a greater need for a strategic in­vestment in our classrooms. Our children must compete with the best and brightest minds across the world. And also appreciate art.

— Chip Scutari , Scottsdale, public relations executive

I do support a dedicated sales tax for arts and cultural amenities in Scottsdale as long as our sales tax remains below our neighboring communities, as it is now, and the projects supported are clearly identi­fied to the voters. Since much of Scottsdale’s sales tax is generated by those visiting our city and arts and cultural amenities contribute to the reason we have so many visitors, this is an innovative way to ask them to help create and enhance the attri­butes that will keep our community a great place to live and visit. It’s been a long time since Scottsdale has seen a Big Idea become reality.

A dedicated sales tax will help us do just that.

— Melinda Gulick , Scottsdale, marketing executive

Here’s my take on this issue and the opinions above:

The classic sales tax sales pitch here from Ms. Barr is that the increase would be so small that no one would notice it at the cash register. I guess you could justify just about any tax increase with that logic! Having said that, though, Ms. Barr continues with another classic: a dichotomy illustrated by her support for the idea of a small tax increase and her simultaneous opposition to any tax increase at all!

None of the comments spoke directly to the egregious neglect of financial transparency, efficiency, and accountability of the primary beneficiary of this proposed tax: The Scottsdale Cultural Council. However, Ms. Kirsch touches on this with, “If only Scottsdale could do what Mesa did and bring headliners to town instead of watching the casinos reap the reve­nue that would otherwise stay in our coffers.”

Nor did they address the millions of dollars in bond money that councilwoman Linda Milhaven (former board chair of the Cultural Council) is after for the Desert Discovery Center and the Civic Center Mall. She and the Cultural Council are hoping to latch onto both those pots-of-gold.

Especially galling is that opinion page editor Grant Martin didn’t include in Melinda Gulick’s by-line the fact that her “marketing executive” experience is with mega-developer DMB and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, both of which hope to benefit from a massive DDC, nor did Martin note that Gulick’s husband is the chair of the bond sales task force that is considering DDC and Civic Center Mall improvement funding through municipal bonds.

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