It’s been almost five years since the Power of the Arts organization was formed to encourage and fund arts and culture in the Mahoning Valley.
On Friday, arts supporters attending a town-hall style meeting learned it will take continued lobbying in Columbus to make the change in Ohio law needed to give local voters the opportunity to levy cigarette taxes that would generate the funding.
Atty. Mark Mangie, co-chairman of the Power of the Arts, said the POA’s lobbyist in Columbus continues to talk to lawmakers to encourage them to allow counties as small as Mahoning and Trumbull to ask voters for the tax. He and other arts supporters spoke at Bliss Hall on the Youngstown State University campus.
Cuyahoga County officials succeeded in getting state law changed to allow it to use cigarette taxes for an arts district. In 2007, voters approved a tax of 30 cents per pack of cigarettes to fund it. But the law was written only for counties of 1.2 million people or more.
Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County has something similar — a sales tax that funds its arts and culture district, Mangie said.
Despite that funding for Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the Mahoning Valley has an “embarrassment of riches” of arts, he said.
It is “probably one of the most-concentrated areas of arts between Chicago and New York. Other parts of the state don’t have that,” he said.
Read more about the proposal in Saturday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.