The Maryland General Assembly is entering the home stretch of the 2011 legislative session. Right now your elected officials are making some tough fiscal decisions, trying to decide what types of public funding should be cut in order to meet our state's constitutionally mandated balanced budget requirement.
One of the many items on the chopping block is the Arts Preservation Fund, which provides modest but important amounts of state aid for local arts initiatives. If the arts are important to you, take a moment to read this action alert from Maryland Citizens for the Arts and contact the key delegates on the budget conference committee today.
Here are some tips for contacting your elected representatives:
- Be polite. Whatever you might think of politicians, they have a tough job, so be nice and thank them for doing it.
- Say what you want up front. Before you even get into the text of your message, name the bill or budget item and what you're asking of the policymakers (e.g., "Support HB 0000 - The Puppies Are Cute Act of 2011")
- Personalize it. Borrowing someone else's talking points are fine, but you should always include something from your direct experience. That way it sounds less like a form letter.
- Be specific. Don't just say that you support HB 0000 because puppies are cute. Say exactly why you think puppies are cute. If you like, it never hurts to back up those sorts of claims with research.
- Repeat the ask. Right as you close the letter, say again what it is that you want the policymakers to do.
- Include your name, address, and phone number.
Generally speaking, it's better for you to contact your own representatives instead of officials from some other district. But on something like the state budget, the most important legislators are the budget conferees, so they're the ones you want to target.
Finally, remember two things:
- Elected officials always pay attention to communications from constituents.
- If they don't hear from you, they think you're happy.
Below is the letter I just sent to the budget conferees regarding funding for the arts.
March 29, 2011
To: Hon. James Proctor, Jr.; Hon. Adrienne A. Jones; Hon. Michael E. Busch; Hon. Norman Conway; Hon. John L. Bohanan
Subject: Please Concur With Senate Position on Arts Funding
I am writing as a proud Maryland resident and supporter of the arts to urge you and your fellow legislators to concur with the State Senate's position on the Arts Preservation Fund for FY 2012.
As a longtime resident of Baltimore City, I can see firsthand the impact that the arts have made on the life of our community. Over the past decade, dozens of young and not-so-young artists who in the past would have chosen to leave Baltimore for other cities, have chosen instead to remain and produce art right here in Maryland. Many of these artists receive support from the Maryland State Arts Council and other public sources of arts funding.
Witnessing so much art being produced and consumed in the Baltimore region and throughout Maryland is not only thrilling for me as someone who appreciates the arts. It is also exciting because of its potential economic impact.
Here are a few examples from around the State.
1) The Station North Arts District in Baltimore has transformed an economically depressed area of Baltimore City into a thriving hub of activity. The art being produced in Station North is drawing residents who otherwise never would have thought of visiting that community and spending their money there.
Two weeks ago I attended a play produced by Single Carrot Theatre, an acclaimed dramatic ensemble that chose Maryland as its base. Before the show I dined at a restaurant across the street from the theater. The restaurant was packed with theatergoers. Single Carrot receives support from the Maryland State Arts Council.
2) The Avalon Theater in historic Easton has become a destination location for nationally acclaimed musicians and for their fans. I recently traveled to Easton from Baltimore to watch a Canadian band perform at the Avalon, and was extremely impressed by the venue and by the local restaurant at which my friends and I dined prior to the show. Through the Avalon Foundation, the Avalon Theater also receives support from the Maryland State Arts Council.
3) In February I attended the launch of the Frederick Film Festival, which is gaining increasing recognition for the quality of the films it annually screens. The reception and concert that marked the festival's launch were hosted by Brewer's Alley, a Frederick dining institution. The Frederick Film Festival receives support from the Maryland State Arts Council.
State funding for the arts not only helps create a thriving, culturally vibrant Maryland with creative opportunities for all. It also helps to stimulate local economies and generates jobs for creative people who wish to contribute to the health of our state.
I deeply appreciate your past support of arts in Maryland and I call upon you to show the same spirit of support in this fiscally challenging year. Please vote to concur with the Senate and keep $500,000 for State arts funding in the budget.
Thank you for your kind consideration of this request and thank you for all you do for Maryland.
Kevin Griffin Moreno