Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SCFD, a Public Policy Success Due to Compromise, Civic Unity and Public Service

In a speech at Mayor Hancock’s award ceremony for the arts on November 27, I described why the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) has maintained voter support in four elections since 1988 that created and renewed the district, including the latest in 2016.

Denver’s district is unique in its regionalism, its broad funding distribution and frugal administration. Many areas of the country have tried and failed to create a similar district, most recently Seattle’s cultural advocates lost an election. Having helped create the district and worked on its many elections since the mid-1980s and observed the challenges that other areas around the country and state have faced, I believe three values distinguish the Denver metro area: its civic and cultural leaderships willingness to compromise, the ability to unify and the commitment to public service.

2017 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture
Acceptance Statement by Floyd Ciruli, Recipient of the Leadership in Arts Award

Thank you Mayor for the recognition. The audience is full of people who have helped during the 30 years of campaigns that have created and sustained the SCFD — an organization that has made this region such a standout in cultural vibrancy, access and educational opportunities that the entire country envies.

Some in the crowd are members of our cultural organizations’ volunteer boards, some manage the institutions and many are the campaign professionals that ensure voters know where to locate the SCFD on crowded ballots and why it’s worthy of their support.

I have had the good fortune to work with them in promoting the district for many years. They share a couple of important values. And as a new generation steps up to provide the leadership for the district, let me describe these values.

Compromise – In every year since the creation of the SCFD, a willingness to work together and compromise as we adjust the act has been a high point of the district from its creation in 1988 through the renewals in 1994, 2004 and, most recently, 2016.

Compromise is essential. We are a diverse community — from geography, to constituencies, to cultural preferences. I thank our team, especially our mayors, legislators and business leaders, for coming together and supporting the final proposals and legislation.

Civic Unity – And that highlights the second value, which is civic unity. Most recently, a SCFD-type proposal failed in Seattle’s King County, a progressive and prosperous community, primarily because they lacked civic unity. The Seattle Times opposed it, as did some vocal county leaders.

From our first visit with the Metro Mayors Caucus in 2014, that quickly pledged its support, to securing support from the county commissioners and chambers, the region’s civic leadership that pulls together for important projects is a significant asset.

Public Purpose – Finally, in every SCFD election cycle, I conducted an early poll. It asked 40 or 50 questions, but one was more important than the others. And, if it received a positive response, we could set the campaign strategy and get to work. Many of you know the question because I’ve talked about it often, and that is the favorability test.

Our cultural organizations, especially the best known, have sky-high positive reputations — higher than our universities, our sports teams and our political leaders. I believe that it reflects not only the popularity of culture, but the organizations’ multiyear, day-in and day-out commitment to providing access, education for children and families, and accountability.

As long as we continue the willingness to compromise, the ability to unify and the commitment to a public purpose, the SCFD will be around as long as Denver is around.

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