Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Letter from president/CEO of PBC Cultural Council to County Commission: The Post is "irresponsible" and there were no "secret meetings"

The Palm Beach County Commission votes today on the proposed penny increase in the sales tax going on the ballot in November. The Post has done a real good job of "poisoning the well" so to speak about cultural organizations here in the County. Maybe in an effort to distance themselves from their handiwork they have two articles in support of the penny increase which includes funds for cultural organization. The articles are about Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson and Harry Howell at the Norton Museum of Art.

Hopefully their opinions aren't too late to be part of the debate.

Below is the letter written by Rena Blades, the president and CEO of the Cultural Council of the Palm Beaches, and she pulls no punches. You can read the entire letter written to the PBC Commission using this link.

The Post has taken an advocacy position against our cultural organizations instead of staying on the sidelines. Raising the specter of "secrecy" and "conflicts of interest" is clearly trying to influence public opinion. Below are 3 short excerpts from the letter written by Rena Blades:

"April 4, 2016

Dear Commissioners-

     The Palm Beach Post article of April 3, 2016 related to the portion of the sales tax initiative dedicated to cultural facilities has many inaccuracies, which I would like to clarify. 

     The article insinuates that secrecy and conflicts of interest may have tainted the planning and recommendations made by the Cultural Council for a variety of cultural projects that will be undertaken during the next ten years. Though the article implies that decisions were made in secret by a handful of self-interested people, nothing could be farther from the truth." [emphasis added]

[and. . .]

     "The reporting by the Post is irresponsible, both because of the inaccuracies and because of the facts left out, this despite more than six hours of meetings with Post reporters and sharing of hundreds of pages of information they requested including: tax returns, working papers, and survey results. When the Post requested meetings, cultural and business leaders were happy to meet with them and provide them with almost everything they requested."

[and. . .]

     "There were no secret meetings to develop the list of cultural organizations that might receive funding. The Council undertook a thorough Needs Assessment in a variety of areas, one of which involved future capital projects. A series of meetings then occurred to consider whether public funding, like strategies used elsewhere in the Nation, could and should be deployed here. Through those meetings and with the help of experts, a plan was developed. The Post reporters were welcomed to all meetings they requested to attend. Furthermore, Council Board meetings are publically noticed and the regional meetings were advertised widely.".