Earlier this month, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections released the official election results for Issue 8, the levy that renewed support for our agency for the next ten years. We were stunned and humbled that the issue passed with 75.2% of voters saying “YES” to arts and culture in our community, and we say "Thank You!" to each person who supported the campaign.
The list of those responsible for this overwhelming victory is long, starting with the terrific arts and culture organizations that enrich our community with their work every day. We’re also grateful to the many volunteers, starting with the campaign’s co-chairs and steering committee, who gave their money and their time to ensure that this issue succeeded.
Let’s dig into that 75.2% a little bit. With thanks to our friends at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University for plotting the results on a Cuyahoga County map, it is clear that voters overwhelmingly said yes to continued public funding for arts & culture all over Cuyahoga County. Here are some items to note:
- Voter turnout was not unusual for an off-year election at 38.5% with 323,799 ballots cast; however, 96% of those who cast ballots voted on Issue 8.
- All 59 municipalities in Cuyahoga County voted to approve Issue 8, with a rate of passage between 62% and 94%.
- Drilling down to the 975 precincts that make up those municipalities, only 9 did not support Issue 8 with a majority of votes.
The results of Issue 8 reinforce that:
- CAC-funded organizations are strong advocates and partners. By continuing to remind their audiences, members, and volunteers about why public funding matters to their work, our cultural partner organizations demonstrated their strength and their reach. We will continue to support their efforts through consistent outreach and engagement strategies that demonstrate the importance of infusing public funding into arts and culture in our community.
- Listening and learning is CAC’s everyday work. In a campaign year, we devoted more energy and time to getting out into the community, educating the public about what CAC is and why it matters, and listening to community concerns. But there is more work to do. Though only a handful of precincts did not approve Issue 8, we can't move the work of our agency ahead without listening and learning in every community in Cuyahoga County. We need to be intentional about finding meaningful ways to connect with area residents on a broad scale.
- CAC helped create the conditions that made this success possible. By supporting a diverse group of organizations working throughout the County – by encouraging those organizations to connect with their communities in meaningful ways – by building relationships with stakeholders in each of our County’s 59 communities – by collecting and disseminating good data about the arts and cultural sector – and by continually living our values around transparency, accountability, and stewardship of public resources, we delivered on the promises made in the last campaign and gave the public confidence that this is a good public investment.
So what do these results mean for Cuyahoga Arts & Culture’s future work? Cuyahoga Arts & Culture has two sets of constituents: the organizations that we fund, and the residents of our County.
- For organizations, we note that shifts in cultural participation provide a significant opportunity for organizations to grow the benefits and value that all community residents derive from and ascribe to the arts by reinventing the roles that they play in communities. We want to find the best ways we can support organizations as they adapt to these changing circumstances.
- For residents, we want to continue to build support for both public funding for arts and culture and for the work that arts and cultural organizations do every day. And we want to listen to our neighbors and find real ways for the public to help shape our work. We are a public agency, after all, and the public’s voice needs to be heard as we carry out our mission: to strengthen the community through the investments that we make in arts and culture.
We are grateful to have 10 more years to do our work. And we are going to need a community-infused plan to help us determine what that work should be. So, let’s get started!
We hope you will join Cuyahoga Arts & Culture as we embark on a process to plan for our future. We are assembling a great team of national and local experts who will help us think about our future, and we are planning lots of different ways to capture your ideas – the ideas of the community – that will help chart our future course.
How can you get involved? Start by signing up for our occasional e-mails and reserve your seat at one of our listening sessions, which begin in February 2016. And get involved with the cultural organizations that you help to fund by utilizing our events calendar, a resource that demonstrates the breadth of our cultural sector.