I read with interest the article (“New funding source to spearhead more public art,” The Daily News, Dec. 27). Apparently, $50,000 was removed from the Arts and Historical Preservation Advisory Board, funds that traditionally have gone to nonprofits for marketing, and transferred to the Commission on the Arts to fund unspecified arts projects.

The $50,000 used to be part of the advisory board’s allocation to organizations such as The 1894 Grand Opera House, Galveston Symphony, Galveston Art League, Galveston Arts Center and others.

Those monies have now been dramatically reduced. I can’t imagine what the new $50,000 can possibly purchase to “make Galveston more attractive” than these nonprofit organizations. Certainly, fewer people will travel to see “murals or statues” than come for, say, The Grand.

The accompanying photos also were interesting. The front page turtle was funded by the Galveston Art League as part of the nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network’s project “Turtles about Town.” The Shark Shack mural was privately funded. It seems as if the nonprofit and for-profit entities in the city are doing their bit to enhance public art. The city might be wiser to continue funding such projects than create a parallel arts-funding stream.

Patricia Jakobi

Galveston

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(11) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

The title of this commentary and the expression of written thought do not seem to match.

“The city might be wiser to continue funding such projects than create a parallel
arts-funding stream.” versus “City should create a parallel arts-funding stream.”

HOT funds have grown tremendously in recent years due to STRs and the cruise business. The pot of HOT money has grown ..... the entities named by the writer would still be getting more advertising funds TODAY (with removal of 50k).

So, why not create new art projects and allow others art and preservation opportunities?

I think .... good job city council.


David Schuler

Wise to check facts before writing. Galveston Symphony Orchestra HOT funds have been cut significantly as a result of the changes.

Charlotte O'rourke

My point is HOT funds have dramatically increased over the last 10 years with $1.5 million and growing to nonprofits.

The point of this editorial was don’t change a thing. Let nonprofits decide how to spend the growing pot of money .... not city council who was elected.

Basically, Give money to the nonprofits and let them decide who and what art projects to fund.

I suggest anyone that doesn’t understand what and how HOT funds are awarded to do their own research. I have.

Lisa Blair

This program was rubber stamped by council after council for twenty plus years with virtually no oversight of these public funds. Just as Charlotte says, the amount of HOT collected grew significantly. Rather than holding funds to expand the program to new nonprofits, the same groups received more and more and they became dependent on it to operate. Because forfeiture funds were reallocated to the same groups they often received significantly more than they had been initially granted. A group that had been granted 50K could end up receiving 75-80K in a year and the excess funds were not included in their budgets. Once the council started looking, the problems were easy to see. Now comes the process of correcting the issues, bringing back accountability, and expanding the program to get the maximum benefit from these public funds.

Charlotte O'rourke

Lisa, Best explanation that I’ve read to explain the issue. Our city government has been on a roll to correct and resolve financial issues, and I’m grateful for the oversight of public funds.

Gary Miller

Non profit? Run by highly paid bureaucrats. Al non profit employees profit from taxpayer funding. Tax funded non profits create slush funds without over sight.

Jeff Patterson

Just some facts in case anyone is interested....for 2019, the organization I’m most familiar with, the East End Historical District Association, received its lowest level of HOT Funds since 2004. I can only assume that the other 8 organizations that are also on a 1 year funding cycle experienced similar reductions. Not disputing that the overall amount of HOT Funds hasn’t grown significantly, but the 9 organizations that are on the 1 year funding cycle have seen their level of funding cut significantly. And as far as accountability, the funding definitely comes with strings attached....the quarterly and yearly reporting requirements are very rigorous. The forfeited funds come from organizations that fail to meet those requirements, so there is clearly oversight and accountability.

The author of the article was spot on.

Charlotte O'rourke

Jeff,

I’m glad you agree ..... arts and preservation as a whole is not receiving less money. It is receiving more, and the pot of funds is growing.

I’m hoping the new process is much more stringent than the old process as the records demonstrated a lack of fiscal accountability and lack of oversight of HOT funds. Extra Funds were awarded to organizations that were not budgeted or due to undervaluing the penny.

So I would expect some organizations to receive less funding with new fiscal procedures, but still receive significant amounts in relation to their own budget.

I understand that nonprofits like EEHDA that benefit from public HOT money may want to continue the old funding process, but in my opinion, the change was necessary and beneficial to taxpayers.

Jeff Patterson

Charlotte, I also support the new process.... it seems like a streamlining and an improvement over the old one. And particularly for the one-year participants, hopefully moving everyone to a 2 year cycle better levels the playing field and will lesson the significant funding cuts that the one year recipients have experienced over the last several years. Regarding your comments on accountability and oversight, the old process required a yearly application and presentation to the advisory board for approvsl, as well as quarterly and yearly reporting requirements, which, if missed, resulted in a forfeiture of funds. This was the source of forfeited funds that were sometimes redistributed to the other participants...it should be noted that in the last 20 years, we have received forfeited funds 4 times, so it is not a regular event. It’s not clear to me where you think the lack of oversight and accountability’was in the old process..... the approval process and reeportig requirements were very rigid and prescriptive, and if missed, there were serious financial consequences to the organization. Pehaps you have some factual information on specific incidents that you would be able to share so I can better understand your point.

Charlotte O'rourke

Jeff,

The biggest problems had to do with lack of public accountability standards, failure to amend budgets and itemize items before receiving extra funds (forfeiture and from undervaluing the penny and use of a % scale resulting in unreported itemization) and failure to adhere to city policy of using a city FISCAL year report and budget.

The EEHDA was using a calendar year. The committee and city council should have rectified these types of issues.

Public entities and nonprofit entities like the EEHDA because they receive public money, must meet certain public accountability requirements. These organizations just like the city are also subject to open records and accountability of funds.

Overall, I found the old process cumbersome and records were incomplete. HOT funds require very strict reporting requirements with appropriate detail. Otherwise HOT funds may be required to be returned.

On a policy note .... I’ve never understood why the city allows so much HOT funding for advertising. For example, the city already gives 3 pennies for advertising/marketing to PB. Then gives almost another penny to advertise for arts and preservation. That is about $8 million in advertising.... not counting the convention center and port advertising of Galveston.

In the meantime, when the city owned the old historical fire station and later sold it, it was allowed to be demolished by neglect. The GHF reported it will be able to save only 1 wall. This building would have been a great tourist draw ... now it will be a reproduced building which we can all pretend is original.

Such a waste ... so when someone says gee .... the city manager can’t spend $50k which is allowed by state law, but allows nonprofits not to itemize budget expenditures for forfeiture funds which is generally above 50k ..... I’m not too happy.

Nor am I happy if someone says they can’t think of real brick and mortar art and preservation projects or that the city shouldn’t define their own art and preservation projects.

I can think of a lot of projects. Let me know if you have questions.

Jeff Patterson

Thanks Charlotte for the background, and for the followup phone call. I have a much better understanding of the issues you raise, which I agree are valid. From the recipient's perspective, particularly the smaller organizations, the reporting requirements are fairly burdensome, but from an overall program accountability standpoint, they really don't give the City the information it needs to provide the right level of oversight. Hopefully the new ordinance will help bridge the gap between the two.

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