Oakland's City Council did not vote on the proposed cuts to its Cultural Funding Program last night, choosing instead to wait until April 29. As we previously reported, the council, facing a $30 million budget deficit, was considering a 50 percent cut to the $1 million program, which provides important grants and loans to various artistic and cultural institutions and artists in Oakland.
According to Margo Dunlap, chair and co-founder of the Oakland Cultural Trust, and executive director of Pro Arts, the council expressed strong support for the arts, and Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said he would not support any cuts at all. "I'm very optimistic," said Dunlap, noting that the council acknowledged that the arts are an important investment that actually produce revenue for the city.
Dunlap estimates that about 200 people showed up to the meeting to express their support — including Oakland East Bay Symphony's Michael Morgan. "It was very powerful," she said of his statement. "He’s a tremendous leader and figure for Oakland." Dunlap said she would understand if the council makes a small cut to the arts funding, but thinks it should be proportional to other cuts. Other supporters, however, do not want any cuts, and some are advocating increased funding.
Last night, however, the council did approve 15-percent cuts to elected officials' offices. The council plans to vote on the city administrator's recommendations for closing the budget deficit on April 29. Dunlap says the Oakland Cultural Trust will stay in communication with councilmembers and will be present at the April 29th meeting.