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Office of State Senator José M. Serrano
Chair: Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation
February 6, 2009
Senator Serrano holds a first-of-its-kind joint committee meeting with Assemblyman Steve Englebright
Albany, NY - Senator Serrano, a long-time advocate of both the arts and open governance, succeeded on both fronts this past Tuesday. With his Assembly counterpart Steve Englebright, Serrano convened an extraordinary Joint Committee on the Arts and Living Museums.
It was a day of Albany firsts: the first-ever joint committee to discuss the arts budget; the first-ever opportunity to submit commentary via YouTube (like the NY Botanical Garden or freelance artist Jeff Tocci); and the first time a Grammy award-winner has written a song about a committee meeting and then performed it live.
But the real highlight was state government - at once in budget crisis, but also in bloom.
"State legislators can no longer afford to solve our problems in secret," said Senator Serrano. "We are going to get through these difficult economic times, but it will only happen if we listen to, and learn from one another.
"There is certainly a need for more fiscal austerity. But we must never be austere in dialogue and communication. Assemblyman Englebright and I are intent on engaging artists and organizations throughout the State, and we'll do it with new technologies and old-fashioned legwork."
Echoing the lyrics of musician Tom Chapin - who sang live and also submitted a movie clip - Serrano said, "You simply cannot spell smart without art."
There was already some good news by the end of the day: Senate and Assembly leaders agreed to restore funding for the Living Museums - zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums - which generate thousands of jobs across the State.
Among the representatives from the Living Museums coalition at Tuesday's event was a Great Horned Owl, which "flew in" from the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Oyster Bay, New York.
"This is just the beginning of the fight," said Senator Serrano. "I strongly believe that such funding is part and parcel of revitalization. These are the programs that bring business, jobs and tourists. The economic impact is remarkable, especially in marginalized communities - be it the South Bronx, or distressed cities Upstate."