Voices: Protecting Minnesotas legacy

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December 5, 2011
By: Tom Hoch
Tom Hoch
I’ve always been proud to be from Minnesota. We’re widely admired for our passionate affection for the arts, green spaces, lakes and rivers and the desire to take full advantage of all of these assets. We’re also recognized as well-educated and hardworking, perhaps offsetting our reputation for reflecting the coolness of our winter climate. In particular, our broad support for Minnesota’s natural and cultural resources throughout these difficult economic times is positioning Minnesota to be a leader in maintaining a high quality of life now and for the future.

In 2008, Minnesotans with wildly different interests came together for the common good to amend Minnesota’s Constitution to increase the state’s sales tax by 3/8ths of a percent and dedicate the money to the outdoors, clean water, parks and trails — with 19.75 percent of this amount going for arts and cultural activities. The resulting Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment protects our drinking water, restores wetlands, prairies and forests, protects fish, game and wildlife habitat, supports parks and trails and preserves our arts and cultural heritage.

In approving this amendment, voters spoke clearly about the value they place on our quality of life. These amenities are central to us as Minnesotans and they should be available for all members of both this generation and the next.  

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment is the largest arts and culture amendment in American history and represents a historic change in how states fund the arts. The amendment was 17 years in the making and now Minnesota has this funding in the state constitution for 25 years.

If you read the paragraph outlining the guiding principles of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, you’ll see that “[I]nvestments will substantially broaden access to performances, exhibits, programs and resources; foster long-distance participation through broadcasting, the internet and other technologies; actively engage Minnesotans in their history in creative and imaginative work; and create opportunities for all Minnesotans to get directly involved as artists, historians and critical thinkers in their communities.”

Given our long tradition of support for the arts, including the actions of voters in 2008, I’m not surprised that a recent Star Tribune poll of 807 adult Minnesotans of varying backgrounds, revealed that 77 percent are opposed to the idea of diverting these dedicated funds to pay for a new football stadium. This survey demonstrates both that people value the arts in our state and that they don’t want those used funds for another purpose.

A historic coalition of arts, conservation, sportsmen and civic groups worked together to achieve a common goal for the common good. I am encouraged that the majority of our citizens and many of our lawmakers continue to protect the funds that have been dedicated to protecting Minnesota’s arts, culture and natural resources. In so doing, they are preserving a vital part of what makes our state unique, inspiring people to move to her and remain and strengthening our businesses and our economy in real and ongoing ways.  
There are other options for funding the new stadium that do not include the use of Legacy funding. Let’s continue the important work we’ve already achieved in ensuring a robust and lasting legacy for the Minnesota we love.

Tom Hoch is president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, the nonprofit owner of the historic Orpheum, State, Pantages and newly developed New CenturyTheatres, devoted to enriching the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the Twin Cities. Please visit www.HennepinTheatreTrust.org for more information. In full disclosure, Hennepin Theatre Trust is one of hundreds of groups that has received funds from the Legacy Amendment, in our case, through a grant administered by the Minnesota State Arts Board.