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Arts Commission to help mayor decide who gets fund

The Buffalo Arts Commission will play a role in deciding how Mayor Byron W. Brown will distribute $100,000 in aid to cultural groups, Brown announced Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, the mayor vetoed a Common Council bill that would have channeled $200,000 to city-based arts groups that saw their funding eliminated by Erie County.

An informal agreement was reached at budget time that called on the Council and the executive branch to each provide $100,000 for one-time grants to arts groups.

In vetoing the measure, Brown reiterated his commitment to providing money for cultural organizations. But the mayor said he believes he has the right to establish his own process for deciding how the mayor's $100,000 allocation will be spent.

Mayoral spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said Brown has decided to seek recommendations from the Arts Commission. DeGeorge said the independent panel, which includes appointments made by the mayor and the Common Council, has already been notified of Brown's request.

"The mayor certainly wants to see the arts get funding," DeGeorge said. "So he's putting it in the hands of the Arts Commission."

The lawmaker who pushed for one-time grants to cultural groups said the goal from the start was to have the city help 27 city-based arts groups that faced "drastic cuts" in county funding. Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said formulas have already been established for distributing the $200,000 in city aid.

"These groups have already been vetted and have received [county] funding," LoCurto said. "It doesn't make sense to open up a new process for one-time funding that amounts to $100,000."

He said it would also be wrong to channel funding to groups that were not affected by the county cuts.

The Arts Commission had previously expressed interest in playing a role in determining how the aid would be allocated. Commission Chairwoman Catherine Gillespie sent a letter to city officials reminding them that making such recommendations is one of the roles assigned to the panel by the city code. Gillespie said the commission's involvement could ensure that an "equitable and transparent process" is used.

It remains to be seen whether the Council will override Brown's veto when lawmakers return from summer recess. An override would make sure that the mayor's allocation is distributed to designated groups.