Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bureaucrat: Not sure how much to spend on public art? Use "the most" and "see what happens"

Financial allocation process is informal, inconsistent, and may not fulfill requirements for public art

The audit was motivated in part by City Council concerns that the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) may not be receiving the amount of funds that it should under this program.

We did not review RACC's methods of record-keeping, art selection, and other internal processes except to the extent needed to achieve a basic understanding of them.

Important background:
Recognizing "the great value of public art," the City passed an ordinance in 1980 in order to dedicate one percent of the construction costs for the "new construction or major alteration" of City buildings to the acquisition of public art.

In an effort to bring public art to areas outside of downtown, the City broadened the program in 1989 to include a wider scope of City funded projects. Allocations for public art would now be required from projects involving any "structure, park, public utility, street, sidewalk or parking facility." The contribution was also increased to 1.33 percent in order to cover other costs such as maintenance, administration, and education.
I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Also missing is sufficient detail regarding funding sources as well as the project cost components which are needed both for the identification of an eligible project as well as the calculation of the
appropriate Percent for Art contribution.

When faced with a question or questionable situation what bureaucratsracrats do?

Is the hypothetical project eligible? We showed it to Project Managers and others whom we interviewed and asked what they would do. Some indicated that they would allocate the most money they could and see what happened. Some used the words "messy" and "murky" to describe the process of determining the correct amount to allocate to public art. One Project Manager observed that "there are no good rules available."
Way to be good public stewards. If you aren't sure if a proeligible even eligble for the percent for art program, and if it is eligible, how much money goes towards the art what do you do? Ask for clarification? Be fiscally responsible and go low? Not if you work for government and are spending someone else's money! Put out the biggest number you can think of and "see what happens."

RACC officials told us that the process to identify eligible projects and collect Percent for Art funding from Participating Bureaus is "very informal." This was verified during our audit. We found no centralized, citywide structure or process to oversee compliance.

One Project Manager complained that he "knows what they can't do, but not what they can." Only one Participating Bureau, the PDC, has developed a set of guidelines to assist its Project Managers with the overall process, although not all Project Managers are aware of the guidelines.

No central mechanism for oversight
Adding to the sense of informality is the lack of involvement in the program at the citywide level, specifically from OMF. OMF Financial Analysts are responsible for an annual review and analysis of Bureau CIP submissions. Several OMF staff told us that Percent for Art has
"never been on their radar screen" as part of their review. We were also told by individuals in Participating Bureaus that, in most cases, their financial staff do not get involved with Percent for Art.

What do you do when a program is so faulty, so informal, so inconsistent, so wildly used/misused/abused and lacks any oversight? Give them more money!

From Commissioner Sam Adams:
The workgroup's recommendations, including code amendments, will coincide with the
council's effort to increase the Percent for Art program from 1.33% to 2%...

What current job opportunities do out-of-work artists have right now?

Public Art for St. Johns. The Regional Arts & Culture Council, Portland, OR invites artists and artist teams from the West Coast ( WA, OR, CA, ID, MT and British Columbia) to submit qualifications for a public art project in the St. Johns community of North Portland. We are looking for an artist(s) who can add to the experience and vitality of the community through their own artistic expression. The budget for the public art is $100,000. For more information, contact Kristin Calhoun, Public Art Manager,, or 503.823.5401. Deadline: 9/23/05.

But no new cops are being hired...


MAX Redline said...

$100,000 for one piece of "public art" would cover pay, benefits, and pension for one cop. Multiply that by all of the other "public art" projects, and it's a large chunk of change. Not that it matters, however, since Multnomah county won't open their jail beds. Priorities, ya know....

Gunslinger said...

Yeah but who needs cops, in portland, all they do is shoot innocent criminals right? I am of course joking. That is funny, becaus ejust today, I saw a bumper sticker on a subaru that said "art saves lives" I thought cops saved lives. Guess I have been wrong all these years.

Daniel said...

Armed and responsible citizens save lives!

Anonymous said...

If you get a chance, stop by University of Washington Medical Center and look a the electrically operated drums hanging from the ceiling of some the enterances. The only benefit from this publicly funded art is finance some liberal artist, so he doesn't have to work for a living, and then he has time to pursue additional liberal causes on my dime!

Daniel said...

And he got the contract because he was some bureaucrats cousin...

Scott said...

Daniel lets take that 2% and give it to the schools. O wait that might make sense .

/sarc off