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Bremerton seeks to stall One Percent for Arts program

'Anima,' depicting a free-spirited female figure graces a corner of Pacific Avenue.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/staff photo

Following the recent hullabaloo at city hall over the purchase of public art from a Colorado artist, Bremerton City Councilmember Roy Runyon decided to seek an amendment to city law defining the use of money raised through the One Percent for Arts program.

Runyon’s amendment plan sought to require public art paid for by the program to be created by local to regional artists. His amendment, which also sought maintenance funds for the current collection form the fund, included a provision for the temporary suspension of the program which has put $71,000 in art along Bremerton’s Streets.

City staff from the legal office and the Department of Community Development have changed the game and will instead offer a “temporary resolution” seeking to suspend the One Percent program until January 2014.

City Attorney Roger Lubovich said that it’s unseemly for the city to spend money on art, at the moment, while facing a continued budget crises and the possibility of laying off city employees. The city looks bad if they let people go and put art on the street, he said.

While no money raised under the one percent program could ever be used to keep a cop on the street or a clerk behind a desk, Lubovich said most people don’t understand complex city budget procedures and will not see it that way.

“It’s about perception,” Lubovich said.

“People don’t realize that money comes from different pots,” Runyon said about the one percent account.

The one percent account holds an estimated $40,000.

Runyon said he and others on the city council question the appropriateness of buying during “these economic times” and said they were interested in seeing options to suspend the program and resuscitate it when the economy recovers.

Under the city staff resolution, if adopted, the program of art buying would stop for two years, but money from the one percent account would be used to maintain the current collection and work in the city’s Arts Master Plan. The resolution could be shortened or extended to suit the needs of the city in the given economic climate.

Questions remain about the collection of funds from city building projects during the program stoppage.

The program is funded by placing one percent of the costs of city construction projects into an account, which can also receive donations. The program started in 2006.

Every piece of art on the city’s inventory provided by Department of Community Development came from within the region. Only the most recent purchase,  “Sun Scoop,” came from afar. That fact suggests that there are plenty of local artists to provide the work needed, Runyon said.

Runyon voted against spending $7,100 on “Sun Scoop” citing support for local artists.

Weight is already given to local and regional art and there is no need to lock that into, said Lubovich.

“Good art is the priority.”

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