Diana Toledo: Eliminate Arts & Culture, 4Culture; Put $ Into Public Schools

On Sunday (June 26th), King County Council candidate Diana Toledo released a letter calling upon Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine to “dissolve the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the 4Culture agencies and put that money into Arts programs in the Public Schools.”

As many of our Readers may recall, Toledo lost to Joe McDermott last Fall by a 68% to 31.5% margin in her bid for the county council district number 8 position. The White Center/B-Town Blog sponsored candidates forums in 2010 featuring Toledo vs McDermott, which you can read about (and listen to audio recordings of) here.

Toledo is running again for the same council seat, facing off against McDermott and Goodspaceguy. The primary election is set for Aug. 16th.

4Culture is a tax-exempt public development authority (PDA) cultural services agency for King County. The majority of its funding comes from a portion of lodging tax revenues collected in King County. Since 1990, 4Culture has channeled these resources back into the local economy to help develop a thriving cultural community that serves visitors, residents and businesses.

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is a division of the City of Seattle, and according to its website, “promotes the value of arts and culture in and of communities throughout Seattle. By fostering and investing in the creative contributions of our artist citizens to every facet of the community, we engage the creativity in every resident and build a healthy and vibrant Seattle.”

Here’s Toledo’s full letter:

Art Funding For Youth, Not Cultural Elites

I am calling upon Mayor McGinn and KC Executive Constantine to dissolve the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the 4Culture agencies and put that money into Arts programs in the Public Schools.

As a mother of three beautiful children I am concerned that our youth do not have the same access to Arts programs that we had growing up. During the early years of development is it crucial that our children are engaged in the creative processes that allow for the expression or originality, development of individuality, and the building of positive self esteem in a safe learning environment.

Currently, our children’s Principals do not receive a designated amount for Arts funding in K-12 King County Public Schools. Instead, each school Principal must sacrifice Math, English, or Technology programs in order to cover the cost of bringing Arts back to their school.

One way schools have found to work around this problem is by partnering with local community Arts programs; allowing use of the school classrooms and grounds to outside groups who offer Art related activities. Although some of these programs are very nice; the quality of programs, volunteer instructors, and classroom environment is not always consistent. And although most of these groups are funded by our tax dollars they are not bound by the same rules and regulations that a public school teacher is. Nor are these instructors required to receive the same certification, education, communication, and conflict resolution training that a public school teacher does. If our children’s school is lucky enough to have one of these programs teaching Arts onsite, the program and the instructor quality cannot be guaranteed. We must bring Arts back to the Public School curriculum!

Bring Art Teachers Back To Public Schools!
I believe that exposure to Arts at an early age helps build a bridge across racial, cultural and economical barriers. I believe providing Arts programs in our public schools allows and encourages children to interact with others, make new friends, break down stereotypes, and receive positive feedback from their peers in a safe environment. Sadly, we’ve seen Arts in Public Schools nearly eliminated over the past few years; even as millions upon millions of dollars in taxes go to fund elitist public art projects.

As cutbacks in our public schools result in teacher lay-offs and Art program eliminations, taxpayers are forced to fund the Office of Arts & Culture, the King County 4Culture Offices, and the City and County Government’s 1% for public arts programs.

Housed in the beautiful Seattle Municipal Tower; the Office of Arts & Culture share a floor with several other Executive Departments with duplicate management and administrative staff. Look down the street and you will find the King County 4Culture offices, offering many of the same services that the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture does. These prime real estate locations currently used by the Executive Offices could be made available to the private sector and would bring in even more money to help us get a handle on our out-of-control budget deficit.

It’s estimated that between the Office of Arts & Culture and King County 4Culture there is an approximately $20 million dollar yearly budget. Dissolving the agencies and putting those funds into public school Arts programs would eliminate the massive administrative staff fees and free up a larger amount of funding to make it to the children.

Although I love the Arts; I recognize it is not the responsibility of the government or the taxpayers to fund adults who choose the artist-lifestyle. Adult artists should be held to the same standard as accountants, bricklayers, or other working-class heroes; they must be able to compete in the marketplace based on providing a desired service. We must instead use our limited funds to educate and expose our youth to the Arts; and the public schools are the best place to do this.

