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Developers and the Arts

July 12, 1986

We stand at a threshold of a community development. We are in the midst of tremendous change in many areas of life. I am among the first to acknowledge, as a promoter of change, that this condition can be stressful to us all, including managers of change, such as the City Council. However, any contemplative person recognizes that change itself is inevitable.

Developers must change too. In fact, "change itself" is the stock in trade of developers. And historically, building technology has continually changed in response to a variety of factors. Frequently, and continually through history, governments have been the initiators of such changes. The reason is simple: In an increasingly complex world, society, through its governments, demands refinements and upgrading in building requirements and development of all kinds.

I view the development fee for the arts as another in such a series of changes demanded by citizens through their governments.

Developers are people who shape our physical environment. And our physical environment creates an aesthetic impact on us as well. Large developers may make large impacts, and small developers may make small impacts, but the fact of the aesthetic impact is irrefutable.

With the ability to create and shape an environment comes the responsibility for meeting the expectations of those who would live and work in that environment. What developers do to the environment they shape is absolutely a matter of personal responsibility and professional ethics. That is the basis for "singling out" the developers to pay a fee for the arts.

On that rational basis, many thousands of area residents signed the leaflets of the Fine Arts Federation in support of the developers paying for enhancement of the community through increased cultural programs and facilities in our city. Many hundreds of thousands of citizens in other communities have felt the same way, and thus nearly 100 cities and countries, and over 20 states, have similar legislation.

We are in a new era and, as sure as building codes once outlawed cesspools and smokestacks, new building ordinances mandate fees for the arts and cultural enhancement. It is viewed as fair, and it is viewed as just by the citizens affected. Developers must recognize this (many already do), as we must all recognize it. Their responsibility, in this ever more crowded, congested, polluted environment, as the shapers of that environment, is to do whatever they can, technologically as well as aesthetically, to improve the world in which we must all live together.

The responsibility of the City Council, as community leaders, is to recognize that change is inevitable, and to lead us through that change in ways which benefit the majority. It is also their responsibility to respond to the expressed intentions of their constituents, such as the many thousands of area residents and hundreds of businesses who have endorsed the Fine Arts Federation's request for a developer fee for the arts.

Artists are the promoters of change; governments are the managers of change; developers are the merchants of change. Separately, we are asynchronous clappers in a lonely bell tower, clanging cacophony. Together, in planning and execution, we can ring the city harmoniously into the 21st Century.

JAMES P. HIGGINS

Burbank

(Higgins is the director of Fine Arts Federation)

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