City Council Speech – 2016

City of Savannah, City Council Meeting, Thursday, December 22, 2016

(Start at :42 during the Ordinances – 2nd Readings for an industry-wide appeal to not cut arts and culture funding)


Mr. Mayor, Council Members:

My name is Patrick Kelsey, and I live in the 2nd district. 

Today, I come to speak for the arts and cultural industry of Savannah. 

In your fiscal year 2016 budget report, your vision statement states, “Savannah will be a safe, environmentally healthy and economically thriving community for all its citizens.” 

This, and your funding priorities developed to reflect citizen views and to guide your budget process clearly affirmed that the arts and cultural industry is good business

Today, we are now having the conversation about cutting funding with the potential phasing out of funding altogether.  Has citizen views changed in the last year?

By now you have made up your mind on how you’ll vote.  I can only hope what you do today and tomorrow will have a minimal impact on our industry, and all its citizens. 

If you need to raise the millage rates, for example, so be it.  Rates are significantly easier to manipulate than the health and vibrancy of an entire community. Also, do not forget without a strong arts and cultural industry you may not have much use for that $24 million cultural arts center when it opens. 

If the backbone to Savannah’s tourism is its rich history, architecture, and overall ambiance, then our industry must be considered the shoulders, and we have big broad shoulders. 

Savannah’s history has changed little over the last decades, but the increasing number of offerings has; and, that is, in large part, why more people visit every year. 

We have study after study from Americans for the Arts, Savannah Chamber of Commerce, Visit Savannah, and feasibility studies that we paid for.  But all reports lead to the same conclusion, the arts and cultural industry is just good business.  It warrants funding, it demands funding.  

Our industry is a magnet for discretionary dollars and goes to leverage other tourism dollars, to which you are all so proud of. 

Government funding also provides a “good housekeeping seal” for organizations that in turn attracts other outside funding and makes all this accessible to everyone regardless of age, race, creed, disability, or income.   

We need a master plan for our arts and cultural industry and as we are creative folk here, we don’t need outside consultants or studies.  Only solid savannah-based leadership.    

I understand clearly the challenge you face today.  And, I hope you  understand the challenges that our industry faces every day.  The city, in fact, needs to find the ways and means to increase funding in the future.  

Let us stop labeling this funding as an expense; and start calling it an investment, an investment that pays huge dividends, because the arts and cultural industry is just good business.

Thank you.