Investment in region's culture

Arts money: Ruppersberger's proposal to sharply increase funding takes the right course.

May 21, 2001

BALTIMORE County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger took a giant step when he proposed to increase aid to Baltimore City arts and cultural institutions by a whopping $1.2 million, or 47 percent.

The timing couldn't be better. The city is struggling with a budget deficit that could mean increased taxes, layoffs and less support for arts institutions. Baltimore County, meanwhile, is proposing a tax cut.

It's heartening to watch Mr. Ruppersberger's growing role as a cheerleader for regional cooperation -- which recognizes that the city and its suburbs will sink or swim together. Every Baltimore suburb benefits from the city's arts institutions. They are key features in the marketing packages that counties use to sell the area to prospective businesses.

It's also promising that Mr. Ruppersberger and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley are looking for a better funding mechanism -- using Greater Cincinnati's Fine Arts Fund as the model. The fund raised nearly $9.2 million this year from individuals and businesses to support that city's opera, symphony and major art museums.

For now, the Baltimore County Council should follow its executive's lead and support the increased arts spending. But regional cooperation shouldn't stop there. The contributions of Howard, Harford and Carroll counties remain small. They, too, need to step up to the plate.

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