Bill White's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your​ ​Personal​ ​Connection            
Somerville​ ​is​ ​fortunate​ ​to​ ​have​ ​a​ ​rich​ ​cultural​ ​community.​ ​Please​ ​tell​ ​us​ ​about​ ​two​ ​instances​ ​in​ ​which​ ​you​ ​have had​ ​personally​ ​significant​ ​experiences​ ​with​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​and/or​ ​culture​ ​in​ ​Somerville.   

It is difficult for me to limit my instances to two. I was an elected official during the first Somerville Open Studios. It is hard for me to describe how impressed I was with the eclectic talent that I observed as I tried to visit as many spaces as possible during that first weekend. Likewise, going to the first Porch Fest or the first Honk Fest were also very important to me. I always try to attend as many events as possible to show my support to the community, but also to have a good time and experience so much creativity.

City​ ​Investment​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Arts         
How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​ensure​ ​government​ ​continues​ ​to​ ​support​ ​the​ ​creative​ ​community?​ ​As​ ​an​ ​elected​ ​official​ ​how would​ ​you​ ​ensure​ ​the​ ​Somerville​ ​cultural​ ​community​ ​receives​ ​the​ ​funding​ ​it​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​driving​ ​force​ ​in​ ​the city​ ​and​ ​region?​ ​At​ ​what​ ​financial​ ​level​ ​should​ ​the​ ​city​ ​invest​ ​in​ ​the​ ​creative​ ​sector?​ ​Do​ ​you​ ​support incremental​ ​increases,​ ​and​ ​if​ ​so,​ ​at​ ​what​ ​percent?​ ​​ How​ ​might​ ​this​ ​relate​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Arts​ ​Council​ ​and​ ​staffing?​ ​Do you​ ​believe​ ​that​ ​investment​ ​in​ ​infrastructure​ ​for​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​in​ ​Somerville​ ​will​ ​prove​ ​valuable​ ​in​ ​sustaining​ ​and growing​ ​our​ ​creative​ ​ecosystem​ ​and​ ​cultural​ ​economy? 

Under state law, the Board of Aldermen cannot add funds to the budget of any department. We can only cut from the budget that is presented to us by the Mayor. Therefore, we do not make determinations with regard to percentage increases, etc. I have always supported any increases in the City’s budget related to the arts as I believe it is an important contributing factor to Somerville’s reputation and growth.

Cultural​ ​Infrastructure​ ​and​ ​ArtFarm      
Three​ ​years​ ​ago,​ ​Somerville​ ​started​ ​the​ ​planning​ ​process​ ​to​ ​redevelop​ ​the​ ​former​ ​waste​ ​transfer​ ​site​ ​into​ ​a​ ​site that​ ​would​ ​support​ ​the​ ​physical​ ​infrastructure​ ​needs​ ​of​ ​both​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​and​ ​urban​ ​agricultural​ ​community.​ ​​ Do you,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​candidate,​ ​support​ ​this​ ​effort?​ At​ ​this​ ​site?​ ​And​ ​if​ ​so,​ ​what​ ​can​ ​you​ ​do​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​it​ ​becomes​ ​a​ ​reality? Considering​ ​that​ ​the​ ​City​ ​views​ ​itself​ ​innovative,​ ​which​ ​aspects​ ​of​ ​ArtFarm​ ​do​ ​you​ ​find​ ​innovative​​ ​​in​ ​a​ ​way that​ ​would​​ ​​reinforce​ ​the​ ​culturally​ ​progressive​ ​nature​ ​of​ ​our​ ​changing​ ​City? ArtFarm​ ​has​ ​received​ ​1.4​ ​million in​ ​outside​ ​investment​ ​—​ ​do​ ​you​ ​support​ ​further​ ​City​ ​investment​ ​to​ ​make​ ​Artfarm​ ​a​ ​permanent​ ​cultural resource​ ​for​ ​Somerville?​ ​In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​ArtFarm,​ ​what​ ​are​ ​other​ ​strategies​ ​and​ ​means​ ​can​ ​you​ ​imagine​ ​that would​ ​further​ ​develop​ ​and​ ​support​ ​the​ ​cultural​ ​infrastructure​ ​of​ ​the​ ​City? 

