Saturday (5/1) on the Los Angeles Times blog Culture Monster, Mike Boehm reports, “Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has backed away from his controversial plan to cut the city’s arts grants by $415,000 and give the money to four other cultural organizations he picked himself. ‘We were overzealous,’ Ben Ceja, deputy mayor for budget and finance, told the City Council committee that has been going through the mayor’s budget proposal with each department head, in preparation for making recommendations to the full council. Ceja asked the budget and finance committee to restore the $415,000 to the Department of Cultural Affairs budget. … Ceja said in an interview that the change of heart came after Olga Garay, Villaraigosa’s appointee as executive director of the cultural affairs department, explained the longstanding process of competitive grants. … As Garay and several L.A. arts leaders told the council budget committee during the hearing Friday at City Hall, the peer-review process that L.A. uses for its grants follows what is nationally considered a ‘best practice’ for government grant-making—designed to make artistic and educational merit the only criteria, and avoid any appearance that political connections influence decisions.”

Posted May 4, 2010