Asking financially strapped suburbs for money is delicate stuff for city arts institutions. So when the folks from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra came calling to the Howard County Council this week, they brought more than a third-chair violinist.
And so it was that the Howard council greeted Monday a certain high-profile lobbyist, William Donald Schaefer, the former governor and Baltimore mayor.
Howard officials jokingly called him a "high-powered lobbyist." That drew from Mr. Schaefer what can only be called a loud scoff.
But his personal pitch for at least $23,000 from the county was very well-received. "He's a great guy," freshman council member Dennis R. Schrader said afterward. "I like him."
Mr. Schrader and other council members indicated they will help fund the symphony. They pointed out that each year about 47,000 Howard residents attend symphony events and 6,000 Howard school children attend educational concerts.
Still, there has been some local resentment in the past over Howard's funding of 10 Baltimore-based institutions, including the symphony, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Gallery, the National Aquarium and the Baltimore Zoo.
Already, the president of one conservative group in Howard has said that he will speak against funding for city arts institutions during coming budget debates for the fiscal year to begin July 1.
"I just believe the people who want to see the orchestra should pay for it," said David Maier, president of the Howard County Taxpayers' Association. "There are all these little places where money runs out of the budget and we have to plug them."
zTC To sidestep such reactions three years ago, county officials resorted to burying mention of city arts funding under the not-precisely-accurate heading of economic development.
Before 1993, the city arts funding was recorded in the county budget by specific institutions.
In the 1993 budget, however, the payments to city groups were lumped together under the heading of Howard County Economic Development.
Officials denied this week trying to deceive anyone. "That's never been my purpose," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "It may have been interpreted that way. But I believe in revealing everything."
Mr. Ecker said that, despite criticism of the city arts funding, he will continue to seek funds for city institutions -- contending that the county easily gets its money's worth.
After 1993, the payments to city and Howard arts groups have been lumped together in the county's budget under the heading of "Local/Regional Arts Grants."
For this fiscal year, that money, totaling $307,000, was forwarded to the Howard Arts Council. The local arts council, in turn, distributed $100,000 of the money to 10 city institutions.
This funding method helps the local arts council more easily secure grants, such as a recent $75,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to be used in Howard County, said Mary Toth, executive director of the Howard Arts Council.
If the County Council gives the arts council the same funding next fiscal year as this fiscal year, the symphony likely would end up with $23,000, the same funding as this year, Ms. Toth said.
But Mr. Schaefer asked County Council members Monday for even more money for the symphony. Council Chairman Darrel E. Drown said no.
"They're not going to get any more [additional] money," Mr. Drown said after the meeting.
Howard's funding to the symphony is fourth among local governments, after Baltimore ($380,000), Baltimore County ($280,000) and Anne Arundel County ($25,000), said John Gidwitz, BSO executive director. Harford County contributes about $22,000, he said.
It's appropriate that suburbs help fund the symphony, Mr. Schaefer said: "Many of the people who are interested in the symphony have moved out to the counties."
Also, the symphony helps sell the entire state of Maryland, he said, particularly when it travels overseas.
Mr. Schaefer said he is not making regular rounds for the symphony these days and only came to Howard because Mr. Gidwitz invited him.
As for his own artistic tastes, Mr. Schaefer said: "I'm not a very cultured individual. I don't like the real heavy classical."