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Local Arts And Culture Leaders Share Their Wish List For New Mayor

David Malmuth, a local developer, and Dalouge Smith, president and CEO of San Diego Youth Symphony, talk to KPBS about the arts community's wishes for mayor.

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As the November election nears, many San Diegans are voicing their concerns and hopes for a new mayor and city administration. The third part in our series of interviews focuses on what arts and culture groups want to see in our city's new leadership.

What’s working and what's lacking in terms of the city’s support of arts and culture? And what should the city be doing to grow and sustain the arts?

Two leading members of the arts and culture community, Dalouge Smith, president and CEO of San Diego Youth Symphony, and David Malmuth, a local developer and proponent of the I.D.E.A. District, share their thoughts with KPBS.

Currently, San Diego has a half-cent transient occupancy tax (TOT) committed to funding arts and culture. And there is a big push by the arts and culture community to increase this TOT to one penny. Though, according to Malmuth, this is "still not enough to sustain the vibrant arts culture that we need. There should be a steady increase in (TOT) percentage over the next five years."

While funding for the arts is important, our guests say they'd like to see a stronger civic commitment and dialogue — between government, science, business and creative sectors — on why the arts are important.

According to Malmuth, the new mayor should be somebody who sees arts and culture "not just as an extra frill, but as an essential component of our economic development strategy. It's gotta be somebody who will stand up and say 'this is where our future lives.'"

Smith agrees we should integrate the arts into San Diego's overall economic plan, not just in terms of tourism promotion, but also in how the city is portrayed to companies. For example, emphasizing the benefits that the local arts and culture community provides to employees and their families. This is necessary not only to attract talent, but also to keep talent here in San Diego.

"Our community needs to be equally interested in attracting creative and culture sector workers and entrepreneurs at all stages of their careers," Smith said. "Can San Diego be a place where you make a creative career instead of just starting one?"

Malmuth believes that San Diego and its new mayor could take a cue from other cites, such as Denver and Philadelphia, that have succeeded in integrating the arts into civic life. Denver continues to position itself as a creative city, and for the past 20 years, the city has supported its scientific and cultural organizations with a stable, voter-approved one-tenth of 1 percent sales-and-use tax (or one penny on every $10 spent). In 2008, Philadelphia's mayor created the cabinet-level position of chief creative officer to oversee the city's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

Smith added that while San Diego has adopted a public art master plan, it has had slow implementation. "When we think of other cities, such as San Francisco and Chicago, public art gives people a place to converge and share. We need to continue to expand and invest in this area," says Smith.

Both agree that no matter who the next mayor is, this person needs to continue to champion the 2015 Balboa Park Centennial, "an opportunity waiting to be seized, and one that needs inspired leadership," Malmuth said.


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