Candidates and the Arts: Ben Rich

As your membership should be aware, I am a champion for the arts on the commission.

That said, we are in difficult fiscal times.

The good news is that our county is faring well by most standards. Our current budget is a “bare bones” document but our county, due to what has transpired in the past 18 months on the spending side, is in much better shape than most of the counties in the State of Florida!

Regarding your questions, I am currently working to create additional TDC revenues by increasing the bed tax collections from 3% to 5%. I believe we must explore ways to enhance the tourist experience through the expansion of the arts, attracting not only more people to our thriving tourist industry but a different type of visitor with a deep appreciation to the diverse and rich arts communities within Saint Johns County.

We are well on our way to making progress and I will continue to champion that cause.

With that said, we will continue to explore the idea of an increase in the bed tax with the vast majority of the funds designated for promoting our county as an art haven and eco-tourist destination.

To not seek to share both our culturally significant artistic resources and the breathtaking natural God given beauty of our county with those who are reaching out for a soul changing experience, is just short of criminal neglect!

As you know, the questions put to the candidates are all about funding for the arts. Anyone running for office who tells you that they are for everything you are asking but have no way to achieve that goal, are just pandering.

I am doing everything possible to make the dreams that you and your membership have for the artistic and cultural development of our county, a reality.

I am a doer, not a bull slinger and as I have done with your county administration and the mega-urban-sprawl community, given time, I will help the Cultural Council to help county residents and businesses improve our quality of life through a more vibrant arts and culture scene.

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