When the request was made to the Board of Aldermen to accept the grant for the ArtFarm, I voted to accept the grant and was in favor of the program. Outside of approving funding requests, it is difficult to see how the Board of Aldermen could take any measures to insure it becomes a reality. I am certainly open to suggestions on how to help. To be honest, no one has contacted me about this issue and I would certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss it in detail and ways in which I might be of assistance.

Supporting​ ​a​ ​Diverse​ ​and​ ​Inclusive​ ​City                                                      
Somerville​ ​is​ ​a​ ​diverse​ ​and​ ​thriving​ ​community.​ ​How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​support​ ​creative​ ​community​ ​to​ ​build connections​ ​that​ ​maintain​ ​and​ ​support​ ​the​ ​racial,​ ​ethnic,​ ​and​ ​socioeconomic​ ​diversity​ ​that​ ​makes​ ​this​ ​City thrive?​ ​How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​ensure​ ​that​ ​immigrants​ ​play​ ​pivotal​ ​roles​ ​in​ ​shaping​ ​our​ ​cultural​ ​infrastructure?​ ​Do you​ ​see​ ​immigrants​ ​getting​ ​priced​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Somerville​ ​as​ ​a​ ​problem​ ​—​ ​and​ ​what​ ​are​ ​your​ ​ideas​ ​to​ ​retain​ ​our immigrant​ ​communities,​ ​and​ ​thus​ ​sustain​ ​our​ ​diverse​ ​culture?  

This is an excellent question. I certainly would participate in any bridge building activities that could promote connections between the arts community and our diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. In Somerville’s current governmental operating structure, however, I can think of no greater organization to undertake this important role than the Somerville Arts Council. In fact, during the next budget process, I will inquire of the Arts Council the measures that it has undertaken to make these important connections and its long term plans in that regard. As demonstrated by my vote to increase the affordable housing inclusionary zoning requirement to 20%, I am quite concerned about people being priced out of Somerville. I will also support an increase in the affordable housing linkage fee to bring additional funds into the affordable housing trust fund to be used to help finance the creation of affordable housing units and the purchase of existing 2 and 3 family homes. One of the ways of sustaining our diverse culture was my vote in favor of the Trust Act. I also introduced resolutions before the Board of Aldermen to support the extension of the Temporary Protective Status program and in support of the Dream Act.

Public​ ​Art​ ​and​ ​Creative​ ​Placemaking            
Somerville​ ​does​ ​a​ ​wonderful​ ​job​ ​of​ ​supporting​ ​art​ ​and​ ​artists​ ​in​ ​public​ ​spaces​ ​through​ ​its​ ​many​ ​festivals​ ​and civic​ ​events;​ ​how​ ​will​ ​you​ ​ensure​ ​this​ ​continues​ ​and​ ​reflects​ ​the​ ​diverse​ ​community?​ ​How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​expand upon​ ​the​ ​“temporary”​ ​events​ ​and​ ​create​ ​more​ ​permanent​ ​works​ ​embedded​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Somerville​ ​landscape? Would​ ​this​ ​look​ ​like​ ​a​ ​traditional​ ​percent-for-permanent-art​ ​program,​ ​tied​ ​to​ ​development,​ ​similar​ ​to Cambridge?​ ​How​ ​could​ ​you​ ​leverage​ ​the​ ​expansive​ ​private​ ​development​ ​occurring​ ​in​ ​the​ ​City​ ​to​ ​invest​ ​in sustaining​ ​arts​ ​and​ ​culture? Space​ ​to​ ​Rehearse,​ ​Create​ ​and​ ​Live The​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​affordable​ ​studio​ ​space​ ​and​ ​housing​ ​makes​ ​it​ ​hard​ ​for​ ​artists—not​ ​to​ ​mention​ ​working​ ​class families​ ​and​ ​immigrants—​ ​to​ ​stay​ ​in​ ​Somerville.​ ​How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​keep​ ​artists​ ​of​ ​all​ ​backgrounds​ ​in​ ​the​ ​city and​ ​provide​ ​the​ ​infrastructure​ ​necessary​ ​for​ ​them​ ​to​ ​thrive? What​ ​specifically​ ​can​ ​the​ ​City​ ​accomplish​ ​and how​ ​can​ ​it​ ​leverage​ ​private​ ​development​ ​to​ ​provide​ ​more​ ​live​ ​and​ ​work​ ​spaces​ ​for​ ​artists?​ ​​Do​ ​you​ ​support current​ ​initiatives​ ​including​ ​work/live​ ​housing​ ​for​ ​artists​ ​and​ ​fabrication​ ​zoning​ ​to​ ​retain​ ​creative​ ​spaces? 

