Opinion: Yes on 2A – A win for arts and a win for all Boulderites

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

Friday, Oct. 20, 2023

Want a different take? Read arguments against 2A

By Deborah Malden
Yes on 2A

Yes for 2A is an official campaign advocating for the passage of City of Boulder ballot measure 2A

This November, City of Boulder voters will have a unique opportunity to shape our City’s future by voting ‘yes’ on Ballot Measure 2A. 2A is not a tax increase: it extends an existing 25-year-old General Fund sales and use tax that amounts to just 15 cents on every $100 of purchases and raises approximately $7.5 million a year for the city. 

Without raising current taxes or cutting any city services, passing the measure will extend the tax for another 20 years and dedicate 50% ($3.75 million) to the City’s Office of Arts & Culture to strengthen Boulder’s arts and culture ecosystem and 50% ($3.75 million) to the city’s General Fund.

Continuation of sales taxes that support the General Fund is critical. The fund supports many of Boulder’s essential services including public safety, human services, homeless solutions, facilities maintenance and other day-to-day operations.

Most voters I’ve spoken with have expressed enthusiasm for greater arts support while questioning whether the $3.75 million dedicated to the arts will necessitate cuts in services. 2A will not result in any cuts to existing city services. This has been publicly confirmed in multiple City Council meetings by Mayor Aaron Brockett and council member Bob Yates, both of whom are running for mayor this November. 

According to city finance staff, extension of the existing sales tax is needed to avoid cuts in services – even with 50% dedicated to the arts. This is in part because, starting in 2025, the city will have an additional $10 million a year in General Fund spending power due to the new Boulder Public Library District, a separate entity that voters approved last year. The Library District shifts library expenses out of the city budget in perpetuity. 

Although the amount of dedicated arts funding would be transformative for the arts and the community, it represents a modest 2% of the General Fund. As important, funding for the arts is not the same as support for other city priorities such as facilities maintenance and street repair.

The difference? Potholes and many other city expenditures are an expense — the cost of doing business and serving the community. Much like paying your monthly utility bills, there is no economic return. 

The arts, by contrast, are an investment. A just-released study shows that the City of Boulder’s arts and culture nonprofits have an annual direct economic impact of over $115 million.  This includes incremental spending by audiences ($61.6 million), household income ($80 million) and City and county taxes ($4.6 million).

This is money that helps keep our businesses open, sustains our families and workers and provides incremental funding to the city to support other priorities. The 50% for the arts will provide a much needed lifeline for Boulder’s long-underfunded arts and culture sector. 

A cultural master plan was adopted in 2015 that determines how the city’s resources should be allocated to achieve a strong arts and culture ecosystem. Unfortunately, the current budget has proven insufficient. 

Most Boulder residents are surprised to learn that our city spends less on cultural affairs than our Front Range neighbors: Arvada, Loveland, and Fort Collins. The city’s own study shows that Boulder’s average per capita spending is 60% below comparable cities. 

Chronic underinvestment in the arts leaves our cultural organizations, artists and arts educators struggling to make ends meet and to meet the needs of the community. And it risks hollowing out our arts and culture ecosystem at a time when communities across Colorado are increasingly prioritizing the arts to attract artists and cultural programs and, with them, the many benefits that a strong arts landscape brings to their residents and their economies.

Some critics of 2A have suggested that the arts represent a single, narrow interest group. This widely misses the mark  Decades of research show that a thriving arts and culture landscape benefits the whole community — families, their children, seniors, residents of all income levels — helping to bring us together, making us individually and collectively healthier, happier, more tolerant, more welcoming and more resilient.  

Boulder faces many challenges requiring extensive regional, state and federal resources, but supporting our arts and culture sector is within our reach. Ballot Measure 2A is a win-win for all Boulder residents, ensuring the stability of essential services, nurturing our arts and culture scene and building a more equitable, connected and vibrant community for generations to come.

Please visit 2aforall.com/ learn more and join me in voting Yes on 2A — a win-win for the arts and for all Boulderites.

Deborah Malden is the chair of the Yes on 2A campaign and a board member of Create Boulder, a group that advocates for the arts and arts funding in the City of Boulder

Elections Governance Opinion

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Ha! I’ve got my ballot opened right now and was just thinking how I would NOT be voting in favor of reducing funding for police, firefighters and a variety of city services in favor of dedicating half the money to the arts. I happen to be a musician, and I appreciate that the arts are always last on the priority list, as in the recent Boulder poll on priorities where the arts came in last. I LOVE the arts, but am not willing for forego badly needed city services to support this very unbalanced budget idea.

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