The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Art Walk finances: Sustainable or unsustainable?

The Downtown Art Walk will go on, but so will questions about how it plans to pay its bills to the city.
The Downtown Art Walk will go on, but so will questions about how it plans to pay its bills to the city. Ray_from_LA/Flickr

UPDATE: Jan Perry's communications director responded to my inquiries and explained that the $2,200 came from the City Council "special events subsidies funds." Each council member's office receives $100,000 from the budget that it can spend to support special events, and this was the first time that Downtown Art Walk has fallen into that category. Perry's office said that they chose to support the event while Art Walk is figuring how to handle its future financial needs. Basically, they're helping to buy it some time.

Of course, this does still mean that the City Council is using city money to pay city fees. City Council members obviously have control over their own funds. But I think it might make sense in the future if the city takes this all into account and presents Art Walk with a smaller bill.

BlogDowntown has the lowdown on how Art Walk, something of a monthy LA institution and lately a roving party, will deal with getting hit for almost $9,000 in fees from the city:

After seven years operating underneath the radar of the city's special events permitting process, the Downtown Art Walk got its first big bill on Friday when it was put on the hook for $8,731 in estimated fees for this week's event.

The Art Walk non-profit and those who participate in the event will only have to raise half that total, with City Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry each committing to contributing $2,200 to cover October's expenses.

This is kind of shocking. My question is whether Huizar and Perry drew these funds from discretionary funds or dug into their own pockets. My understanding was that city council discretionary funds had been effectively returned to the city, in order to avert a budget shortfall. 

However, if these funds still exist, then all Huizar and Perry did was pay Art Walk's bill from the city...with city money! I'm not sure this is a sustainable strategy for Art Walk to continue to cover its costs.

What would make more sense would be for Art Walk to collect fees from local merchants and allow them to be treated as tax-deductible donations to a non-profit entity. This might not add up to $9,000 a month, however. 

So Art Walk is going to need to take a closer look at how it finances itself. Or it may be walking right into the sunset.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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