Issue 8 is critical to the arts, supporters say

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CLEVELAND - Supporters of Issue 8, the measure that seeks the renewal of an arts levy in Cuyahoga County, want voters to understand what they are - and are not - voting on next Tuesday.

"It is a renewal; it is not a tax increase," says Megan Van Voorhis, the CEO of the Community Arts and Culture Partnership.

The issue asks voters to decide whether to renew a 1.5 cent per cigarette tax in Cuyahoga County that amounts to thirty cents on a typical pack of cigarettes.

County voters first approved the measure ten years ago, amid concerns that arts funding may be in jeopardy, in part because some Fortune 500 companies were leaving the area at the time.

Van Voorhis says they also found that other regions of similar size had public support of the arts, which put Northeast Ohio at a disadvantage.

The tax has generated about $125 million dollars, and supporters say it has helped catapult the arts to new levels - both in terms of major events, and the extent of their reach into communities.

"The tax is funding cultural activities in about 2,300 locations throughout the county, with lots of education and outreach programs," Van Voorhis says.

She indicates the Gordon Square revival on the west side of Cleveland, and the Waterloo Arts District on the east side have both benefited from the tax.

There is no organized opposition to the tax per se. If voters defeat it, taxes would go down on cigarettes 30 cents a pack in Cuyahoga County.

Van Voorhis says arts organizations spend about $350 million a year in the region, not counting all the spinoff benefits to restaurants and stores when people go to see a performance.

She also says world-class arts are important to winning competitions for major events - like Cleveland did when it won the rights to host next years Republican National Convention.

"One of the reasons we can capture those type of events," she says, "is because of the arts and cultural assets that we have."

Read more on important issues in this year's election here.

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