Phoenix mayoral candidate Wes Gullett responded sharply to Greg Stanton's criticism of a tax increase for art Gullett proposed during a mayoral candidate forum in June.
"Greg Stanton continues to show that he is willing to say anything to win an election," Gullett says to New Times in a statement. "Stanton knows that my first priority is repealing the food tax, lowering permit fees, and slashing the red tape faced by business that he supported, so we can get our economy working again. To say my top priority would be a proposal to create a new tax for funding arts and culture is not true, a signal of his desperation, and he should be ashamed of himself for suggesting it."
Gullett said during the debate that art funding in Phoenix needed to be more robust, and that an arts-funding plan for voters should be about investing in the arts in a "big way."
Stanton, who is facing off against Gullett in November, says that his opponent is out of touch with Phoenix residents for suggesting that voters consider a tax increase to support the arts.
Firing back, Gullett says that Stanton is a hypocrite because he himself served on an arts and culture task force back in 2004 that also suggested finding a steady revenues stream to support the arts.
"I'm a strong arts advocate," Stanton says, not quibbling with Gullett's assertion. "I have always have been, and always will be. But I don't think it's the right time for a new tax. That's the issue. Mr. Gullett is the one who advocated for this tax at multiple mayoral debates."
Gullett says that his suggestion for a new tax to support the arts is part of his plan to "continue to strategically and boldly plan for the future of our city."
In his statement, Gullett also says that during the debate he said that "now is not the time to take this big idea to the voters."
We listened to the clip several times, and we didn't hear him say that.
That discrepancy aside, Gullett did say that it was a very important plan and that arts and culture was an important economic development tool.
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He also says that Phoenix is fooling itself if it believes the city can continue to support the arts out of the General Fund during these economic times. The solution, he says, is to go to voters with a plan that says "we're going to invest in art in a big way" and "ask the community to support the arts."
An art tax during any economic climate isn't a position that will likely sit well with the Tea Party voters that Gullett was courting during the first leg of the election -- the same voters that he worked hard to peel away from Tea Party mayoral candidate Jennifer Wright.
"It is the first role of a mayor to lead a community discussion about what we want our city to look like economically and from a quality of life stand point 10 and 20 years into the future. To not lead this important discussion is nothing short of a dereliction of your duty as a mayor or a council member," Gullett says.