Guest Blog: Surveying Candidates for State Legislature

Guest Blog By: Jackie Koppell, Director of Programs, California Arts Advocates
California Arts Advocates (CAA), in partnership with Californians for the Arts (CFTA), is thrilled to announce its first candidate survey.  Thank you to the California Alliance for working with us to help spread the word! 
CAA/CFTA has sent surveys to all of the state Assembly and Senate candidates in an effort learn about their understanding of and position on the arts.  The four questions (see below) cover the economy, tourism, education, and community development. 
As statewide advocacy organizations, we decided to focus on the Assembly and Senate candidates because the work that CAA/CFTA does tends to focus on issues within our state, and often overlaps with issues that these legislators work on.  If successful with this survey, we may reach out to federal candidates in the future as well.

It is our hope that this survey is a great step toward more dialogue about the arts between our communities and the elected officials that represent us.  As we all know, the arts often falls to the bottom of the priority list for elected officials.  We have to ensure that our voices are heard.  That requires that we engage in an informed and positive conversation about the value that the arts has on the economy and the communities around the state.   
As we crafted the questions, we realized that this was an opportunity to both find out about the candidates' positions on the arts and also inform them of some of the issues and challenges that the arts community faces.  We hope that by providing this background before asking each question, we have slowly helped stimulate a more informed discussion going forward. 
CAA is excited to be starting a dialogue with the candidates this year and we plan to use it as a springboard for developing relationships with these elected officials for years to come.  If people know how valuable the arts is to California, when it comes time to vote, they will know to vote for the arts!  It is our job as their constituents to make sure they are armed with the information needed to make the right choice.

Read the surveys here
The Questions CAA Asked candidates: 
The Economy 
The nonprofit arts in California generate billions of dollars each year. The California Arts Council has calculated (2004) that nonprofit arts organizations in California account for $5.4 billion in economic activity and support some 160,000 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs, returning $330 million in state and local taxes. When you include the commercial creative sector—TV, movies, music, design, architecture, publishing, etc.—the figures become even more impressive. The 2011 "Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region" states that in LA and Orange Counties alone the economic impact of the creative industries amounted to an astounding $115 billion, generating 642,000 jobs and returning $3 billion in state and local taxes. 

QUESTION: Given the importance of California's creative economy, from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to suburban and rural communities around the state, how would you act as an advocate for this sector, and what policies would you back to strengthen the arts and culture infrastructure in every California community?

Community Development
Every California resident deserves to live in a healthy and vibrant community with access to quality resources including education, employment, commerce, public space and cultural activities. Though funding for redevelopment was eliminated, some great work was accomplished! Examples can be found throughout the state, in big cities and in smaller, more rural areas, including:
  • Uptown and Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland -Oakland, once known for its poverty and urban decay, was voted one of the 2012 "Top 5 Places to Go" by the New York Times and the arts school is part of this revitalization.
  • Naval Training Center, San Diego -Having been transformed, it is now called Liberty Station and has become a hub for the arts, culture and nonprofit organizations along the waterfront.
  • Dean DeCarli Waterfront Plaza, Stockton -The new focal point of the downtown core, the waterfront has turned into a recreational and entertainment center and provides a venue for art shows and concerts.

QUESTION: How would you leverage the arts and culture to fill the gap left behind by redevelopment to revitalize and repurpose our downtowns, neighborhoods, former military bases and rural communities?

Steve Jobs, founder of one of the great technology companies, understood the value of the arts as a tool for life, an outlet for creativity and one that has a direct impact on the success of an individual in the jobs market.

“We do not teach the arts to create great artists anymore than we teach math to create the next generation of mathematicians or language arts to create the next generation of writers. We teach the arts in our schools to create great people so they are empowered with skills and knowledge to be successful in do great things regardless of the vocational pathway they choose." -Steve Jobs

In California, the arts has been declared as one of the 5 core academic subjects that every child should be taught in grades K-12. Yet there is little or no accountability in ensuring that every child, regardless of their socioeconomic status has access to these 21st century skills. Though great strides have been made to restore creativity in the classroom, school districts across the state are struggling to provide a comprehensive arts education.

QUESTION: What would you do to ensure that every school in the state has the resources to provide every student with a quality education that includes the arts?

California is currently the number one travel destination in the country, in large part because of its multifaceted and culturally diverse offerings. In 2010, travel and tourism expenditures totaled $95.1 billion annually in California, supported jobs for 873,000 Californians and generated $6.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. According to Visitor Profile Studies done by CIC Research:
  • Tourists who participated in an arts and culture activity stay longer (3.8 days vs 1.8 days for all visitors
  • Nearly 60% of those visitors use hotel accommodations, which provides Hotel Tax dollars to local communities.
  • Cultural Visitors spend more than twice as much per trip ($561 in 2011) as compared with the average tourist’s $235.

QUESTION: How would you be an advocate for promoting California’s rich and diverse cultural offerings and assure state funding for the State of California Division of Tourism is used to promote arts, culture and heritage throughout our state?

Thank you California Arts Advocates for sharing your amazing work with the California Allliance!