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Sam Hoyt on cultural funding cuts

New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. Buffalo News file photo / Derek Gee.

Much more to come on Erie County Executive Chris Collins' decision last week to slash funding for all but 10 local cultural groups. But I wanted to post some comments made today by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt at a press conference protesting yet more funding cuts (this time from the New York State Council on the Arts) to local arts education groups. Here's what Hoyt had to say (audio of Hoyt's comments is also posted above):

As a state assembly member who represents a good portion of the city of Buffalo, I can say that it appears to be an assault on the city. I did an inventory of those organizations whose funding was cut and I’d say about 95 percent of the organizations who received funding cuts were in the city of Buffalo. I hope that the mayor of Buffalo and that the county legislators who represent the City of Buffalo will stand up and express their outrage as well. Again, there isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t acknowledge that during tough times, we all have to tighten our belts. As we said about the main topic of this discussion today, when New York City is receiving virtually 100 percent funding and the City of Buffalo is receiving a 69 percent cut, that’s unacceptable.

Secondly, on top of that, the dramatic, draconian cuts that Mr. Collins has proposed for these arts organizations is the most short-sighted thing I’ve seen from this county executive, and there’s been a lot since he became county executive. Why? Because we’ve watched, over the years, our city struggle. We’ve watched the manufacturing base leave, we’ve watched our economy in a downward spiral. We’ve watched the population flee this city. And one of the most consistent and steady and stable, positive forces in the City of Buffalo is its extraordinary arts and cultural environment. It’s not just recognized here in this room; it’s not just recognized in New York State. It’s recognized nationally and internationally.

That a city of our size can have the incredible inventory and collection of magnificent arts and cultural organizations, large and small, large and small, is really something that we need to embrace, celebrate, promote and invest in. And to divest now, as has been done at the county level and at the state level through these arts in education programs, is at the very least short-sighted, at worst disastrous. Because we’re recognized as an extraordinary center of a healthy and vibrant and prospering arts and cultural community. And to strip that away, which is what you do when you cut the funding? The age old question of, 'Whoever the last one out is, please turn out the lights,' will be answered.

--Colin Dabkowski



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