As someone with strong ties to King County’s artist community I’ve often heard concerns and accusations of biased grant and funding systems, favoritism, quid pro-quos, and a climate that rewards waste and upside-down priorities in the Office of Arts & Culture and the King County 4Culture programs; this has many people saying that if nothing else, a major audit is needed.


I believe that funding of the Arts with the aim of increasing children’s creativity is appropriate; and that the best way to expose children to the Arts is to do so through the Public School system. We can no longer afford to fund the lifestyles of a few elites at the expense of our children’s education. It’s time to cut this waste and invest our tax dollars in our children.

The Office of Arts & Culture recently released a letter citing several studies supporting our belief that “greater involvement in the arts in middle and high school associates with higher level of achievement and college attainment, volunteerism and political participation.” – James Catterall (download and read PDF of OOAC Letter)

The Office of Arts & Culture’s document supports my argument that we must return Arts to the Public Schools. However, I disagree that the money must first process through their office. I don’t believe that we should filter millions in tax payer money through the bureaucracy of the Office of Arts & Culture office so that we can eventually squeeze a few thousand dollars to the Public Schools. Let’s eliminate the middle man and get the money directly to the Public School Arts programs.


16 Responses to “Diana Toledo: Eliminate Arts & Culture, 4Culture; Put $ Into Public Schools”
  1. Bibi LeBee says:

    This Stranger post sums it up. Perhaps her brother will donate his recent $5,000 award from 4Culture to a public school’s art program.

  2. Guest says:

    Cheers for Diana Toledo! Especially in light of her brother’s recent award. It’s obvious that they can benefit from the system if they go along to get along. But Toledo recognizes that although the offices do some good works, that the priority should be our children.

    • Bibi LeBee says:

      What she fails to mention is that both offices dedicate funding and staff resources to increasing arts accessibility in public schools. In 2003, 4Culture partnered with ArtsEd Washington to create The Principal’s Project, which impacts all 19 of King County’s public school districts. http://www.4culture.org/education/

      The Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs began the Arts Education partnership in 2007, to ensure all students have access to arts and music in public schools. http://www.seattle.gov/arts/_downloads/ArtsEdPartnerInitiative.pdf

      There is more to the cultural industry than arts education for children. These two agencies provide far more to the region’s vitality than their support of arts and music in the schools.

    • Matt says:

      What she’s talking about is illegal under state law. Even if it weren’t, this is a wrong-headed idea supported only by fallacious logic and half-truths. “Children, not elites!” is a lazy and cynical political ploy by an unimaginative candidate to distract the voters from the reality of the situation. It’s a slight variation on the same tired script Republicans have been using for years.

      OACA and 4Culture are effective and beloved organizations. That is why the state legislature moved this year to secure 4Culture’s long-term existence. Diana Toledo is a career bureaucrat who doesn’t even understand the basic facts of the position she’s advocating. She resorts to flinging mud at an imaginary class of “cultural elites” because she lacks the vision and skills to lead.

      Give me a break, “Guest”. And give me anybody but Toledo.

  3. Paul de Barros says:

    “Choosing” between children and the arts is an idiotic, imaginary binary. This woman is a danger to the community and should be called out for the idiot she is.

  4. Guest says:

    Bibi LeBee is being dishonest. It looks like the grant that she states David Toledo received is actually a grant for the Charity that David volunteers at, and is to buy equiptment for the free youth programs it offers. Let’s be sure everyone is getting the full story.

    Additionally, I think it takes courage to stand up for our kids, knowing that yes, it may mean that people in her own family might not get grants in the future.

    Keep fighting for our familys, communities, and kids Diana! We love you!

  5. Learnthelaw says:

    Aside from those recruited by the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs to spit “talking points”, the majority of people on the street agree with Diana, let’s fund arts programs in schools and stop paying for adults who want to live on government supported grants. If your art is something people want, then you will be able to make a living at it. If not, then you have no right to make me pay for it with my tax dollars. I’d rather my taxes go to certified school teachers and safe and secure programs.

    As for it being illegal (?). The RCW funding the 4Culture program (which states money raised can’t be used for school programs (idiotic), is over 2 years old and thus can be changed by the Legislature (as is very common). As for the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Mayor can take this money at any time and use it to contract with the public schools.

