Their vote was 6-0 after protests from nearly 50 public speakers, some of whom described the power of cultural activities to reduce delinquency and crime.
Commissioner Robb Pitts, agreeing with some statements, introduced the vote to restore arts funding to $1.47 million instead of appropriating nearly a third of that amount to rent the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail in Union City.
“Comments were made that it’s ironic that we would seek to cut the arts in order to provide for more prison beds,” he said. “Someone else said, ‘It’s easier to build strong men than it is to repair broken ones.’ It is not right to reduce the funding for our very vibrant arts community for the sake of this jail.”
Injustice was inherent in the proposed cuts, Commissioner Joan Garner said, calling for a quest to find $111,750 a month for the jail from other budgets.
“This takes money from an unrelated area,” she said. “What about raising revenues or fines to make offenders pay for their own jail? After all, what do they say? They get ‘three hots and a cot.’ Why are you taking money from the arts? Is it because it begins with an A and it’s the first item on our budget list?”
Commission William “Bill” Edwards said there is inequity in how the funds are geographically distributed.
“People in the suburbs who pay taxes, too, get little or nothing from this arts community,” he said. “The same children that need to be saved in Atlanta need to be saved in south Fulton and north Fulton. I’ll support this motion, but not without reservations. It’s not equitable and it’s not fair.”
The board will revisit budgeting for the jail rental, which will alleviate overcrowding at the county facility, at its Sept. 4 meeting.