Cutting Arts Funds to Add Police Questioned

San Diego County Arts Writer

The mayor and the chairman of the city's arts commission have questioned the propriety of a proposed $2.8-million reduction in cultural funding for 1991 to support a major expansion of the police force.

The proposed reductions are among those on a list of wide-ranging budget cuts offered Friday by City Manager John Lockwood to support the City Council's mandate to put 140 new police officers on the streets by the fall of 1990.

The reductions are in addition to a recommended $258,000 cut that will eliminate most funds for a proposed "City Gates" public art project for 1990. The City Council last week discussed, but did not take action, on the City Gates cut.

Specifics of Proposal

Specifically, Lockwood called for eliminating all $2.3 million in "arts festival" funding in fiscal 1991 and reducing $500,000 in "other promotional programs." The first festival, "Treasures of the Soviet Union," is this fall.

The $2.3 million is generated by a 2-cent increase in the transient occupancy tax on hotels and motels approved last year. Every three years about $2.3 million goes to support a major arts festival. For the years between festivals, the funds are to be allocated for special cultural projects and events that would attract tourists to the city.

Paul Downey, Mayor Maureen O'Connor's spokesman, said the mayor and her staff were reviewing Lockwood's proposals and how it affects the city's relationship with the tourist industry. "The increase in the TOT was an agreement with the Hotel and Motel Assn.," Downey said. "They agreed to increase the tax in order that those funds be used for the arts to promote tourism in San Diego. There's concern if the money's not going to be used for the arts."

Milton (Mickey) Fredman, chairman of the city's Commission for Arts and Culture, participated in the task force that recommended a 2-cent increase in the hotel bed tax.

'Question of Integrity'

"An agreement was reached," Fredman said. "The city adopted it. To me, again, it's a question of integrity. Do you tell the Hotel and Motel Assn. that you're going to take that money to do things to attract tourists by beefing up the arts, having festivals, then turn around and take it away? To me it is not the thing to do. I think that people in public office have to have integrity."

Another proposal by the city manager to fund the police expansion is to reduce the Civic Theatre subsidy for non-performance use by one half in 1991. The proposed $225,000 savings could have an impact on the arts in San Diego, said arts commission Executive Director Victoria Hamilton.

Of significance is that traditionally transient occupancy tax monies are not spent on general fund operations.

TOT money "is not normally designated for operations," said city Finance Director Patricia Frazier. "But the council has some discretion under the current ordinance even on how TOT monies are spent."

A City Council meeting in which the arts budget is "up for discussion" is scheduled for Thursday, Frazier said.

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