As I discussed above, any City funding of festivals, events, etc. is done through the budget, largely through the Arts Council. I would certainly be open to examining methods to fund additional programs. During this election campaign, I was really struck by the number of groups who have been impacted by increasing rents. In additional to those in the traditional low income category, we have also heard from municipal employees who are unable to afford housing in Somerville, people of moderate income who have lived here and are being forced out by increasing rents but do not qualify for any governmental programs, folks being displaced in areas under development, seniors and members of the arts community. The Somerville Community Corp. also has engaged on the 100 Homes Initiative to purchase 2 and 3 family homes in existing neighborhoods to provide affordable housing there. The City’s affordable housing trust fund should be receiving a substantial infusion of funds as a result of the new commercial buildings that are being proposed. Certainly, the fund should look at ways to fund appropriate affordability programs for all of these groups.

One way to leverage development for live and work spaces would be through incentive zoning in certain areas. I do support zoning that would include work/live housing and fabrication zoning. 

Youth​ ​Engagement              
Engaging​ ​students​ ​with​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​in​ ​school​ ​and​ ​out​ ​of​ ​school​ ​is​ ​essential​ ​to​ ​educating​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​child.​ ​While​ ​the Somerville​ ​school​ ​curricula​ ​provide​ ​access​ ​to​ ​many,​ ​we​ ​need​ ​more​ ​participation​ ​in​ ​arts​ ​education.​ ​Somerville’s​ ​out​ ​of school​ ​youth​ ​arts​ ​organizations​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​service​ ​thousands​ ​of​ ​kids,​ ​yet​ ​struggle​ ​to​ ​raise​ ​the​ ​resources​ ​needed​ ​to meet​ ​student​ ​demand.​ ​How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​invest​ ​in​ ​arts​ ​education​ ​for​ ​students​ ​of​ ​all​ ​ages,​ ​both​ ​inside​ ​and​ ​outside​ ​of school​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​all​ ​youth​ ​in​ ​Somerville​ ​have​ ​a​ ​connection​ ​to​ ​the​ ​arts? 

To the extent that funding for arts programs would be handled through the schools, then the School Committee would play the dominant role by funding those items in its budget that would be submitted to the Board of Aldermen as part of the City’s overall budget. In all of my years, the Board of Aldermen has never cut the School Department budget. With regard to funding outside of the School Department budget, then I believe the Arts Council would serve as the mechanism. I would certainly be amenable to discussing any funding requests in that budget that was designed to increase arts education for our children. To be honest, one of my greatest regrets as a student in the Somerville School system many decades ago was my lack of any real experience in any of the arts. I especially regret the lack of ever learning to play any musical instrument. I think that is one reason why I am so happy to see the El Sistema program in the Somerville Schools and would welcome similar programs in other areas of the arts. 

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