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Public art millage added to November ballot

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published August 20, 2012

In response to growing debate at Ann Arbor City Council regarding the funding of public art, councilmembers decided Monday evening to give voters a definitive say on the subject.

Late Monday night, the council unanimously approved a resolution before a crowd of about 50 people, including members of the public arts commission, to add a millage that will pay for art in public spaces. If voters approve the ballot measure on Nov. 6, the millage will appropriate about $11 per about $108,600 of property value in taxes from residents of the city annually. In total, it’s expected to generate about $459,273 in revenue in its first year and will span from 2013 to 2016.

Current policy under a 2007 ordinance stipulates that any capital project for the city must set aside one percent of its funding for public art, which has generated criticism from city officials and citizens, including councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3).

“As everyone knows I've been very critical about the present funding mechanism that's in our ordinance,” Kunselman said. “We've had our public art ordinance for five years and we've been debating the funding mechanism for that time … a millage is the only way to go.”

Councilman Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) said in his explanation of the resolution that the millage would be much more mutually agreeable to the citizens of Ann Arbor, especially those who are concerned with the one-percent method.

“Ann Arbor truly values art in public places and they see it as a thing which warrants government support, the question being what is the best way to effect that support,” Taylor said. “And (the) millage in my view is that best way and I'm eager to have that question put to the voters.”

If the millage passes, it could also lead to more performance art and temporary installment art, while the one-percent plan previously only allotted funds for capital art, such as the sculpture in front of city hall.

Though councilmembers approved the ballot item, they were not able to come to a consensus on admonishing the current one-percent program.

Most members of the council spoke in length on a resolution to eliminate the ordinance, which was sponsored by Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2), noting that they expect the public to pass the millage and therefore provide adequate funding.

Councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) argued that the resolution would clear up any misconceptions about how public art will be funded post the passage of the millage in November.

The council eventually voted down the resolution, with only Kunselman, Lumm and Anglin voting in favor.


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