For the spring 2018 primary election, RACC distributed a questionnaire to all candidates running for Portland City Council; Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington County Boards of Commissioners; and Metro Council. Each candidate was asked five questions on March 13 or 14, and given the opportunity to respond by March 30 when this story was first published. RACC will continue to publish responses from candidates even after the deadline has passed.
Here are the responses provided by Nick Fish, running for Portland City Commissioner, Position 2. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Portland?
NF: I am passionate about arts and culture in Portland, and proud to serve as a local champion.
Before my election to the City Council, I served as Vice-Chair of the Oregon Cultural Trust, working to build private supports for arts, culture and heritage state-wide. I advocated for a doubling of the Percent for Art program. And I personally supported organizations dedicated to jazz, modern dance, and expanding access to the arts.
For the past six years, I have had the honor of serving as the City’s Arts Commissioner. My priorities include expanding arts education in our schools, defending and reforming the Arts Tax, protecting funding for the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and small grants programs, advancing a robust equity agenda, and addressing the urgent challenge of arts affordability.
Based on my track record of support for the arts, I have earned the support of trusted arts leaders like Eloise Damrosch, Jamey Hampton, Julie Vigeland, Bob Speltz, Sam Adams, Paul King, Walter Jaffe, Stephen Marc Beaudoin, Elizabeth Leach, Harold Goldstein, Carole Morse, Jose Eduardo Gonzalez, Al Solheim, Linda McGeady, and Phillip Hillaire.
RACC: Artists and arts organizations add measurable value to our region’s economy, our education system and our quality of life. Yet there are a number of pressing needs in Portland that often compete with arts and culture for attention and investment. How would YOU describe the importance of arts and culture in our community, and what should Portland be doing to support this sector?
NF: The arts are the soul of our community. They foster joy, creativity and beauty. They contribute significantly to our quality of life. And they are what makes Portland a special place to live, work and play.
The arts are also an economic powerhouse. In the tri‐county region, the arts support thousands of full time jobs, deliver nearly $30 million dollars in state and local revenue, and generate more than $300 million dollars in economic activity – each year.
To put it differently, imagine Portland without the arts. Without dance and jazz, opera and the symphony, art galleries and poetry, murals and public art, hip hop, movies and concerts in the park.
That’s why we cannot take the arts for granted. Nothing about Portland’s success is inevitable. The increasing costs of housing and studio, gallery, and performance space are making it harder for artists to live here. President Trump has once again proposed to end public funding for the arts. Other cities are competing for talent, as well as the next hit television show and movie.
We must be intentional in our efforts to support a vibrant arts scene and we must act with urgency. It’s why I’m so proud that the City Council has embraced my plan to address arts affordability.
We must be collaborative. Everyone has a role to play—state and local government, philanthropy, public spirited businesses, and individual donors and patrons.
And we must continue to invest in the arts.
RACC: The region’s affordability is a serious concern for everyone in our community. What are your plans for making housing and creative spaces more affordable for artists, nonprofit arts organizations and arts‐related businesses?
NF: In March of this year, City Council unanimously accepted a set of recommendations that I developed with Commissioner Eudaly and Mayor Wheeler to preserve affordable creative spaces. The 24 recommendations include an arts concierge in the Bureau of Development Services, a comprehensive map of creative space across Portland, short-term leases in properties owned by Prosper Portland that are slated for future development, and increased investment in public art for underserved areas such as East Portland.
Now, the hard part begins! As we implement the recommendations, I have committed to rolling up my sleeves and doing my part.
RACC: The city’s Arts Tax is disliked by some, while 62% of voters approved it. Thanks to the Arts Tax, every K–‐5 student in the City of Portland now as an art, music or dance teacher, and dozens of nonprofit arts organizations are expanding access to the arts by providing free and low–‐cost arts experiences for Portland residents. What changes to the Arts Tax, if any, would you want Portland City Council to consider?
NF: Every child should have arts education as part of her basic school curriculum. Research makes clear that children exposed to the arts perform better across the board. That’s why I am so proud that Portland voters supported the Arts Tax.
The City has already made a few changes to strengthen the tax. For example, the City Council exempted very low-income households. And we recently adopted an update that removed the cap on collections activity – “administration” – of the Arts Tax. This update was based on the recommendation of the Arts Oversight Committee and will allow us to collect more revenue – to be distributed as grants to arts organizations.
And I support other changes: the exemption for low income residents should be increased to make the tax more progressive. I would like more robust reports from our school districts showing how the dollars are being spent, with an emphasis on quality and not just quantity. And we should continue to seek more efficient ways of collecting the tax.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for the City of Portland that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
NF: My priorities for the arts include protecting funding for RACC and developing new partnerships to sustain this work long-term, preserving arts affordability, and equity. I strongly support the work RACC is doing to ensure a more equitable approach to grant-making.
I am running for reelection on my record of bringing people together to solve problems. I am deeply committed to ending chronic homelessness, and to ensuring that every Portlander has a safe and affordable place to call home. I am working to protect our environment—focusing on a clean energy future, converting brownfields to productive use, and cleaning up the Willamette River. And I am a champion for our neighborhood small businesses. That means promoting the Buy Local movement, cutting red tape and streamlining regulations, working with Venture Portland to build capacity in underserved areas like East Portland, and supporting programs to keep our neighborhoods safe.
I’d be honored to have your support in my race for re-election to the Portland City Council, Position 2.