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.
Here are the responses provided by Jo Ann Hardesty, running for Portland City Council, position 3. All responses are reprinted verbatim.
RACC: In what specific ways have you supported arts and culture in Portland?
JAH: As chair of the Community Grants Committee for the East Portland Action plan I have advocated for funding support for:
- Portland Slavic Festival, 2015, 2016, 2017
- JAM Multicultural Festival, hosted by APANO Aug 2017
- Jim Pepper Festival 2015, 2016, 2017
Additionally, I am a 12+ year volunteer at the Waterfront Blues Festival, volunteering with KBOO on behalf of the Oregon Food Bank). This past year, as the beneficiary of the event changed I felt obliged to not participate.
On a more personal note, in a past life I was married to a local jazz musician, which exposed me to our local music scene. What struck me most during this time was how incredibly under appreciated world renowned artists were that lived here. I’m proud that i had the pleasure to know Leroy Vinegar (Bassist), Janice Scroggins (pianist), Linda Hornbuckle (vocalist) who unfortunately have all passed. I’m a huge fan of live music and for fun make it a point to check out old friends like Nancy King, Norman Sylvester, Mel Brown and other local musicians. In addition I have been a season seat holder at Portland Center Stage and attended the Montavilla Jazz Festival this year and was ask to provide a few words of welcome, which was an honor.
Because of these experiences, I support my friends on the PDX Jazz board who are working to make blues and jazz available to young children/students to pass on this important legacy so it doesn’t die with current musicians. As President of the NAACP, I worked in coalition with our members and leaders to help create a Black Legacy Project event that highlighted and featured their creations for sale. We also provided awards to several artists in recognition of the challenges faced by artists in Portland such as high rent, dislocation, lack of visibility and marketing assistance.
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?
JAH: Artists and arts organizations are vital to a world class city. Currently we spend 54% of flexible funding on policing services. I believe you know a lot about a city in how they spend discretionary funding. There is an enormous inequity in how we invest in cultural programs. For example, the Rose Festival has a building on the waterfront for $1 a year yet most arts organizations led by people of color have to put on multi-day cultural festivals on with no assistance from the City of Portland. I look forward to working with Commissioner Eudaly to ensure we are equitably investing in artists and arts organizations that represent the mosaic of talent in Portland.
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?
Arts organizations, artists, and small business owners all are facing the repercussions of gentrification. We must ensure we maintain affordable artist space and expand access throughout the city. We also need to work to ensure that those spaces remain affordable for the long term. I will work with my colleagues to ensure we don’t miss the opportunity to address this need as a priority along with housing.
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?
JAH: I’m very concern that some retires are exempt from paying this tax while persons with income at $10,000 are forced to pay this tax. There are many low-income community members who are experiencing this regressive tax at a time they are challenged with keeping a roof over their head. We must change state law to allow us to tax those who can most afford it. Having said that i look forward to auditing this process to ensure that those least able to pay for arts education are in fact the true beneficiaries of the funding.
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?
I believe in intersectionality and know that the artistic community, in addition to specific concerns, are also concerns with broad issues impacting our society at large. What I hear most often talking to community members, is fear of being priced out of the neighborhoods people are currently connected to and believe our housing crisis does touch all of us. Additionally, I am very motivated to help address climate change through the Portland Clean Energy Fund as well as ensuring our democracy by bringing campaign finance reform to the city with the implementation of campaign finance reforms hopefully approved by the voters this Fall.
Lastly, I am very interested in learning more from you on how you think the City Council can assist arts organizations and artists more effectively. I need to hear directly from you, what is working, what are the challenges of your community and what solutions to you believe would address the issues most important to you.