Sarah Iannarone responds

Sarah Iannarone (Candidate for Mayor) responded on April 7, 2016:

(1) In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Portland?   

Personally, I attend arts and culture functions throughout Portland almost weekly, from performances at the Schnitzer and Gerding theaters to independent theater, gallery shows, and live music performances throughout the city. Artists, makers, and creatives are my colleagues, friends, and community.

At my small business, the Arleta Library Café, we have an in-house curator, muralist Chris Haberman, who ensures a rotating array of local artists have a free venue from which to display and sell their art.

At the community level, I worked with my neighbors on the Arleta Triangle Project to secure a RACC grant to build an artistic public plaza as a traffic calming and community beautification asset. I also serve on the board of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, raising funds through an innovative public-private partnership to protect and promote the world-renown fountains in downtown Portland designed by Lawrence Halprin.

Globally, I share Portland’s arts & culture policies and best practices with visitors from around the world, including TriMet’s innovative 1.5% set aside in capital budgets for public arts and community initiatives such as the Falcon Arts Community and the City Repair Project.

(2) Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life, and yet there are a number of pressing needs in our community that often compete for attention and investment.  What is the Mayor’s proper role in supporting arts and culture in the region?

Foremost, the mayor of Portland must truly value the role of Portland’s thriving arts scene–economically and culturally, both locally and abroad. What does it mean to be a “creative city”? The arts are not a discrete entity separate from our local culture and economy; they are central to it. Our artists and creatives are the face of our city to the world. Many artists are self-employed business owners. Artists are contribute to businesses small and large, comprise non-profit organizations, and contribute to the livability and vitality of our place. As mayor, I will ensure that we support the initiatives to augment artists’ security and prosperity, through investments in entrepreneurship, network building, and connections for paid work in the private sector. I will also promote affordable housing and workspace for independent artists, makers, and creatives.

(3) The region’s affordability is a serious concern for all of us, including artists and arts-related businesses. What are your plans for making housing and creative spaces more affordable?

Foremost, we need to evaluate how much supply of housing we need at every level of the income spectrum in coming years and develop a plan for funding an adequate supply at each level of the spectrum—public housing (0-30MFI), subsidized “affordable housing” (30-80MFI), and the “missing middle” (80-120MFI). Above that, we should be looking at projected development of luxury housing (120+MFI) and establishing mechanisms for capturing value from these to pay for investments at the lower end of the spectrum. Additionally, we need mechanisms for mitigating the rampant speculation and unhealthy demolition that is destroying valuable housing supply and driving up costs, such as loosening zoning restrictions and assessing carbon impact fees, scaled impact fees, demolition fees, and transfer taxes. Finally, many artists rent both housing and commercial space, so we need to instate aggressive tenant protections ASAP.

(4) Are there other unmet needs when it comes to shaping Portland’s arts and culture policy for the future? If so, what steps would you take to help ensure those needs are met, and how should they be funded?

First, we must move away from strictly “bricks and mortar” subsidies in arts facilities if we want to nurture artistic occupations. This means helping secure financing for collaborative maker spaces and live-work spaces. It also means investing in the profitability of artists through entrepreneurship and financial training. Second, we need to actively build bridges between traditional private sector enterprises and artists, creating channels for artists to gain meaningful employment based on or in support of their art. Finally, I would shift our funding priorities away from larger performing arts facilities and organizations (encouraging them to seek philanthropic dollars) toward smaller, more diverse cultural organizations that have a harder time competing for limited grant money. I also think a dedicated revenue stream generated from tourism could be directed to support arts and culture.

 (5) The Arts Education & Access Fund, or arts tax, has delivered on its promise of providing arts specialists for all K-5 schools in Portland, but the fund hasn’t generated enough revenue to support as many grants for arts and culture organizations as envisioned. If elected, would you take any steps to modify the arts tax, improve administration of it, and/or fulfill the voters’ vision of supporting arts education and access through other means?

I think we are on target with regard to priorities—education was what voters expressed favor in supporting with their “Yes” vote. That said, we have created a self-reporting mechanism that can be, like TriMet light rail fares and other “honor systems,” more costly to enforce than not. Surely, there must be a way for us to collect the tax more efficiently and effectively? Please note, while I support the Arts tax, I am NOT a fan of its HIGHLY REGRESSIVE nature. It appalls me that someone making several hundred thousand dollars in income annually pays the same as someone making $1000 per year. It’s unjust and, for people on a fixed income, slightly traumatic. I will advocate that we seek ways to make the tax more progressive, not simply less regressive and certainly easier to collect.

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