Talks about the city of San Diego’s library-and-recreation-center-starved budget continued while I took a break for this annual desert spectacle.

I wanted to highlight another issue as these discussions move forward.

When Mayor Jerry Sanders unveiled his budget last Thursday, the big word he and City Council members used was “priorities.” Closing a $56.7 million deficit and restoring unpopular cuts to the Fire Department required choices that in a vacuum look horrible: Who wants to defend a decision to close branch libraries citywide for all but 18 1/2 hours a week?

The mayor’s budget shows that he prioritized the Fire Department over libraries and recreation centers. But he could have made other cuts instead.

Sanders isn’t reducing the $6.4 million the city plans to spend on arts funding next year. The arts money helps finance dozens of nonprofits and programs, including the La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Opera Association and San Diego Air and Space Museum. But conservatives such as City Councilman Carl DeMaio and former mayoral candidate Steve Francis have argued that the city can’t afford arts during a budget crisis. To put it in context, proposed cuts to the Library Department total $7.4 million, including 77 positions.

We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

I asked the mayor about arts funding at Thursday’s press conference. He posited that arts creates more jobs.

LD: Any cuts to arts and culture?

JS: No.

LD: Why no cuts there instead of libraries?

JS: Because we’ve cut them each year and they’re responsible in arts and culture for about 20,000 jobs. There’s a multi-ripple impact on that.

LD: Cuts to libraries each year, too.

JS: Right. But there’s not the same job numbers.

Last week, our own Andrew Donohue and KUSI’s Bob Kittle talked about arts funding on KPBS’ Editors Roundtable. They said arts backers often lobby vociferously for their cause while other interest groups don’t push as hard.

That might not be the case this year. San Diego Public Library Foundation Board Chairman Mel Katz emailed us and said the foundation would rally against the library cuts.

“I want you to watch the type and number of advocates we have and the ‘noise’ we make,” Katz wrote. “It is going to be an interesting fight and I am betting that when we are done libraries and Park/Rec will not have any reduction in days or hours.”

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    This article relates to: Arts/Culture, Government, News

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.