Saturday, April 17, 2004

The Soviet Socialist Republic of Montgomery County, which is apparently already one of the highest per capita taxed counties in the entire United States, and also has the highest income tax allowed under the law, and without a doubt one is of the richest counties in the country, still cannot find enough money to fund everything that is on the slate, and not enough money to fund the Arts and Humanities, of course.

Leave it for private enterprise to come to the rescue of the Arts and Humanities in one of the nation's richest counties. The county's Commissar and his Politburo has proposed an Arts and Humanities Partnership Fund, which would require the already heavily-taxed private sector to match county dollars.

Well, they have: Mr. John Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of Discovery Communications, Ms. Cheryl Kagan, Executive Director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation and Bill Rickman, Jr. have pledged their support for the $2.5 million proposed Arts and Humanities Partnership Fund. Mr. Hendrick's and his wife Maureen pledged $1,000,000 and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation pledge their support of $100,000 toward this effort.

I applaud them, but still question why one of the richest and highest taxed counties in the entire country (and they've already maxed out what they can legally tax residents' incomes), still operates at a deficit when it comes to the arts. I also want to know: where's your contribution Lockheed Martin? Where's yours Comcast? Where's yours Chevy Chase Bank? And so on with many of the County's giant (and rich) corporations.

And although the county has a well-run Arts and Humanities Council, political shananingans common to these Soviet-style county/states still happen - even when it comes to the Arts.

Both the County and its wealthy residents, and its many wealthy corporations should be ashamed that in one of the nation's richest counties there's not a single major visual arts center (although theatres seem to be popping up all over the place).

This is especially shameful in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase-Potomac trangle - one of the highest concentrations of income-earners in the world, and yet not a single true Visual Arts Center anywhere in that area, and yet Rockville has one and so does Germantown.

The Blackrock Center for the Arts in Germantown is an interesting example of perhaps how to worm your way into county funding. It was initially established as a non-profit, private organization and built with a loan from Sandy Spring Bank.

It apparently almost immediately ran into funding problems (which at least to me means that they irresponsibly decided to build it before they had the funding to actually run it) and immediately went to the Montgomery County Politburo (I mean Council) for help.

So essentially, a private non-profit organization decided that Gaithersburg needed this Arts Center, applied and received a loan, built the Center, and then faced fund-raising difficulties that threatened to shut down the newly opened center right from the start.... follow me so far?

So then the staff of the Center cries for help from the Montgomery County Council, who then votes to purchase the Center and although BlackRock will remain a private organization, the county will own the building and assume maintenance costs, similar to an arrangement with Strathmore Hall in North Bethesda (and no, this beautiful house is not what I mean as an "visual arts center").

If I am wrong about any of the story so far, I welcome a clarification from either the Politburo or BlackRock executive director Nancy Petrisko.

So, Potomac-Chevy Chase-Bethesda: Do you get the model to follow?