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King County Council to 4Culture: We're taking the reins

Mural artist Zoer paints a mural of a car crash on Friday, September 8, 2017, along the Sodo Track in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Mural artist Zoer paints a mural in September 2017 along the Sodo Track in Seattle as part of a project for 4Culture.

The King County Council has voted 6-3 to exert more over control over 4Culture, the public development authority that funds arts, culture and heritage organizations in the county. 

Council Chair Joe McDermott characterized the vote as a hostile takeover, but supporters believe it will lead to more equitable funding across the country.

Councilmember Larry Gossett says believes 4Culture has not adequately funded people of color, working people, or residents of unincorporated King County. 

"Those are the things that give me pause and concern from the criticism we're receiving from the large majority of people who are contacting us."

Hundreds of people have rallied against the move since it was first announced earlier this winter. 4Culture officials didn't hear about the proposal until the day before it was made public. Opponents of the move crowded council chambers three times to express their opposition.

Despite emotional pleas from council opponents Jean Kohl-Welles, Claudia Balducci and McDermott, the six-vote super majority in favor of the measure means it's unlikely that County Executive Dow Constantine could veto the plan.

Under the measure, each council member will now be able to appoint a member to 4Culture’s board from his or her district. The council also will be empowered to approve or reject the 4Culture budget and to approve the appointment of 4Culture's executive director. Current 4Culture head Jim Kelly will step down later this spring.

Arts advocates are most worried about ongoing funding for 4Culture, which was established more than a decade ago when King County didn't have the money to maintain it as a government department. Kelly and others lobbied state lawmakers for several years to ensure a dedicated stream of money from King County's lodging tax. Starting in 2021, that will amount to $13 million a year.