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Mon, Oct. 14

City Council hands finance review for arts to 'alter ego'

PRESCOTT – As of this week, the Prescott City Council will have an "alter-ego" in the community to help with its decisions on performing-arts contributions.

By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the council approved an agreement with the Prescott Area Arts and Humanities Council (PAAHC) to help screen and recommend events that need the city's financial help.

In explaining the proposed agreement to the council, City Attorney John Moffitt said PAAHC would operate as the city's "designated arts entity" in the community or the "alter-ego" of the council. "They would make recommendations on who should get funding, based on our budget," Moffitt added.

The agreement turns over to PAAHC the authority to solicit and screen applicants for the money the city allocates each year to the performing arts. However, Moffitt and several council members stressed that PAAHC would not be the final authority on the matter. The organization would make recommendations to the city manager on which organizations should get the city contributions. The city manager would then recommend to the City Council.

"Everybody needs to understand that the council would still have the ultimate authority," Councilman Bob Bell said before the vote.

And that appeared to be fine with PAAHC. A number of members of the organization were in the audience Tuesday. None spoke during Tuesday's meeting, but PAAHC members previously voiced support for the agreement.

After the meeting, PAAHC President John Tannous, who is also director of the Smoki Museum in Prescott, said the organization plans to get started as soon as possible on the process for considering the $20,000 that the city currently has in its budget for performing arts.

First off, Tannous said, PAAHC will "go public" with the process by sending out press releases and by contacting local organizers of events about the availability of the money and the criteria for applying.

PAAHC also will appoint four members to a five-member panel that will consider the applications. The mayor will appoint the fifth member.

Tannous said the four members that PAAHC will appoint will come from the business or arts communities. He stressed that the panel would be independent, and not a part of the arts council.

After the panel is in operation, Tannous said the organizations probably would have at least a month to get their proposals together. Although three or four organizations had already applied to the city this past spring for financial help, Tannous said the process would start anew with the PAAHC agreement. Any organizations still interesting in getting city financial help would have to re-apply, he said.

The idea for a recommending organization for arts contributions originated from the council's budget discussions this past summer.

For the past several years, the City Council has grappled with decisions on which organizations should get city financial help. Originally, the proposed city budget for the current fiscal year did not include a contribution to the performing arts, but the council ultimately decided to include the $20,000 allocation. That led to a discussion about turning over recommendations for the contributions to a local non-profit group.

Earlier this month, the City Council approved the change in city policy that provided for an agreement with a non-profit organization to take on the responsibility. The decision this week followed through on that policy change. Although officials had mentioned PAAHC as the likely candidate for the agreement, the policy did not mention a specific group.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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