BY FREDA MIKLIN
On December 1, after considering the consequences of implementing the Greenwood Village City Council’s (GVCC) stern directive to its Arts and Humanities Council (GVAHC) that it may no longer award its merit-based $5,000 scholarships to any high school senior who does not live within the city boundaries of Greenwood Village, the members of the GVAHC unanimously voted to cease awarding scholarships to college-bound arts majors, altogether.
The GVAHC began awarding merit-based arts scholarships 36 years ago and did so thorough this year, but on September 16, as it was considering its $60 million budget for 2023, the GVCC decided, on a 7-1 vote (Dave Kerber, Donna Johnston, Libby Barnacle, Judy Hilton, Dave Bullock, Tom Stahl, and Paul Wiesner voted yes; only Anne Ingebretsen voted no) to force GVAHC to limit those eligible for the three $5,000 merit scholarships that GVAHC funded through money they raised, to GV residents, rather than allowing all Arapahoe County high school seniors to apply for them, as had been GVAHC’s longstanding practice. The City Council also directed GVAHC to only award two scholarships, instead of three, despite the fact that they believed they had raised ample funds for three scholarships.
Before the city council made their decision on September 16, the GVAHC wrote them a letter asking them not to take that action and explaining why they felt it would be wrong to do so. After the city council did not respond to the letter and moved forward with the new policy at its 2023 budget meeting, five of the seven members of the GVAHC publicly appealed to the city council at their October 17 meeting to reconsider. The Villager reported on what the members of the GVAHC told the city council at that meeting, as well as the responses they received, on pages 32 and 33 of the October 27 issue of this newspaper. In short, the council rejected the recommendations of its GVAHC.
On December 1, the GVAHC held their regular meeting at the Curtis Arts Center. Since Curtis doesn’t have a built-in audio recording system like the one at GV City Hall, GVAHC’s meetings are usually recorded on a small manual tape recorder. When The Villager asked how to access the recording for the December 1 meeting, we were told that when the recording was downloaded, it was found to be corrupt, hence there is no contemporaneous record of what was said at the meeting.
Unlike most other cities, Greenwood Village does not make video recordings of its official meetings, even at City Hall, although a video system is installed and used there for city council and board and commission members who choose to attend meetings virtually rather than in person, an option for elected and appointed officials that was adopted as a permanent policy by the city council after the pandemic mostly ended.
The agenda items for the December 1 meeting that are publicly available include a letter to the GVAHC from GV City Manager John Jackson dated November 16, which said, in part, “There has been some recent confusion around the use of funding that is directed into the GVAHC special revenue fund…. There is the perception that these are Art Council’s to allocate at their sole discretion…”
Jackson also appeared and spoke at the GVAHC’s December 1 meeting. According to outgoing GVAHC Chair Catherine Huggins, who was surprised to hear that there was no recording of the three-hour meeting, Jackson “came there to smooth over, to excuse the poor governance of the city council, and to tell us that they appreciate us and value us, which made no sense, since they obviously didn’t value our opinions.”
She continued, “One of our members responded to Jackson by saying that the way the city council treated us was terrible, in that they disregarded all our recommendations about who would be eligible for the scholarships. Jackson said that we ‘just have to advertise the scholarship,’ which made no sense. We’ve been doing so for all these years through the schools. We reminded Jackson that the arts teacher from Cherry Creek High School testified to the city council that she would no longer announce the scholarship nor recommend any of her students apply for it, due to the change in policy. It appeared that Jackson was only there to somehow justify the city’s poor governance. I was reminded of (City Council Member) Libby Barnacle saying to us at that meeting on October 17, ‘No, no, you work for us,’ when really, she and the rest of the city council, along with John Jackson, work for us, the residents.”
Huggins told The Villager that the scholarships were the main topic of conversation at the meeting, and every member of the GVAHC who was present spoke on the subject. The consensus, she told us, was, that if they adopted the new city council policy, “We won’t have the number or the quality of applicants necessary for the program to have any meaning. Last year, we had two applicants out of about 25 who were GV residents. One was a finalist but did not win, and the other didn’t even meet the required criteria of our rubric, so we would not have been able to award it to that student. Also, the policy of excluding all Arapahoe County residents except those who live in GV is not aligned with our values as commissioners or people. Why are we reducing the number of possible applicants? It’s always been merit based, but by eliminating the full county, we are eliminating so many people who are not the wealthiest. It’s just not community based. We are supposed to grow our community This is a way of putting up a boundary around GV.”
Huggins also told us that Curtis Arts Center got $70,000 in grant money from the Science and Cultural Facilities District in 2022 and has been awarded the same amount for 2023. That money is used for arts programming.