Most of you have been closely following the situation in Alaska. Absent of state sales or income tax, funding for public services in Alaska is derived from oil and gas industry revenue that is directed into the Alaska Permanent Fund—a $44 billion state savings account, some of which is returned annually to Alaska residents in the form of Permanent Fund Dividends (PFDs). These funds are around $3K per year, per Alaskan, although the exact amount is still one of many unresolved legislative issues as of Friday, July 12 the legislature ended their effort to overturn the governor’s vetoes.
To fully grasp the implications this has on the fate of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, if you haven’t yet, I urge you to read NASAA President and CEO Pam Breaux’s thorough and authoritative summary of the situation.
In conversation with former WESTAF trustee and curator, artist and advocate Kes Woodward, who is central in this fight for the ASCA, the work had previously been laser focused on maintaining the funding. While it may at some point be time to turn to the topic of what might a new arts support infrastructure in Alaska look like, a passionate and dedicated core of arts advocates are not giving up in Alaska. We’ve been following the details pretty closely, and noticed the last line in this July 11 Alaska Public Media article:
“If state arts council closes on Monday, a spokesperson says it will reopen. It’s just a matter of when. Even if the Legislature does not override the veto, they could still fund the council through the capital budget.”
I asked Kes about this. Here was his response as of noon MDT on Sunday, July 14:
“The short answer is that we are still very hopeful. We have broad bipartisan support in the legislature, and we think there is a good chance that some of our funding could be restored for the just-started fiscal year in supplemental funding that may be included in the Capital budget. The legislature still needs to pass a Capital budget, before July 31, and having failed to override any of the Governor’s draconian vetoes, they intend to add operating funds in the Capital budget, or in another, supplemental appropriations bill after, for a number of areas that were slashed. We hope to be among them, and think there’s a good chance.
The problem is that those supplemental funds would also be subject to veto, so there is crazy backroom politicking going on right now, in every area, to see what supplemental funding the Governor might be willing not to veto, and what compromises the legislature will have to do with him to get those assurances. So hope abides, but literally no one knows.”
As you may know, WESTAF was able to fund some ASCA commissioner meetings, legislative advocacy efforts (early in the session, their budget had actually been zeroed out, then restored thanks to lobbying efforts that we funded), and we were involved in their cultural trust planning which had been ongoing before everything worsened. With the complex, quasi-public nature of the ASCA, a bitter pill to swallow is that the state saves $700K, but the agency loses $2.8M in that and other related arts endowment and private foundation funding.
WESTAF will make every possible allowance and effort to keep Alaska in the family of WESTAF participating states. We are here to provide support and relief in any way that we can. In the coming weeks, I will have more information on what that looks like, exactly. While it’s not the leading issue, it’s also my duty to WESTAF to provide a detailed summary of the impact this could have on WESTAF’s budget moving forward. This potentially includes loss of Alaska’s participation fee to WESTAF and some lost technology product fee revenue in FY2020, as well as a commensurate reduction in NEA RAP funding in FY2021, among other impacts that will need to be addressed.
There is a lot of heavy lifting to come and hopefully much that can be learned for Alaska’s future and for the future of regional arts funding. What can you do? Well, if you haven’t yet had a chance, I would urge you to drop a note of support to our friends in Alaska fighting the good fight. Just say that you are thinking about them, are here for them and support them—don’t ask anything that requires a response (they’re quite busy!):
Andrea Noble-Pelland: firstname.lastname@example.org
Benjamin Brown: email@example.com
Kes Woodward: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hope Springs Eternal in the Human Breast.” — Alexander Pope
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY
We have identified a leading candidate. He emerged as a finalist in the initial screening round, then he continued to impress the Leadership Resource Team in the second interview. He has emerged as the unanimous favorite from a field of impressive and qualified final candidates. I spoke with him again before the July 4 holiday, and was able to confirm his continued enthusiasm for the opportunity, and that our compensation terms are aligned with his thinking. Mike Lange and Tamara Alvarado were also able to talk to him last week and reported back positively. We’re ready to send him an offer letter after we talk to his references, which will be happening this week. Laurel Sherman has done a great job of trafficking this process and the LRT also prioritized interviews and discussion to keep this moving forward. We hope to be able to announce him soon! Once he has accepted the position, I will be drafting a list of prioritized strategic goals similar to the ones I have with the Executive Committee.
A regular briefing of the Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) occurred earlier last week. We were visited on the call by Andi Mathis and Michael Orlove from the NEA, who asked the RAOs to share ideas with them about potential guidelines language and/or process refreshes to the Partnership Agreement Guidelines and to suggest improvements that could be introduced. The second part of the call was a briefing and an update from me (with input from our Endowment colleagues) about the situation in Alaska. Later in the week, I was also able to talk to Todd Stein, fellow RAO ED of the Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance, on what parallels or lessons exist in the defunding of the Kansas Arts Commission in 2011-2012.
UPCOMING SAA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SESSION
Attached below, please find a preliminary agenda and some participant information on the upcoming SAA Professional Development convening in Denver from July 25-26. We have great representation from our participating western states and Chrissy Deal has assembled a really compelling agenda. We also expect to make room in the agenda for an informational session on the situation in Alaska.
CALL WITH TENIQUA BROUGHTON
Productive call with trustee Teniqua Broughton on the evolution of the MAC and plans for rolling this out at the October BOT meeting and beyond. Super exciting and more to come soon!
BAR CAT AND BUDGETING
BAR CAT planning proceeds apace, with further socialization of new or refreshed roles and job descriptions among the whole WESTAF team as the LRT adapts gradually to the new BARCAT model for an October 1 launch.
The ZAPP team has been focused on the launch of the mobile responsive artist side. There have been some delays on our external developer’s end, but the target launch date is still Aug. 1. In addition, we completed the switch to our new payment processor, Braintree, and are working on reconfiguring our internal reconciliation process to align with this new system.
The CaFE team is working on an updated, digital version of the call request form for existing clients to complete when they want to add new calls. We’re continuing research and preliminary specifications for a finance integration enhancement that will help us better track customer account information and fees owed within the CaFE system.
YJI sent its first notice announcing the closure of the system by Sept. 1, 2019. The team is working with existing customers to transition them to other WESTAF services now through the end of the fiscal year.
We’ve revamped the CVSuite Manager role to a data analyst position, as we were not receiving the quality of applications desired. The analyst role, now posted, has received 9 applications within the last two days, and we’re hopeful to begin the interview process within the next two weeks. Also, had a good call with data provider Emsi last week, who remain excited and engaged about the potential of our partnership. Seyan, Kelly and I will be attending the Emsi conference in Idaho in September. We have a good strategy with CVSuite but we are still short of a full team to execute it until we have a CVSuite Analyst in place along with our new Director of Public Policy.
Thank you for being engaged and helpful trustees! The glorious West is all the better for it!