Arlington Green Party chairman John Reeder was taken to task in the Sun Gazette for his LTE criticizing the Artisphere as a white elephant project and recommending that the county shut it down. Reeder wrote back:
I neglected to mention that on top of this $800,000 loss is the expected $800,000 loss that the county government had already anticipated and budgeted. In other words, the Artisphere is now running a $1.6 million loss so far this operating year.
I appreciate the arts, but I appreciate learning and reading at our public libraries as well, and value homeless people having a roof over their heads and a daily hotmeal. I suggest that the county government could transfer park employees and maintenance funds now used at the Artisphere to repair and operate a closed and widely attended summer performing arts venue in Arlington—the Lubber Run Amphitheater.
Actually Reeder underestimates the Artisphere’s deficit. In a March 30, 2011 report on the Artisphere the County Manger reported that County Board had budgeted a $957,000 shortfall for the facility into its FY11 budget. In other words, it not only anticipated a $1 million shortfall, it expected taxpayers to pick up the tab. This was BEFORE it discovered an additional $800,000 operating loss in March.
While support for the arts is a laudable goal, asking taxpayers to subvent a $1.8 million deficit is anything but entertaining. The solution is to unload Artisphere from the budget and get a private philanthropist to pick up the tab. I thought privatization of public functions was all the rage these days. So why is Arlington County Board socializing the cost of a traditionally private function?