Cultural Council: More Paperwork



Yesterday the Scottsdale Republic published a column I wrote in response to an article from last week about the ‘reinvention’ of the Scottsdale Cultural Council []:

COMMUNITY VOICES: Setting record straight on Cultural Council

The Scottsdale Republic’s puff piece on the Scottsdale Cultural Council (Nov. 23, “Cultural Council celebrates past, looks to future”) glosses over serious criticisms and serves only to perpetuate the irrelevance of the “organization” to Scottsdale’s arts and culture.

The previous CEO terrorized the staff, defamed critics and utterly failed in his self-proclaimed primary duty of fundraising. Multiple management staff members were fired with vague justification, whistleblower complaints ensued, careless remarks brought at least one lawsuit and embarrassed donors retreated.

What’s worse is that the do-nothing board of trustees sat on its hands while the organization foundered for years. Those trustees include notables like then-chair, now-Scottsdale City Council member Linda Milhaven; Chamber of Commerce President Rick Kidder; and those highlighted in the article: Carolyn Allen, Ellen Andres-Schneider and Dick Hayslip.

Now Hayslip and Andres-Schneider are going to fix all of the Cultural Council’s woes with “more frequent paperwork to city staff members?” You must be joking.

The Cultural Council is a private business that receives cash subsidies of more than $4 million every year from Scottsdale taxpayers; free rent in taxpayer-owned facilities; millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded improvements and maintenance; and it gets to keep 100 percent of ticket sales.

It receives this bounty via a 20-year, no-bid, “management services agreement,” which has no objective deliverables. This is a shining example of abuse of the public procurement process. The article is right on two points, however.

Overlooking the ignorant and racist idiom (which I can scarcely believe The Republic quoted), the organization is far too top-heavy for its size. That’s one reason the administrative expense ratio consistently demotes the Cultural Council below charity-rating “do not donate” thresholds.

»The greatest strength — and perhaps the best chance at success — of the organization lies in the ability to leverage its association with Scottsdale to attract new, not-yet-discovered talent.

I would add a third point: There are tens of thousands of potential audience members living within walking or biking distance of the Scottsdale Cultural Council venues. Yet the Cultural Council does an abysmal job of providing relevant, reasonably priced programming to them. The purpose of publicly supported cultural arts is to provide cultural arts to the the public. Wealthy patrons can be important to this mission, but if they become the focus, the public funding should cease.

I note also from yesterday’s Republic an article on Scottsdale residents feeling the pinch of budget cuts:

And from an earlier edition, how our chronically underfunded (and as a consequence under-staffed) 911 call center has run up exorbitant overtime costs:

Mayor Jim Lane and the Chamber of Commerce caucus on the Scottsdale City Council have their priorities way out of whack with the illegal subsidies to the Scottsdale Cultural Council.

I ask you to remind them that you elected them to represent YOU and not just their cronies:


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