    The idea of defunding a program that basically gives the same money to the same people year after year will make “those” so-called artist furious with the thought of their “free-lunch” being cut off, but for those parents among us we see the real choice is between funding faulty programs or inspiring our kids. I’m choosing my kids and I’m voting for Diana Toledo!

    • Matt says:

      David, you either have no idea what you’re talking about or you are deliberately distorting the facts to fit your ridiculous narrative.

      It is simply not true that your tax dollars are paying for “adults who want to live on government supported grants”. Nice sound bite; but it’s not the truth. Unless you spend a lot of money staying at hotels in King County, your tax dollars do not in fact fund 4Culture. And that state law that says this funding can’t be redirected to the schools? It was just renewed–passed comfortably in both chambers, and signed by the governor two weeks ago. SB 5834. Look it up. Your facts are wrong, again. Learn the law, indeed.

      Nobody here is convinced by your silly sloganeering or your obviously planted blog comments. You accuse others of parroting talking points to distract from the fact that your argument consists of nothing more than flimsy talking points. Vibrant arts and heritage programs benefit everybody in King County, including parents and their children. They strengthen our communities and build our economy. If you choose not to participate, that doesn’t make those who do elitists. That kind of name calling is offensive and juvenile. It’s sad to see that you have so little respect for the voters. Seems to me that if the majority of them actually did agree with your candidate, she might have mustered more than 31%. Diana Toledo is not equipped to lead at this level, and the majority of the people on the street obviously know it.

  6. Bill says:

    Her idea of directing the money to the public schools to teach art and culture sounds good, but when the money in the schools dries up–which it has–what’s the first thing they cut? Art and culture programs. I personally think that these programs ultimately reach more kids when there in the public schools and I sincerely think Toledo means well, but in our current economic time, I can’t see arts programs surviving the knife.

  7. Mr Baker says:

    The state already decided what to do with that money, SB 5834 was passed into law. Diana Taledo might be interested in the facts she so clearly is missing, it is not up to the city or county what happens with the hotel tax. The state decided, talk to the state about it.
    Good luck with that, too. It only took 8 years to get the last bill passed.

    Dissolving 4Culture would not make those funds magically available to spend on whatever the mayor of Seattle and the King County Exec wanted.

    Get a clue.

  8. Mr.Cluezo says:

    Actually, the legislature just extented the Lodging tax another two year. This was an underhanded way of doing business, as voters should have been able to have a say as to allowing the tax to end (as we were promised it would) or extending the tax in order to fund 4Culture. So yes, it is the “law” right now, but will again be up for review and/or alteration by the legislature in 2013. What Toledo is saying is that the Executive needs to put pressure on the legislature to either allow the Lodging tax to expire or to rewrite the law (which the Legislature can do after 2 years) so that the Lodging tax can also be used to fund arts programs in Public Schools (currently the Lodging tax as written prohibits the money given to 4Culture to pay for arts in Public Schools). Badly written legislation, Toledo is on track and has the write idea.

    • Matt says:

      You don’t have your facts straight. What a surprise.

      The lodging tax, which is paid by tourists, was not going away regardless of what happened in the legislature this year. Only the car rental tax was set to expire. King County was in favor of legislation that would have extended the car rental tax in order to fund an expansion of the convention center, among other things. 4Culture was a part of that package. That bill did not pass, and the car rental tax will expire as promised.

      The package that DID pass (with bipartisan supports in both chambers) did not include funding for the convention center and did not extend the car rental tax or any other taxes.

      The only mystery here is whether you’re deliberately twisting the facts to get your clueless sister elected or if you genuinely don’t know any better. Either way, do your homework.

  9. Mr.Cluezo says:

    Errr. has the RIGHT idea.

  10. Frankie says:

    hmmm….David Toledo also received a $1,000 Small Sparks grant for Unified Outreach, in order to have the children write a 16 page newspaper.


    The City investigated and got their money back.

    David needs to read Diana’s statement above:
    ‘ If our children’s school is lucky enough to have one of these programs teaching Arts onsite, the program and the instructor quality cannot be guaranteed.’ …And it seems that integrity may be an issue.

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