Armstrong, Lewis chosen for city council leadership

The Rapid City Council on Monday shot down a measure to restore funding to a local non-profit that supports more than a dozen area arts organizations.

The proposal, motioned by Councilwoman Lisa Modrick, would have covered a loss of $24,000 that the Allied Arts Fund faces under Mayor Steve Allender's 2020 budget proposal for Rapid City. The motion was defeated 4-2, with only Modrick and Councilman Bill Evans voting in favor of it.

Council members Becky Drury, Lance Lehmann, Laura Armstrong and Ritchie Nordstrom all opposed the measure, with John Roberts, Greg Strommen, Chad Lewis and Darla Drew absent for the vote.

As a result, Allied Arts and groups it supports will either have to make due with less money or increase their fundraising efforts next year.

"I think we should just leave it the way it was proposed by the mayor," Drury told members of the group shortly before the vote. "I would just challenge you all to go out and fund-raise more, and with that also keep up the good work." 

Allied Arts is under agreement with Rapid City to manage its arts contingency fund for the purpose of investing in local performing and visual arts groups. It currently donates to 16, four of which — the Rapid City Municipal Band, the Rapid City Ranger Band, the Dakota Choral Union and the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra — are guaranteed funding by local ordinance.

In 2020, the contingency fund is proposed to be budgeted a total $75,260, down from $99,450 in 2019. Although the group supplements the contingency by raising funds of its own, there is concern within the local arts community that the loss of city dollars could have a severe impact.

Speaking during the public comment period of Monday's budget hearing, Municipal Band director Don Downs said the city's arts scene is as strong an asset as its public parks and recreational opportunities.

"I believe it is vital to support each other so that we can continue to offer a community that is a vibrant place to live," he said. 

Members of several other groups that receive Allied Arts funding made similar pleas to little avail.

Allender and several members of the council pointed out that the arts spending as whole is not being cut. As in years past, arts and culture are projected to make up roughly 1 percent of the city's general fund expenses in 2020 at approximately $700,000.

Both the Dahl Arts Center and the Journey Museum are projected to receive more in city funding under the current proposal. Allender has said that the two city-owned buildings are being prioritized because they are overdue for maintenance.

A majority of council members present on Monday agreed with that notion, despite Modrick and Evan's outspokenness. Modrick said the cut could have been avoided by using some of the $800,000 in miscellaneous revenue that the city projects to take in next year.

"This city was built upon aesthetics and the arts," Evans said.

Rapid City has until the end of September to adopt a budget. A final vote on the current budget proposal is scheduled for next Monday's council meeting.

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— Contact Matthew Guerry at matthew.guerry@rapidcityjournal.com

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