A preemptive strike against expanded arts funding in Seattle was issued last week from the office of Seattle City Council member Margaret Pageler. The target: what is known as "percent-for-arts funding," where a set proportion (currently one percent) of city construction budgets are devoted to the arts, generally in the form of on-site public art. The weapon: a "budget guidance statement," or BUG -- a preliminary understanding used to lay the groundwork for the city's biennial budgeting cycle.

A budget guidance statement submitted by Pageler to the city council last Thursday aims to bar the council from extending city percent-for-arts funding to city projects built outside city limits in the 2001-2002 budget. According to Gretchen Johnson of the Arts Alliance, Pageler's proposal would also require any expansion of percent-for-arts funding to be offset by cuts made elsewhere in construction budgets.

Various people and groups have advocated raising the percentage amount of any city construction project devoted to the arts from one percent to up to three percent, and local arts groups have been agitating in favor of an extension of percent-for-arts to cover public-private partnerships while extending percent-for-arts funding to a wider variety of art forms. These measures have a great deal of support, from Mayor Paul Schell on down.

Allied Arts president Alex Steffen, who blanketed local e-mail in-boxes with news of the potential funding crisis told me, "On an issue for which there is widespread public support -- the mayor is behind it, arts groups, lots of community groups -- suddenly we're going to stop it with a parliamentary maneuver? That doesn't seem like good government."

Council member Peter Steinbrueck, the council's most reliable pro-arts vote, thinks the measure has a good chance of passing when it comes up for a vote the week of Nov 15. Nick Licata is the only other sure vote against it. This would hamstring the budget-adjustment process for this year and interfere with the new, possibly more arts-friendly council's ability to expand arts funding next year. Contact your favorite council member to advise otherwise at 684-8888.

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A kinder, gentler fatwa was issued from England two weeks ago, on the occasion of the London opening of Terrence McNally's play Corpus Christi, which also drew protests during its New York run for its depiction of a gay Messiah. According to the BBC, Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad, judge of the Shari'ah Court of the U.K., issued the fatwa in defense of Jesus, who Muslims see as a messenger of god. Unlike the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, this one doesn't call for McNally's death by any means; but should he visit an Islamic state, he could be arrested, tried, and executed. Should he repent, he'd still be killed -- so the only way out is for McNally to convert to Islam. Muslims venerate Mary as well, so notorious English painter Chris Ofili might want to be careful about where he shows his paint, glitter, resin, and elephant dung tribute to the Holy Virgin.

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