For better or worse, culture is a commodity here in New Mexico. Municipalities such as Santa Fe, Taos and even Silver City have done much to capitalize on their cultural strengths. This has improved the quality of life of city dwellers in countless ways, both tangible and intangible. Albuquerque, unfortunately, is still struggling to catch up.
On Election Day, Bernalillo County voters will be asked to vote for an increase in the gross receipts tax of 3/16 of 1 percent (or less than a penny for every five dollars spent) to fund the Quality of Life Initiative.
Yeah, I know. Who wants yet another tax? Well, there are good taxes and there are bad taxes, and we believe this is one of the good ones.
This aptly named initiative is designed to create a stream of income, about $30 million per year, to hundreds of arts organizations in the county, from tiny nonprofits to our biggest museums so their programming can be expanded. These funds will be managed by the county through a county-appointed Cultural Advisory Board.
The initiative sounds a lot like the city's existing 1 Percent for the Arts program, but the two programs are really designed to be complementary. The 1 Percent for the Arts program focuses on providing funds for permanent public art projects. The Quality of Life Initiative, on the other hand, focuses on almost entirely on programming.
Here are a few examples. It'll allow public libraries to remain open in the evenings. It will provide for free admission to the zoo for school groups. It'll allow organizations like the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the Tricklock Company, the Atomic Museum and the National Dance Institute to expand their educational programs for kids. In general, it will create a richer, better-funded cultural environment and make the arts more accessible to everyone within our county. The legislation sunsets in 10 years, at which time it will be placed on the ballot again for voter re-approval.
Even if you don't take advantage of any of this programming yourself, the initiative is good for the economic health of our county. We endorse it.