December 3, 2010 - 7:04 PM
This week, shortly after the Erie County Legislature voted to restore funding to local cultural institutions, libraries and urban youth programs, County Executive Chris Collins immediately went on the defensive, casting the legislators' move as irresponsible and suggesting that they believe "money grows on trees." That response triggered a flurry of Facebook comments from those in the local cultural community, wherein the county executive was compared to well-known villains like Ebenezer Scrooge, Snow Miser and, naturally, the Grinch.
So just for fun -- as a teaser to my Sunday column on the next steps in the budget debate -- here's a rumination on Collins' cultural philosophy, with sincere apologies to the institution of poetry and to the late, great and clearly inimitable Dr. Seuss:
Every Who down in Buffalo liked culture a lot.
But Chris Collins, who lived just north of Buffalo, did not.
The man dismissed culture, the whole institution.
He considered supporting it wealth redistribution.
It could be that his life's not artistically rich.
It could be, perhaps, that his vision's off-pitch.
But I think the most likely reason of all
May be that his knowledge is pitifully small.
Our council of lawmakers sees culture more clearly,
For they have not treated it quite as severely.
On Tuesday, they voted to restore its money,
And changed the grim forecast to partially sunny.
But there Collins sits, on his Rath Building perch,
Prepared to connive his way out of this lurch
By wheeling and dealing and threatening vetos,
Swatting arts fans away like so many mosquitoes.
"They're mounting their plays!" he said with a glower,
"They're painting and sculpting! They've got way too much power!"
He slithered and slinked, his head nearly spinning.
"I must find a way to keep culture from winning!"
So he thought up a lie and he thought it up quick,
The old "Democrats raising your taxes" trick.
Now Kevin Hardwick and his Republican fellows
Should view Collins' statement as a last desperate bellow.
Change scene, to the theaters of our little region
Where the Christmas productions now running are legion,
The Whos hard at work with their props and their actors
And crowds sending gales of applause to the rafters.
And, oh! The money those crowds are spending!
On restaurants, on parking and all manner of vending.
Sure, our local economy's stuck in a sputter
But without the arts it's aimed straight for the gutter.
Now the Grinch -- err, Chris Collins -- continues his stressing
That the arts are no better than window dressing.
"The cupboards are bare!" he declares, not admitting
The gigantic surplus on which he is sitting.
And what of our unbalanced subsidy culture?
Big bucks to Bass Pro, not those artistic vultures?
To Collins these arguments fall by the wayside
In a "plan" for the future where culture is freeze-dried.
It's time the government got on the arts train:
Our cultural leaders are the ones in the fast lane.
Few Whos hold out for a big change of mind
From a man who would rather leave artists behind.
But this Grinch, as a dude, is really quite smart
In some matters of shrewdness and business -- not art.
It's not that his brain is two sizes too small.
It's his stubborn refusal to listen at all.