Editorials

Funding arts in Sacramento shouldn’t be so hard

Greg Alexander as Ebenezer Scrooge and Amy Kelly as the Ghost of Christmas Present star in B Street Theatre’s family series show. B Street is seeking $500,000 more from the city of Sacramento, which has already pledged $2.5 million to help it build a new theater.
Greg Alexander as Ebenezer Scrooge and Amy Kelly as the Ghost of Christmas Present star in B Street Theatre’s family series show. B Street is seeking $500,000 more from the city of Sacramento, which has already pledged $2.5 million to help it build a new theater. aseng@sacbee.com

B Street Theatre representatives will come hat in hand to the Sacramento City Council meeting Tuesday night seeking the final $500,000 for its long-planned $25.7 million theater in midtown.

The city already has committed $2.5 million to the nonprofit B Street Theatre in a forgivable loan. Whether the council approves the additional $500,000 – and we’re of mixed views – on one point we’re clear: Arts funding shouldn’t be this tough. With the economy rebounding, there’s money, at least for certain causes.

We support the arts. And we understand the competing needs for tax money, some more worthy than others. The cost of pensions will rise from $48 million this year to $80 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Council members have supported money for gang suppression, homelessness, park rangers, an ethics commission and an independent budget analyst. All come at a cost.

City and business leaders are funding a new downtown arena. That’s important for Sacramento’s future. So is theater. The city’s considerable lobbying corps will shell out big money for the best seats and luxury suites at the arena, the better to spread influence among legislators. Why not spread some to B Street?

Politicians raise millions of dollars by urging donors to contribute to nonprofits they support. Donors have given $4.2 million to Gov. Jerry Brown’s charter schools this year. At Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s behest, donors have given $672,000 to his pet causes.

Mayor Kevin Johnson persuades donors to give five- and six-figure sums to his causes. Surely, Johnson, Newsom and Brown could help raise $500,000.

Jerry Brown and Anne Gust Brown, who plan to move into the historic governor’s mansion, could walk to the new theater once it opens at 27th and Capitol. If Newsom succeeds Brown in 2018 and decides to occupy the mansion, his kids could get involved with B Street’s educational arm.

If B Street raises the final $500,000, construction would begin in the first quarter of 2016. If it can’t, other funding would be at risk. Arts funding gets at the question of how leaders see the future of the city. Darrell Steinberg, running for mayor, said he supports the loan. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, also running, did not respond to inquiries about her position, though her stand will become clear at the council meeting.

City Hall cannot be the source of all arts funding. The community must step up. But in a city that revolves around politics and money, finding $500,000 for a worthwhile cause should not be so difficult.

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