COLUMN: Arts center an excuse to spend money

The report was presented to Cornwall city council Monday that the city, vis-a-vis the taxpayer, should spend $11.7 million on an expansion of the civic complex for an arts center. This arts center, combined with the cost of the civic complex, would cost between $400,000 and $600,000 per year to operate. A deficit on top of the deficit that exists operating the Benson Center and the civic complex. A deficit that is covered by those taxpayers again.

The report’s plan is to spend $11.7 million to lose an average of $500,000 per year. The $11.7 million will have to come from somewhere, likely financed. Since the Progress Fund interest has been spent for the foreseeable future, the servicing of that debt will fall on the taxpayer as well.

Nowhere does spending that kind of money to lose money every year make sense.

The city’s arts survey was flawed from the start as the survey failed to asked the key question that proponents did not want answered. Do the residents want or need an arts center? Without a firm answer of support, the project in any way, shape or form should not proceed.

If there has been such a groundswell of support from the residents, why has no one credible tried to start an arts center? That question is easy to answer, because it will lose money. Businesses and individuals won’t invest in something that has no hope in even breaking even. That is akin to going swimming but tying an anchor around your waist before you jump in.

To progressives on city council though, it does not need to make money. It is for the arts and for culture. If it loses money, they don’t have to pay for it, the taxpayers can pay for it. Will the progressives on council make the tough cuts to the outside agency funding to make up for the increased deficit?

If council wants to go through with this pie-in-the-sky arts center, some pragmatism might be in order.

The city already operates Aultsville Theater, along with municipal-owned spaces and the salons that were mentioned in this report. In addition there is plenty of vacant space in existing buildings in Cornwall. Cornwall Square, across from the civic complex, has a lot of vacancies as well. Before proceeding with $11.7 million in spending, test the waters with existing spaces.

The report stated the salons in the civic complex would be used in the new arts center. If the arts are so important, why is the city not running arts programs in the salons already?

Also mentioned in the report there is a place for Aultsville Theater as the new center would not have a main theater. If that is the case, why are existing assets not being used? Could it be because there is not enough support from the residents to do so?

The report given to council is tailored to a specific and flawed path set forth by the progressives on council. The plan is just an excuse to spend money the taxpayers of the city can ill afford.