Why art instead of, say, police? "Safety services are a primary function of government," says mayor John Hieftje, one of the sponsors. "That's why we have a general fund. As far as human services go, our city contributes more than any in the state, and I think we should. But art is extra."
"Human and safety services millages are interesting and compelling ideas," says co-sponsor Christopher Taylor. "But Proposal B, the Art in Public Places millage, is a very small millage meant to replace a current program"--the "Percent for Art" program that funds art projects as part of capital improvement projects.
"The way it works now, if we have a new project in water, sewers, or streets, one percent is dedicated to art," Hieftje explains. "But the money never leaves [the funds for] water, sewers, or streets: the art has to serve the purpose of whatever the fund is." The controversial Herbert Dreiseitl water sculpture at City Hall, for instance, was primarily paid for with stormwater funds--and because it's fed by the building's stormwater system, it ran dry during last summer's drought.
If it passes, the 0.1 mill arts tax will cost the average homeowner $10.97 per year for four years and raise about $460,000 the first year. "Funds for this kind of thing are typically used for everything from installations to statues to murals," says Deb Polich, longtime director of Artrain and head of the Ann Arbor Arts Alliance. "The public arts commission already has fourteen projects under consideration."