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 Greg Malinowski, running for Washington County Commissioner, District 2. All responses are reprinted verbatim from what the candidates sent us on April 11.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Washington County?
GM: I have been a strong supporter of Washington County’s funding for the arts. Two years ago, RACC was provided with $115K, an additional $20K was given last year, and this year we hope to add another 10K. All of the recent increases were directed to Tualatin Valley Creates, which provides workshops for artists and helps connect them with grants and other opportunities. I was also a supporter of the Capital campaign through the county for Bag and Baggage’s new venue in Hillsboro.
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 Washington County 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 Washington County be doing to support this sector?
GM: Art has the power to inspire individuals and our entire community. Research has clearly shown that children who have a strong arts education tend to do significantly better in other subjects, including science and math. There are real economic benefits too – a study published by the Regional Arts and Culture Council shows that the nonprofit arts and culture sector in the Greater Portland Area generates millions of dollars in economic activity and provides over 11,000 jobs. Yet at the same time, arts programs in most of our schools are severely underfunded, especially those in low-income communities. Artists are our innovators, and as we plan for the future of Washington County we need to make sure that opportunities for artists are not limited only to wealthy schools and neighborhoods. To create equitable access to the arts we will need to generate more funding locally because the legislature is unlikely to act on this anytime in the near future. With a new progressive county commission, I believe Washington County will be well-equipped to take on this challenge.
One approach would be to establish a small percentage, say at least 1% of capital cost in construction or reconstruction, to make sure that public projects dedicate some funding for art installations. Portland recently established a small Arts Tax to support art and music teachers in their schools, and with a more progressive county commission we may be able to refer a similar measure to the ballot. Washington County Kids, a local organization working to increase investment in afterschool programs, has proposed a special district for children’s services which could also be a way to support arts and music in low-income communities. This would also need to go to the ballot. I think the county can make substantial improvements in funding for local arts programs by implementing these kinds of policies.
RACC: Washington County is currently moving forward with development of a $46 million events center at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Do you believe there is a place for the arts in future development of the fairgrounds site?
GM: Artists should absolutely be included in future development of the fairgrounds. We have incredible artistic talent in Washington County and the event center is an ideal place to highlight it. Our institutions should reflect our culture and diversity; local art can help us express this to fellow community members and visitors. That being said, most of the installations for the main plaza, formerly called the veterans plaza, have been cut because of budget constraints. This is one reason I like the idea of requiring 1% of construction costs on public projects to be dedicated for art projects. That way, if something has to be cut, art projects are not eliminated.
Washington County does not currently have a percent-for-art program. Would you support the development of a program to support more art at public facilities?
GM: A percent-for-art program would create more opportunities for artists to be a part of the legacy of Washington County. As noted above, I would be very supportive of this type of measure, especially if we could ensure that local art is prioritized.
RACC: What are some of your other priorities for Washington County that would be of interest to artists, arts organizations and arts educators in our community?
GM: Right now, we have 72,000 people who make $21 an hour or less and commute into Washington County for their jobs, and for many, this is simply because they cannot afford to live in the communities where they work. Teachers, including arts educators, understand this problem well. It is unacceptable that the people we trust with our children’s education are being priced out of the neighborhoods they nurture. Instead of building affordable housing on the edges of our county where the transportation infrastructure cannot sustain rapid growth, and farther from where most of our jobs are, I want to rezone old commercial lots for mixed residential-commercial use along major roads like TV Highway. If folks are closer to the heart of the county, it will be less difficult to connect them with public transportation and other neighborhood services. Allowing more residents to live closer to their workplaces means that they can spend less time on the road and more time creating a better life for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.