Tacoma voters will decide on a funding mechanism for arts programs later this year. Called Tacoma Creates, the measure aims to increase opportunities to participate in arts, culture, science and heritage programs, especially for youth. Proposition 1 will appear on the ballot in November. It calls for raising the sales tax by one 10th of one percent, expiring in seven years. Tacoma City Council voted to place the measure on the ballot during its June 26 meeting.
A number of citizens spoke in favor of placing the measure on the ballot. No one spoke in opposition to it. Carol Baarsma mentioned serving as a docent at the Museum of Glass. The institution has an outreach program that served 480 youth last year. Baarsma said that was all the budget would fund. Tacoma Creates could allow more youth to participate.
Her husband, former Mayor Bill Baarsma, is now president of the board of Tacoma Historical Society. The small non-profit has a small budget. Funding from Tacoma Creates would increase its stability, according to Baarsma.
“This will introduce youth to more cultural experiences,” said Lua Pritchard, executive director of Asia Pacific Cultural Center.
Chris Serface, managing artistic director of Tacoma Little Theatre, said 47 youth are enrolled in a summer drama program offered by his organization. About one third are receiving financial aid to cover the tuition. Tacoma Creates could allow more youth from low-income families to participate.
Councilmember Ryan Mello said Tacoma Creates aligns with many of the Council’s goals. “This measure hits on all of the focus areas.” Mello said much of the funding will go to neighborhoods around the city, as opposed to all going to cultural institutions downtown.
Councilmember Chris Beale said he was skeptical of the measure when he first heard about it, in part because sales taxes affect poor people more than wealthy people. He said hearing from arts advocates has changed his mind.
“It is always refreshing to see people come together for something positive,” said Councilmember Keith Blocker.