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Inside Politics: How art drives the Idaho economy

A great thing about Idaho is the variety and gusto of our community life. Twelve months a year in almost any corner of Idaho you can delight in the unique élan offered up by civic organizations through activities, lectures, concerts, craft fairs and all manner of enrichment education for young and old. Friday and Saturday, Twin Falls residents and visitors will enjoy our annual Art in the Park festival. There’ll be wine-tasting and jazz 5-8 p.m. Friday evening and a special half-day of Kids’ Art in the Park Saturday beginning at 8:45 a.m. The rest of Saturday will offer a host of activities for all ages: food, music, arts and crafts.

Twin Falls’ elementary, middle and high schools all enhance their students’ lives through music, creative writing and the performing, tactile and visual arts. It doesn’t stop there. CSI has similar robust programs. For many students elective classes are the magnetism that keeps students drawn toward their overall educations. For adults and seniors, attending their children’s programs and exhibitions are a major component of their lives. Much of CSI’s adult enrichment programing is geared toward improving adult and senior lives for enjoyment or new earning opportunities through development of art and craft talents and skills.

Our schools and college interact intimately with The Magic Valley Arts Council and other art-oriented organizations. Our community’s sizeable involvement in and even dependence upon art is often overlooked because it is so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives. Yet, art is as much a part of communication, commerce and industry as industry, commerce and communication are integral to art.

Humanity’s greatest minds have underscored art’s essentiality to civilization. Historians, anthropologists and sociologists generally agree that, after the struggle to survive, protect and provide comfort to ourselves and families, the next priority is largely recognized as our pursuit of art and culture in their broadest definitions.

Winston Churchill’s response to calls for art budget cuts to fund the war was reportedly, “Then what are we fighting for?” Echoing Friedrich Schiller’s declaration “Art is the daughter of freedom.” Albert Einstein implicitly linked art and creativity, stating, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Steve Jobs famously said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

The vitality of the arts in Idaho and nationwide have been threatened for years under Republican-controlled congresses or Republican presidents. This year’s threat was direr than in the past, given complete Republican control of both houses of Congress and the White House. The president’s budget initially proposed complete defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Institute of Museum and Library Services. Also threatened was funding for the Smithsonian Institute and National Museum for the Arts.

This would have been one of the most cynical ideologically driven budget amputations in modern history. The outrageousness stems both from its clear political targeting of intellectual expression, which, lamentably, congressional Republicans have long regarded as a threat, and secondly because of the insignificance the cuts would have on the federal budget or deficit. These four organizations combined cost a mere $971 million (0.025 percent) of 2016’s $3.899 trillion federal budget. That’s 0.09 percent of the $1.1 trillion discretionary portion of the federal budget. Putting this in perspective, 2016’s annual NEA budget was $148 million — approximately the same estimated cost of providing security for New York’s Trump Tower.

Fortunately, this spring’s negotiations to prevent a government shutdown reached a budget compromise keeping these organizations funded with tiny short-term budget increases. This stopgap political victory, however, should serve as a warning to Idahoans — yes, Idahoans.

The outrageousness of these proposals drew international attention. Many developed countries provide comparatively generous public arts funding. I enjoyed the benefits of this approach while living in New Zealand and Australia briefly in the 1990s.

“The Guardian,” an English paper, took note of Idaho’s potential plight in a June 7 story detailing how our state would be affected if draconian cuts are re-introduced in the next budget. Last year Idaho received $822,000 from NEA. The Idaho Commission on the Arts received $787,000 — the balance going to several small local grants. Our predominately Republican legislature added $810,000 of arts funding. That foresight deserves acknowledgement, but should also be recognized as a pretty lean allocation for an endeavor documented to have a 65-times economic multiplier effect on local economies (according to figures shared by Stuart Weiser, deputy director of The Idaho Commission on the Arts).

In 2010 that multiplier produced an economic impact of America’s nonprofit arts totaling $135 billion. Very few government investments produce double-digit multipliers, let alone 65-to-1. Imagine the economic stimulus if Idaho doubled or tripled its investment in the arts? A 65-to-1 multiplier literally pays for itself and then some in under a year via revenues returned from the stimulus. That’s not trickle-down economics; it’s gusher outward economics with a potential to add revenues without increased taxation. It’s also the kind of investment that attracts businesses and industry to settle in Idaho.

I encourage you to join the fun at Art in the Park this weekend. While your family enjoys itself, consider contacting your state and federal representatives. Tell them how important art is to Idaho’s quality of life and economy. Encourage them to read up on the economics of art, and increase public investment in Idaho arts beginning with next year’s budget.

Letter: Want to help the climate? Shop locally

Conventional agriculture is hurting the local economy. The climate is changing and is increasing the rate and severity of climate-related disasters, like the Pioneer Fire.

