Candidates respond to Cultural Survey

Research shows that communities rich in arts and culture consistently enjoy a better quality of life. In addition, the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in our community — a clean, growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.

Historic City News is reprinting selected responses from the Cultural Council survey, however, the full compilation is available at their website.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS SURVEY?
To help educate and inform St. Johns County voters, we have joined other cultural councils throughout Florida and the United States by inviting federal, state, county and city candidates, prior to the election, to share their views on Arts and Culture.

Our goal here is simple: To help St. Johns County voters make the best, most informed decisions possible.

This project represents an historic “first” in the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, St. Johns and greater St. Johns County.

We invite you to take a few moments and read for the first time, in the candidates own words, the different views on how arts and culture of this year’s slate of elected officials: Their selection will dramatically shape the future of St. Johns County’s Quality of Life.

On behalf of all our members and board of directors, the St. Johns Cultural Council would like to THANK all the candidates who took the time to respond, so personally and thoughtfully, to this survey.

The St. Johns Cultural Council is a non-partisan organization that endorses no candidate running for office.

Candidate: Cyndi Stevenson, District 1
County Commission Race

1) Will you support public funding for the arts after you are elected?

“General Fund Revenue will be very difficult to come by for the foreseeable future due to Federal and State mandates, rising costs for essential services and continued mandates for property tax reductions.

“The good news is this should return funds to our taxpayers pockets and they will have more money to support great caused like yours!

“The county has funded several community centers-it is my intent to continue to support these programs in our new facilities-as we have in our existing facilities. I anticipate these programs would be largely run by volunteer organizations-like boys and girl’s clubs- or largely fee based programs as are other recreation programs in the county.

“Suggestions to stream line government and deliver needed services you desire include:

1. County must partner more effectively with our school board-so we have resources to invest in people and programs and not just more public building.

2. Seek grants-public or private- to help people at risk-especially high risk youth succeed in life that could help with this funding.

3. Community supported scholarships could also be developed to cover costs of services where there is no ability to pay. Our generous community would invest in the creativity and hope of our children, at risk & challenged communities young and old.

4. In these tough budget times, we must be creative-I will give-my full support for a major fundraiser the amphitheatre to support SJCCC’s mission. I could help identify patrons-and volunteer to help staff the event.

5. We could add a dollar for arts education boxes at our concession areas at the golf course amphitheatre and other venues.

6. Events like a farmer’s market or monthly social with music could be run by a private group for the benefit of the arts-on county property. This is done in St. Augustine Beach and City of Tallahassee.”

2) Will you support the use of county bed tax revenues to promote local arts and cultural activities to help grow the tourism and economy after you are elected?

“Yes. Consistent with the Destination Master Plan under consideration and ordinances of our county.

These expenditures should show a short term or building of equity that will pay long term dividends to the community and the tourism industry. For example, my father in law was a founding member of EMMA. What a mighty return has come from the early beginnings of that organization.

Building our cultural resources can pay long term dividends in quality of life-and draw high quality tourism to our community.”

3) Will you support funding and legislation that will enhance the county’s definition of recreation to include arts and culture as part of activities offered to our citizens?

“I believe arts are already part of our recreation mission as demonstrated at Trout creek park-libraries and TPC Landrum Lane Community Centers. These programs are supported and run largely by 501(c)(3)’s like Council on Aging and Friends of the Library. This is analogous to active recreation organizations like Creeks Athletic Association, Ponte Vedra Athletic Association and Ancient City Soccer step up to provide opportunities for our community. I am sure at least 1,000 volunteers join together to make our recreation mission possible.

I will support continued programming of this nature at our-new community centers and parks.

“I know the NW Business Council and other organizations including the NWSJCCC are working on these types of projects at this time. It would be the county’s role to coordinate facilities for these groups. I support a Communities in Schools Program-where small business owners, artists, musicians, and volunteers can provide opportunities for life long learning in existing school facilities and Community Centers. This can pay dividends by connecting small business owners to future customers.

“We need a private sector solution or community support to fund administrative costs necessary for this type of function-I believe, from past discussions, School Board would support the use of their facilities to serve everyone in SJC. Life long learning programs have a wide appeal and can train consumers to avoid high risk loans, write resumes and marketable job skills-and help create a sense of community and connection we all desire. It is also constructive, low cost entertainment and an opportunity for self improvement-close to where people live. This would have a broad appeal during this economic time.

Thank you for the opportunity to address your interests in our future.

I have supported the SJCCC by making the motion for you to become the Local Arts Agency, attending your functions and workshops and honoring your request to support access of the Amphitheatre by local artists. “I have worked to connect your organizations to others who share your mission financially or as artist in their own right. Thanks to your hard work, those small efforts are paying real dividends. I will continue to support your organization in this manner.”

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