by Dave Upthegrove, King County Council
Like many of you, I love arts and culture.
The arts and heritage unite us as human beings. They span borders, cultures, and class. They inspire children. They spark intellectual discourse. They are a weapon in the war against racial and cultural intolerance. And they are a part of the very fabric of what makes our region the best place to live in America.
That’s why I’m proud to support 4Culture, an organization created by the very council I am so proud to serve on each and every day. It’s also why I’m now one of six councilmembers (3 Democrats, 3 Republicans) who have sponsored legislation to strengthen our arts and heritage community as we prepare for an influx of more than $13 million more dollars per year for 4Culture to continue doing a great job for the people of King County.
Needless to say, when I saw a misleading headline from a website saying “King County Council Moves to Dissolve 4Culture” I was shocked. That kind of hyperbole is ridiculous, untruthful, and counterproductive. It’s disservice to those of us who reject DC-style, 140 character attempts to destroy meaningful, honest dialogue. I think you deserve better than that.
So before we get into the details of our proposal let’s start with a little background info.
4Culture was created by the King County Council and is funded entirely (100%) with public dollars administered by King County. Soon, the amount of public funds the agency will receive is slated to increase by more than $13 million per year. This is great news. But it also means it’s time to consider providing a very modest amount of public oversight for this enormous pool of taxpayer money.
Our legislation to do this is reasonable, measured, and fair. Here’s how it works.
Under the terms of the legislation the 4Culture Board will still develop and approve the annual budget and manage all of the grant programs. Nothing at all will change for anyone receiving funds from 4Culture. But, before the county transfers millions of dollars of public funds each year, the elected officials (who are accountable to you) will have the ability to approve or reject the budget.
We cannot (I repeat: CANNOT) amend their proposed budget. There will be no appropriations, pork spending, etc. It’s an up or down vote. That’s it. It simply means elected officials accountable to voters will review and authorize the use of these millions upon millions of dollars of public funds.
The second element of the legislation has the county council confirming the 4Culture Board’s nominee for Executive Director. The 4Culture Board will still manage the recruitment and selection process and nominate someone for the County Executive to appoint and the Council to confirm. The impact of this change will be to make sure that the person who will be running this publicly funded agency has the support and confidence of the public officials ultimately responsible for the organization. The ability for elected officials to be able to remove someone whose salary is paid entirely by public tax dollars is an important element of oversight and good government.
Finally, the current rule that only allows the County Executive to appoint board members who have been pre-selected by the existing board is going to be removed. The 4Culture Board will still be able (and encouraged) to help recruit and suggest board members, but the Executive and Councilmembers will have more flexibility in the appointment process. There will continue to be open public hearings on all nominees for the board. Importantly, the changes to the board appointment process won’t impact any current board members– as the process only takes effect as people’s terms on the board expire.
These are modest accountability measures. None of the changes in this proposal will disrupt or alter the good work of 4Culture—and won’t even be felt or seen by the many great organizations that receive funding and support. But what these changes will do is simply provide appropriate accountability and oversight for this county-created authority which will soon be spending tens of millions of tax dollars every year.
If you have concerns, ideas, or suggestions on how to improve this effort, I and the other five councilmembers sponsoring the legislation would absolutely love to hear from you.
Ed. note: Councilmember Upthegrove originally provided this statement explaining his motivation for introducing Ordinance #2018-0086 in response to a post on AKCHO’s Facebook page.