David Schor responds

David Schor (Candidate for Mayor) responded on April 14, 2016:

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

As an independent artist myself, I contribute as a performer, producer, and consumer of arts and culture in Portland. I have been involved in numerous musical and theatrical productions in Portland over the decades. I have recorded albums with Walkfast and Babel Echo, starred in a number of music videos, and been a regular attendee at events in the community. I have volunteered to perform in support of nonprofit organizations with a focus on social justice and civil rights, including the Oregon Innocence Project, and the ACLU’s NW Civil Liberties conference.

(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?

The mayor must be a leader and insist on the fundamental importance of arts and culture as the foundation of community. Understanding and measuring the impact of arts and artists in Portland will be key to shaping this conversation. The economic return on investment in artistic pursuits often seems hard to quantify, but the intangible benefits to our economy and livability are manifest in the community support for arts and artists. The mayor should work to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the role of arts and culture in the regional economy, and to assess the monetary value of these activities – not because putting a price on the arts is necessary, but because demonstrating the economic power of the sector is key to getting all stakeholders on board with robust investment in our local artists.

(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?

My Community Housing Initiative is a comprehensive program to raise dedicated revenue that will be used to create community-owned, tenant-managed, permanently affordable housing. My vision is to create shared space for performance and affordable spaces for makers within this new housing model, and to ensure that housing costs match incomes throughout the city – to end the displacement of artists by making an investment in affordable housing as a community. Revenue will come from a Millionaire’s tax on the top 1% of income earners in Portland. The initiative also includes robust renter protections, a transition to just-cause eviction standards, and expanding the use of land trusts to enable buyers with lower incomes to become homeowners.

(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?

There are always going to be unmet needs when it comes to shaping Portland’s policy, and that is why it is crucial to have a robust system to collect and digest comments and feedback from the public about the arts and culture policies the city pursues. Assessing needs first, and then working to secure the necessary funding, makes more sense to me than seeking unspecified funding for unknown purposes. It’s clear that there is a lack of arts and culture opportunities outside the central city, and that bringing arts and culture activities and resources into every corner of Portland will take concerted, long-term effort from the city and from residents.

(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? 

The Arts Tax as we know it is a great program with a few rough edges. Ensuring arts specialists in all K-5 schools in Portland is a huge accomplishment and well worth protecting. We know the arts tax is something the community supports, but we also know that the administrative burden is a major factor in collecting a small tax from a large number of residents. Reforming the arts tax rates to make them more progressive will help to cover the funding shortfall compared to initial projections, and will also help to make the tax even more popular by making it more fair. The added bonus of relatively lower administrative costs will help to make more money available to fund art, rather than office workers.

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