The average artist in Waterloo Region lives below the poverty line, earning $25,000-$30,000 a year.
Tonight, at Waterloo Regional Council, Creative Enterprise Initiative (CEI) — a group supposedly formed to help those artists and small arts-culture groups — will ask for yet another $141,000 grant to help it go out of business.
During 2016, CEI, has a projected budget of $317, 205 that it plans to spend phasing out what has been a failed experiment.
Out of that amount, CEI plans to this year spend more than $250,000 employing six staff and a variety of writers.
In addition, since it was formed in 2010, CEI has spent about $1 million and, in that time, has been given $450,000 by Kitchener taxpayers.
Now, imagine how many local artists and art-culture groups could have benefited from that obscene amount of money.
At Monday’s Kitchener council meeting, supported by a small group of poorly organized local artists, I unsuccessfully urged councillors to reduce CEI’s final grant by $30,000 — down from $45,800 to $16,800. I’m convinced that other CEI opponents in our arts-culture community were no-shows at council because, looking over their funding shoulders, they were worried about offending the community’s CEI business elite.
Lobbied intensely by those business burghers, council rejected the move in a 6-5 vote. The six also threw out a subsequent motion from Coun. Paul Singh that the CEI grant be chopped by $15,000.
I can accept the vote results but have difficulty swallowing the fact that certain councillors who supported the CEI grant have, in past years, lambasted the group for a lack of transparency and accountability to council and voters.
Voters please note:
Those who joined me in voting to reduce the CIA grant: Couns. Paul Singh, Scott Davey, Dave Schnider and Zyg Janecki.
Those voting in support of the grant: Mayor Berry Vrbanovic along with Couns. Sarah Marsh, John Gazzola, Kelly Galloway-Sealock, Bil Ioannidis and Yvonne Fernandes.
Despite those votes, I hope more members of our creative community find the time and courage to show up at Waterloo Region council tonight to oppose an additional $141,000 grant for CEI.