Dallas Council Debates $190K in Arts Funding

Dallas City Council meeting
Dallas City Council meeting | Image by Noah DeGarmo/The Dallas Express

The Dallas City Council argued for over an hour during its Wednesday budget meeting about whether to “reallocate” $190,000 within the Office of Arts and Culture.

Council Member Chad West put forth an amendment to “reallocate $190,000 from contractual art services to cost[s] associated with moving the Office of Arts and Culture headquarters from the Majestic theater to another location” and direct those funds toward “contract services to provide grants to arts and cultural organizations.”

The rest of the council largely rejected West’s proposal and moved forward with the original plan to use the funding for the Majestic Theater, which was supported by OAC Director Martine Elyse Philippe.

The council’s vote followed more than an hour of arduous deliberation. During the discussion, Philippe said she plans for her department to leave the Majestic in a matter of years rather than immediately.

Some council members previously understood the plan to be that the office would vacate the Majestic relatively soon.

“Yes, our plans have changed,” she told council members.

Council Member Paula Blackmon said Philippe’s messaging made her “a little confused.”

“Are you moving, or are you not?” she asked.

“We will be moving but not within the bounds of this biennial budget,” Philippe answered. “Not in these two fiscal years.”

Philippe shared with the council that $58,000 of the $190,000 will go toward “maintenance needs,” including the replacement or repair of a Majestic elevator that leads to OAC offices.

She said $90,000 will be used to “reconfigure” the facility while the remaining $42,000 will be spent on parking or bus stipends for OAC employees.

However, Philippe’s plan faced resistance from Council Member Cara Mendelsohn, who called it “egregious.” Mendelsohn was one of four council members who voted in favor of West’s amendment.

She said the funding suggested by West would be “extraordinary” and “an extremely meaningful gift” for small arts organizations. Mendelsohn argued that renovations of the Majestic should come from Building Services rather than the OAC itself.

Ultimately, Philippe’s plan was granted the $190,000 in the final budget approved by the council on Wednesday.

“I would hope we would give her the benefit of the doubt,” said City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “She has a grasp of what she believes the organization needs and has an understanding of what the arts community needs at a broad level.”

According to the proposed budget, the OAC will also increase its support for “cultural equity” throughout the next year. The department will use taxpayer funds to facilitate celebrations during observances like LGBTQ Pride Month, as covered by The Dallas Express.

Later in the meeting, council members passed a $4.63 billion budget for fiscal year 2023-24 and an increase in the property tax burden to the tune of $120 million, as reported by The Dallas Express.

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