At a meeting Tuesday night at City Hall, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm told a group of arts advocates that if they could find $150,000 in additional cuts from her proposed budget, she would allow the Office of Cultural Affairs to remain independent.
The move is a huge victory for the arts advocates, who have said that they would be willing to accept steeper budget cuts in exchange for an independent OCA. Suhm had proposed a merger of the OCA with the Library Department to save money.
Veletta Forsythe Lill, the Arts District Coordinator who attended the meeting, says the money will likely come from the line item in the budget that handles utilities for the city’s cultural facilities. The next step is for a budget amendment to be submitted to Suhm and the City Council in early September.
Lill says that the unified position of the arts groups and their willingness to “solve their own problems” is what lead to a new solution being found.
“I think it’s largely because we’re not going out and seeking other funds,” she said. “We’ve come to the table with a solution that is an internal one and is strongly supported by the arts and culture community.”
UPDATE: I just spoke with Theatre Three Executive Director Jac Alder, who was also at the meeting on Tuesday night. He says that the real breakthrough came when those in attendance asked Suhm if there was any reason besides savings to merge the OCA with the Library, and they were told no. From there, Alder says Suhm walked the arts leaders through the process of submitting an amendment to her budget.
“She said, ‘Here’s the way to do it. Go around me. Under the constraints I felt I had, I made these decisions. I can’t change them now – that’s what my offer is on the table. It’s now up to the council people, so go to the council people. But don’t go to them saying it’s wrong, go to them with a solution. Take an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, write some numbers down …’ She really was being imminently practical.”