The good news is that there is one simple way in which you can curb your personal carbon footprint. Buying local will decrease global warming by limiting carbon emissions. The average meal travels 4,200 miles to get here. That would be like driving from Garden Valley to New York City and back just to get a burger and some tots. Does that seem logical to you?

Aside from being illogical, tons of gas is used in the process. Fossil fuels contribute to global warming. Fossil fuels increases climate related disasters, like the Pioneer Fire. Growing vegetation prevents mass wasting like avalanches and rockfall. Idaho spends tons of money every year on retaining walls and other remedies to prevent mass wasting. Buying local will stabilize natural cycles like photosynthesis and therefore, keep you safe from climate disasters like the Pioneer fire or avalanches.

Have you ever heard the phrase: Vote with your dollar? You can literally vote the big businesses out of business by purchasing local goods. Without profit, these businesses will have no incentive to keep up their practices. Read! Check your labels and stickers for the "GMO-free label"

Tell your friends! Don't let the big companies keep you in the dark. Spread awareness.

Leah Nemeroff


Other View: I'm a Boy Scout leader. Here's what Trump doesn't get about loyalty.

I am a Cub Scout leader and, more important, a dad. As a leader, I work, along with other parents, to try to teach boys many valuable lessons in Cub Scouts, lessons that reinforce the “Scout Law” that says, “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” We emphasize the importance of faith, serving your community, honoring country and learning about nature and science.

And as parents and scout leaders, we try to model these traits for our kids.

It’s more than unfortunate that our own president has difficulty exhibiting these traits when he speaks publicly to a national gathering of the Boy Scouts of America. During Trump’s recent appearance at the National Scout Jamboree, he bragged about his electoral victory, he railed against “fake news,” he called out the past president for not attending a Jamboree, and mocked his former campaign opponent for her failure. (Shockingly, some Scouts in the crowd even “booed” the reference to Hillary Clinton.) He swore; he made references to the importance of being rich and of sexual innuendo.

This was not the place for this talk, to children who are supposedly there to learn about honor, kindness and reverence. It was the opposite of what we leaders are working toward.

Yes, the president did indeed speak of Scout values and rightly thanked the moms, dads and other volunteer Scout leaders who dedicate countless hours to make the joy of Scouting possible for our children. But my youngest Cub Scout could have watched that speech and realized that no Scout should think of Trump as a role model. Trump boasted, he preened, he whined, he threatened—and he spoke about the importance of winning. Win, win, win, he chanted, as if he were channeling the Great Santini character in the well-known book.

Last fall, during the presidential campaign, my son’s Cub Scout pack organized a mock election to teach the boys about the U.S. electoral process. Our “candidates” were two different candy bars and, as the campaign manager for one of the candy bar candidates, I made a speech extolling the virtues of its taste, ingredients and manufacturer. I jokingly told the assembled boys that voting for my candy bar would “Make America Taste Great Again.”

One of our Cub Scout parent leaders, who is an elected official, spoke to the boys about the importance of voting in our democracy. He then organized a number of rounds of voting by all the dens to demonstrate the differences between popular votes and electoral votes. (Cub Scouts, which is organized under the Boy Scouts of America, is open to boys ages 6 to 12; they are divided by school year into dens. All the dens meet together as a pack.)

Our Cub Scouts enjoyed this mock election and we leaders were pleased that we could find a way to teach an important lesson in civics during what was then appearing to be a divisive campaign season for the country.

And then this “speech” at the Jamboree.

I want my children and Cub Scouts in our pack to succeed in life—I want them to win—but not by sacrificing other Scout values such as honesty, trustworthiness, courtesy and kindness. Trump emphasized the importance of Scouts’ loyalty and said, “We could use some more loyalty.” But does he realize that loyalty is earned, not given blindly to those who hold a certain title or office?

Trump’s appearance at the National Scout Jamboree was certainly an honor granted due to his office. I have no objection to Boy Scouts inviting a sitting president to address the Scouts, as earlier presidents have done before. But now that Trump has disrespected the Scouts with his inappropriately bizarre performance, I urge the Boy Scouts’ leadership to state, unequivocally, that the president’s words and actions—and the unfortunate outbursts by some in the audience—set a poor example for the children we are trying to mentor into successful adulthood.

I imagine that the membership of the Boy Scouts tilts to the conservative side of the national spectrum. (Was Trump’s behavior what conservatives want to emulate?) I know there are diverse political beliefs among the parents of boys within my son’s pack. In our pack, we welcome diversity of beliefs, people and cultures.

I had respectful discussions about politics during last year’s election with a number of Cub Scout parents who hold different beliefs than my own. I am not searching for a political statement from the Boy Scouts, but I do feel that a forceful pronouncement about what makes a model Scout is warranted, especially in light of the president’s poorly delivered remarks at a Boy Scout event.

If I am to encourage my Cub Scout son to continue into Boy Scouts, I need to know that the Boy Scouts of America as an organization has the conviction and moral fortitude to oppose publicly divisive words and actions, no matter who the speaker is.