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April 9, 2010, by
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It’s a huge week for arts funding in Toronto

BeautifulCity founder Devon Ostrom talks to Late Night in the Bedroom about the history of the billboard tax, the logic behind its implementation, and how some city councillors would like to hijack the revenue for other uses.

by Michael Wheeler

It’s all come down to the next week. As covered over the past few months on this website, it’s been a long haul for the BeautifulCity Alliance: after years of depositions, presentations, reports, and finally votes by City Council, we’ll have our answer when final approval is given to the city budget over April 15th and 16th.

Here’s some of what’s at stake:

  • Whether the visual pollution created by billboards will be counteracted by arts funding for the public sphere, or whether a billboard tax becomes like parking tickets and stripper licenses a new revenue stream for the city’s tax base.
  • Whether or not the original intent of the tax as presented to Council, recommended by City Staff, and supported by Torontonians by a 5-1 margin in a recent EKOS poll is actually reflected in the budget.
  • Whether or not the city meets its Lastman-era commitment to move per-capita arts spending from $18 to $25. Vancouver spends $19 per capita, Montreal spends $32 and New York spends $54.
  • Whether or not Toronto City Hall is a place where a grassroots, decade-long groundswell of dedicated engagement to provide a long-term sustainable approach to improved public space and arts funding is possible. Do vested interests have the ability to hijack community-based initiatives to in order to lower their tax rates? Where does the real power lie at City Hall?

Demonstrating support and momentum behind Budget Chief Shelly Carroll’s motion to dedicate the billboard revenue to the arts will determine the answer to these questions. Things are starting to heat up: The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and The National Post all recently ran pieces about this motion, and Mayoral candidates are showing a willingness to step into the fray. Councillor Carroll’s Facebook status indicates she will be relying on the Web 2.0 political class to demonstrate support for her stand:

Caroll Facebook

What can you do?

Go to and follow the simple to follow instructions to indicate to Councillors on the Executive Committee that they have your support to use the billboard tax for its intended purpose to enhance public spaces with art.

Props to these Councillors and/or Mayoral Candidates who have already indicated their support:

Councillor Shelley Carroll, Budget Chief
Councillor Joe Pantalone, Mayoral Candidate
George Smitherman, Mayoral Candidate
Councillor Joe Mihevc
Councillor Janet Davis
Councillor Howard Moscoe
Councillor Paula Fletcher

(Just because they’re listed here it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be contacted and congratulated for their principled stance.)

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One comment:

  1. Nancy Kenny says:

    Good luck, Toronto!