Why This Matters: On November 5, 2019, Mecklenburg County voters rejected a one-quarter of a cent sales and use tax to support parks, arts and education.
By Jeep Bryant
At various points during the referendum campaign, many of us were asked to speculate about what would happen if the voters said no. My reply was always the same. I said the team at the Arts & Science Council would wake up the next morning and get back to work on behalf of the organizations, artists and community we serve. And so we shall. But I also acknowledged that the disappointment would weigh heavily. And now it does.
The disappointment is rooted in the great potential we could see – to create a more dynamic, more equitable ecosystem for arts and culture throughout Mecklenburg County. That important work will continue, but without the extra speed and momentum the sales tax would provide. We will spend the coming weeks meeting with our supporters and partners, listening to all who wish to provide input, and working together to shape the future of arts and culture in this great community.
While we didn’t receive enough votes at the polls, we’ve been buoyed by the overwhelming support we received from so many of you. From the artists who hosted education forums to the cultural organizations who provided hundreds of volunteers, the referendum campaign was an inspiring team effort. It began with the leadership of County Commission Chairman George Dunlap and County Manager Dena Diorio, and quickly grew to include the support and passionate advocacy of Commissioners Susan Harden, Susan Rodriguez-McDowell, Mark Jerrell, Vilma Leake, Trevor Fuller and Ella Scarborough.
We also appreciated the support of Mayor Vi Lyles, City Council Members Braxton Winston and LaWana Mayfield, Congresswoman Alma Adams, School Board Member Carol Sawyer, N.C. Legislators Becky Carney and Kelly Alexander, Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox and so many elected officials who worked on our behalf.
Darrel Williams has been an incredible leader of the campaign, with support from Harvey Gantt, Carlenia Ivory, Hugh McColl, a diverse group of community leaders and campaign consultants Brad Crone, Aisha Dew and Patrick Sebastian. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Michael Marsicano, Charles Bowman and Walter Price for leading the fundraising efforts, and to Carroll Gray for representing us in North Mecklenburg.
ASC’s cultural partners, large and small, worked tirelessly on this campaign, led by the unflappable Doug Singleton and Tom Gabbard. Our education and parks partners included CMS Chief of Staff LaTarzja Henry and Rick Winiker, as passionate a parks advocate as you will ever find.
So many artists and creative individuals have informed our work, challenged our thinking, and changed ASC’s approach. Many of them took to social media to spread the word about this campaign. There are too many to thank individually, but we especially want to salute Davita Galloway, Jonell Logan, John W. Love., Jr., Bluz Rogers, CarlosAlexis Cruz and Anne Lambert.
Finally, we were inspired every day by the leadership of ASC Board Chair Valecia McDowell. There couldn’t have been a more passionate, more dedicated leader working on our behalf. We also appreciate the extensive work on this initiative by my predecessor, Robert Bush. We are grateful for the support of the ASC Board & Advisory Councils, and for the contributions of the entire ASC team, especially Krista Terrell, Katherine Mooring and Ann Parker.
ASC celebrated its 60th anniversary as we approached the crossroads of this referendum. It’s a journey that’s had quite a few twists and turns. We know the path ahead will be challenging, but our optimism will continue to be rooted in your support of us.