Posts Tagged ‘Kansas’

Kansas Governor Does a 180 – Restores Arts Funding

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Last year, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback stunned the national arts community by vetoing funding for the Kansas Arts Commission.  Brownback recently changed his mind and approved a state budget that includes $700,000 for a newly created Creative Arts Industries Commission.

“It’s a big win for Kansas,” said Sarah Fizell of Kansas Citizens for the Arts.  Brownback rebelled against legislators by vetoing a $689,000 appropriation for the Arts Commission, claiming that public tax dollars should not go to the arts.  The veto made Kansas the first state to defund the arts; as a result, the state sacrificed $1.3 million in federal and regional matching funds.  The veto led to a chorus of disapproval and reports that many arts initiatives, especially in rural areas, had to cut back on their activities.

Nearly 200 local arts organizations and artists lost critical support for local arts programs, operational funding and professional development.  “In difficult fiscal times such as these, the state must prioritize how to spend its limited resources and focus its attention on providing core services,” Brownback told legislators.  In the words of Robert Lynch, CEO of Washington-based lobbyist group, Americans for the Arts, “Kansas has now become a huge outlier.  It’s the only such decision made this year or in the past 50 years.”  Strong support for eliminating the Kansas Arts Commission came from the local branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), an anti-tax group founded by billionaire oilman David Koch, whose Koch Industries is based in Wichita.

In a June 22, 2011, blog for the Huffington Post, I wrote “Why publicly support the arts when the debt’s hitting its head against a $14 trillion ceiling and unemployment’s at nine percent?  Well, for one thing, America’s non-profit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year, according to a 2007 study by Americans for the Arts.  This includes $63.1 billion in spending by organizations (that’s twice as much as aerospace) and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by audiences.  The national impact of this activity is significant, supporting 5.7 million jobs and generating $29.6 billion in government revenue.  Overall, the for-profit and non-profit culture industry generate nearly $30 billion in revenue to local, state and federal governments every year.  By comparison, the three levels of government collectively spend less than $4 billion annually to support arts and culture — a spectacular 7:1 return on investment; try getting that in mutual funds.  Want to get America working?  The non-profit arts and culture organizations support more jobs than there are accountants, auditors, public safety officers, even lawyers and just slightly fewer jobs than the elementary school teacher sector.  Simply put, artists are workers — real jobs that generate real value to our society.”

One year later, Brownback appears to have changed his mind on public funding for the arts.  At the start of the 2012 legislative session, he proposed merging the unfunded Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission into a single entity overseen by the Kansas Department of Commerce.  Additionally, he proposed granting $200,000 from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which comes from gaming revenue.  Legislators raised that allocation to $700,000, which is what was ultimately approved.  Another bill created a check-off where Kansans can donate to the arts on their state income tax form.

The use of gaming revenues will count as public funds as a way to attract grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  According to Fizell, several other states use a similar funding model.  If Kansas finalizes and submits its arts plan, it could start receiving matching funds in July, 2013.  Fizell is relieved that the battle over arts funding seems to have ended.  “It was solved in a way that was very collaborative.  I think publicly funded art is important for the state of Kansas, and this was an enormous effort by the advocates across the state who made this happen,” she said.

Follow the March Madness Money

Monday, April 4th, 2011

March Madness is so popular among American sports fans that even President Barack Obama was featured on ESPN filling out his brackets. The President, who predicted a Men’s Final Four of Duke, Kansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh, said “One thing I wanted to make sure is that viewers who are filling out their brackets — this is a great tradition, we have fun every year doing it.”

According to Investopedia, like so many things in American popular culture, March Madness is an exercise in follow the money. “While many consider the annual NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament to be one of the greatest tournaments in sports, there’s more to the madness than just the teams battling for their place in the Final Four.  Like all great sporting events, the tournament has its share of economic impacts on a variety of levels.”

For example, the CBS television network controlled the March Madness airwaves for years; in 2011 a landmark deal was made to allow Time Warner’s Turner to split the rights for the next 14 years at a cost of approximately $10.8 billion.  “Along with the steep price tag comes the revenues from broadcasting the tournament both on television and via other media outlets,” Investopedia said.  “Last year, CBS is estimated to have raked in about $620 million from TV advertising alone, while revenues from ‘non-traditional’ sources were up 20 percent.  Even with more people watching their favorite television shows in non-traditional ways, sporting events have still managed to keep live viewership growing, and there’s nothing quite like the nail-biting thrills of a last-second jumper.”

Then, there are the schools.  According to Forbes, “The NCAA distributes money from their media contracts to Division I conferences based on their performance in the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship over a six-year rolling period.  Independent institutions receive what’s called a ‘full unit share’ for every game they play in the tournament over the same rolling six-year period.  The basketball fund payments are sent to conferences in mid-April each year, and then conferences allocate the money as they see fit.  Some conferences equally split the revenue among all conference schools, while some provide a disproportionate share to the teams that were actually responsible for the ‘unit creation.’  One ‘unit’ is awarded to a conference for each game a member school participates in, except the championship game.  In 2009-10, each ‘basketball unit’ was approximately $222,206 for a total $167.1 million distribution.  The 2010-11 season was supposed to be the last year of the old TV contract, where CBS was slated to spend $710 million for media rights.  Based on this figure, the NCAA estimated that each ‘basketball unit’ would be roughly $239,664 for a total $180.5 million distribution.”

Sports tourism is another way that March Madness stimulates the economy.  Because the games are played in various locations across the country, teams and their fans spend money on hotels and restaurant meals, a positive economic impact on the host cities.  The biggest winner of 2011 is expected to be Houston, where estimates have direct spending by March Madness fans hitting $100 million.  Denver, Cleveland and New Orleans are also expected to reap significant economic benefits.

March Madness also offers Americans an opportunity to gamble.  According to Sportsbook.com, approximately $75 million was bet in Las Vegas on the tournament.  Office pools totaled more than $3 billion, with the cost of lost productivity estimated to be approximately $1.8 billion.

Tornado-Ravaged Greensburg, KS, Rebuilding Itself as a Green Town

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Greensburg, KS, saves itself by going green.  Three years after an EF5 tornado tore apart tiny Greensburg, KS, the town of approximately 900 is making a conscious effort to rebuild itself as a green community.

City officials, residents and business owners are leading by example, making Greensburg a national model for environmentally conscious living.

For example, a wind farm five miles south of town now provides the majority of Greensburg’s energy.  Newly rebuilt houses supplement the wind power with dedicated solar panels.  Streetlights use LED lighting, which cuts energy use, operating and maintenance costs by approximately 70 percent.  Cisterns capture rain, which is used to water the town’s plants and trees.  The construction of zero energy homes and high-performance modular homes is encouraged to further Greensburg’s quest to become a green town.

This is the nation’s first project of its kind and is a key element in developing eco-tourism, a vital element in Greensburg’s successful comeback following the tornado’s devastation.  By partnering with local builders, Greensburg is providing educational opportunities to contractors and homeowners alike who can spread the message of what they have learned in going green.