Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have the opportunity to transform. We have mobilized governments, businesses, faith communities, activists and philanthropy to come together to address our issues. The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners has proposed a quarter-cent sales tax to fund the arts and cultural sectors, parks, greenways and teacher’s assistants in our public schools.
The board declared its intent to allocate the proceeds based on the following percentages: 45% to arts and culture, 34% to parks and greenways, 16% to education, and 5% to arts and culture in Charlotte’s surrounding municipalities.
In the framework put forth by the Board of Commissioners, the Arts and Science Council (ASC) will also be restructured. The ASC will continue to exist as a non-profit organization but will no longer have a role in fundraising or administering programs. A newly constituted Board of Directors comprised of equal parts County Commissioners and Charlotte City Council members will work with representatives from county towns, community members and private sector representatives to guide how this revenue will be administered to its best use.
This tax initiative will allow Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to be more self-determined in coming up with creative solutions to our long-standing problems. Folks that depend on the arts and cultural sectors are in need of affordable housing and affordable workspaces in re-imagined neighborhoods that are integrated and walkable.
Combining funding streams like this tax with the city’s Housing Trust Fund and workforce development dollars can lead to innovative approaches to affordable housing. While we first must get this referendum passed, Nov. 6 is when the real work begins. The city council members and county commissioners, along with the community board members, will be charged with guiding how this revenue is spent and will need to be held accountable to ensure they are adhering to the framework policy that has been thoughtfully crafted by the county.
I grew up in New York City public schools in a family of public school educators. My education was enriched by my schools’ and family’s dedication to expose me to the rich arts and cultural resources that my city could provide me. It pushed me to think wider and deeper about not just my studies, but the world I was living in. This is why I am in support of voting for a dedicated public revenue stream for arts, parks and education in Mecklenburg County.
The primary reason I am in support of this public revenue stream for the arts is jobs. The fact is, we know how valuable public investment of the arts is. Since 2014, when the North Carolina General Assembly eliminated a large portion of our film tax incentive, North Carolina has helped turn Atlanta, Georgia into the movie-making capital of America. The move sent thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of economic impact directly to Georgia. This new revenue stream will allow us to create a larger ecosystem that doesn’t stop at film, but cultivates the diverse talent pool that our growing region continues to attract.
An economic impact study revealed that the arts and cultural sectors of the Charlotte region creates over $350 million in yearly economic activity and supports over 11,000 full-time jobs in 2017 despite a meager public investment in the arts. I know the value of the arts — I have worked in the sector since 2004. Workers in the arts aren’t just creative people who sing, dance, paint and create.
Arts workers are carpenters, electricians, engineers, caterers, event professionals, marketing agents and accountants. They are small business owners and entrepreneurs. They are truck drivers and janitors, they are stagehands and warehouse workers. They are teachers and police officers and firefighters and medics.
There are not many industries outside of the arts and cultural sectors that benefit such a wide-swath of middle class workers outside of the military. A strong public investment into arts and culture will provide an exponential return on investment to Mecklenburg County’s taxpayers like few other investments can.
On Nov. 5, we have the opportunity to do something good for our people. We have the opportunity to take a transformative approach cultivating continued growth in our region. We have the opportunity to vote for a more equitable, accessible and interconnected Charlotte. I am asking you to join me in voting for the quarter-cent sales tax to support arts, parks and education in Mecklenburg County.
Charlotte Councilmember At-Large, Stagehand IATSE #322 Camera Operator, Charlotte Hornets Sports & Entertainment; Community Connections Manager, Levine Museum Of The New South