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Life in a cascarón

San Antonio, it’s a giant cascarón.

No it’s too early for Fiesta, we haven’t even been to the rodeo yet.

The cascarón was used as a metaphor for the City by District 5 Councilwoman Patti Radle, and its usage became a political football last week as Council debated allotting more than $819,000 in increased funding to 26 local arts groups, which would use the money to pay for 11 arts projects. The money is to be added to $2.4 million approved last year.

Now, for those people who hate the arts, here’s an insult to your injury. The City Council granted without debate $100,000 from the City’s Community and Visitor Facilities Fund to replace the roof on the San Antonio Museum of Art. And they accepted a $34,000 grant from the Texas Commission for the Arts to support five local arts agencies, plus another $2,300 to support the Cultural Collaborative’s Art in Education strategy.

Before the final vote, Radle moved to take $38,000 from an $88,000 “new collaborative program” to add funding to six arts agencies that had received cuts in 2004. Those agencies include Arts San Antonio, Gemini Ink, Centro Cultural Aztlán, San Anto Cultural Arts, the San Antonio Dance Umbrella, and the controversial Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, which once had to sue the City to get its arts funding restored.

District 1 Councilman Roger Flores, never one to be outdone by the likes of his arch-nemesis, Radle the Purple, made a grab for another $22,000 from the new collaborations fund to fund the Arts San Antonio and Magik Theatre Shakespeare in the Park series.

“Arts. There’s no definition. Everyone is entitled to their opinions,” Flores opined. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you’ve got 11 beholders up here.”

It’s more like beholden for Flores. He supports the placement of chain-only restaurants on the River Walk. For Flores, beauty evidently lies on the doorstep of Landry’s Restaurants, which recently opened a Rain Forest Café a few doors down from the Councilman’s own riverside eatery. The new jungle-themed cafe features a high-priced menu and Animatronic creatures that threaten to devour its patrons. It’s Diner-Tainment, and Roger apparently loves it as he has worked very hard to shoe them into the River Walk.

But that’s another matter.

District 9 Councilman Kevin Wolff, who has recently been spotted waving a dog-eared copy of the City Charter, while shouting “that’s not our job,” attacked the move to scoop an extra $819,000 from the aforementioned fund for the arts groups and projects that stand to benefit from the City. “Arts are exceedingly important in our community ... from an economic standpoint it brings value.”

Then, Wolff delivers the kicker: “I question our priorities.” Wolff says he did not like the process in which the 26 agencies and 11 projects were selected for funding, which leaves out “100 other agencies out there that are not funded.”

The bottom line is that Wolff “won’t support arts agencies not solely dedicated to arts.” This comes from the representative in the City sector that barely has any public art, and the art that is planned is slated for the airport. How often do they let us wander about in the terminals without taking off our shoes and strip-searching us?

That was a shot across the bow at Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, which has added politics to art, and publicly debates gay and lesbian issues in the community.

District 10’s Chip Haass also chimed in (they all invariably do) that he couldn’t support funding a neo-Nazi organization that wanted to paint swastikas on all the City’s stop signs, therefore he could not live with funding “agencies with ulterior motives other than the arts.”

Again, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

There was more debate, and then Wolff cast the lone “no” vote to allocate funding for the arts.

Radle summed it up with the metaphor about the City and the egg: “Why do the people like San Antonio? We would be the cascarón without all the confetti inside (without arts funding). We need to support/fund the arts.”

By Michael Cary

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