Just a little more than two years ago, I was at the first meeting of a task force, convened by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), to explore how best to provide financial assistance the the region’s cultural and entertainment institutions.
The task force had 48 members, a number almost guaranteed to be unwieldy and casting some doubt on how effective this whole thing would be.
After two years of study, the task force has issued its report with glossy pictures and a message that called for an increase of one-half cent in the sales tax.
The numbers were crunched, and in the end, the task force recommended that the funds raised be used for capital projects for the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Tim Sheehy, MMAC president, wrote an op-ed piece to go along with the release of the final report.
"Where one chooses to live is becoming more inseparable from where one chooses to work,' Sheehy wrote. "Ignoring the value proposition of investing in our cultural and arts offerings, and the further eroding of our park system will impact our ability to compete."
I agree wholeheartedly with what Sheehy wrote, but missing from the report is what is perhaps one of the most active cultural attractions in Milwaukee: the performing arts.
While annual attendance at the four entities in the report is about 3 million, it can be argued that roughly the same figure is applicable to a wide variety of performing arts activities.
I can make an argument that those performing arts are as much an attraction in decisions people make about where to live and work, as are the other four institutions.
The capital needs of the four institutions are critical and, if ignored, could result in drastic difficulties. But the needs of performing arts organizations are also, in many cases, in critical situations. You can read the OnMilwaukee report on performing arts groups here.
I’m not going argue against the half-cent increase in the sales tax. The War Memorial Center, for example, needs extensive infrastructure work, and the Marcus PAC also needs repairs and expansions to better serve both arts groups and audiences.
What I’m arguing for here is a recognition of the needs of smaller entertainment organizations, theater, music, dance and visual arts. They are critical to the fabric of our city, and while the task force wants a sunset to the tax increase, I’d suggest that the increase be an ongoing thing, dedicated to the performing arts and the park system that we have.
This is a small tax. On a $10 purchase, the additional tax would be a nickel. On $1,000, the additional tax would be $5.
When lawmakers get around to working on this issue, I hope the MMAC and the task force will lobby for the additional tax as an ongoing funding mechanism for performing arts groups and the county park system.
They are just as important as the other four to the quality of l life we have in our city and we need to take care of them.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.