letter from the director

celebration_round


Done!  It finally happened.

Last week, the Washington State legislature passed Senate Bill 5834, which continues lodging tax funding for 4Culture’s programs. After seven long years of trying, the legislature finally said “yes” to arts, heritage and preservation at the end of the most difficult legislative session in recent memory. It was the last bill passed before the legislature adjourned.

What a roller coaster ride! Several times this session bills supporting arts and heritage fell one vote short. Those bills all contained additional projects using restaurant and car rental taxes that would have been available immediately.

SB 5834 simply funds arts and heritage in King County utilizing future existing, non-expiring lodging taxes. It was resurrected last Tuesday by Senator Ed Murray as a last minute save for arts and heritage support in King County, after failing earlier in the session. Senator Murray added workforce affordable housing to the mix, and brought it to the Senate floor where it passed by a vote of 33-8. On Wednesday it went to the House, where it passed by a bipartisan vote of 62-34 at 9:35pm. Then the legislature went home.

On Monday, we were dead. On Wednesday night, our seven year journey had finally ended. Quite a turnaround. I’m still convincing myself I didn’t dream this.

There are so many people who played important roles in this long-term effort that I can’t possibly credit them all, but there are several people who deserve special acknowledgement  Senator Ed Murray. What can I say?  He has worked on this as long as I have. Ross Hunter, our Champion in the House of Representatives and like Senator Murray, a long-time advocate. Senator Scott White worked tirelessly to try to pass the King County economic development bill, which ultimately fell one vote short, but wouldn’t have gotten even that close without Senator White’s effort. Speaker Frank Chopp, who plays a large role in deciding which bills make it to the House floor. Senate Majority leader, Lisa Brown was very supportive behind the scenes.

And King County Executive Dow Constantine. Someone asked me before the session began, what would be different this year? If you have been at this for six years, going on seven, what makes you think a bill will pass in 2011?  The answer was King County’s active involvement.  The Executive and Council made securing 4Culture’s future one of their top legislative priorities in 2011.  County Council and 4Culture Board Member Larry Phillips made numerous trips to Olympia to testify and phone calls to legislators to advocate on behalf of 4Culture over the last several years, but particularly this year. Councilmembers Jane Hague, Bob Ferguson, also 4Culture Board members, and Councilmember Phillips gave us great strategic advice.  And Dow Constantine.  The Executive’s leadership was abundantly evident, without which 4Culture would still be grasping for solutions.  To them all, thank you.

Finally, you. You were the difference. We heard from hundreds of citizen advocates who wrote emails, made calls, attended hearings.  It felt like we were all on the rollercoaster together.

I’ve never seen anything like it. I learned this year that when individuals work together they can move mountains. We are humbled by your actions and we thank you, each and every one.

Jim Kelly