Cultural Groups Step Up Fight Against Budget Cuts

November 18, 2010 Updated Nov 18, 2010 at 12:40 AM EDT

By Jennifer Stanonis

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November 18, 2010 Updated Nov 18, 2010 at 12:40 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- It was a packed auditorium at the Frank Merriweather Jr. Library in Buffalo Wednesday night. It's one of the many libraries that would have its staff and hours cut under Erie County Executive Chris Collins' proposed budget. "He is not going to destroy my community, not when I'm the legislator of this district," Betty Jean Grant, Erie County Legislator, said.

A number of local lawmakers met with the public and representatives of dozens of cultural groups that would also see funding diminish under the new budget. "We are one of the largest free outdoor Shakespeare festivals in the country and the third oldest," Lisa Ludwig, the Managing Director of Shakespeare In The Park, said. "To say we are not deemed worthy, to say the African American Cultural Center is not deemed worthy."

More than 35 cultural institutions would not receive county funding under the proposed budget and in turn may have to shut down without it. "To have them be zeroed out is an insult," Legislator Grant said. "I'm upset and I'm going to fight tooth and nail to restore it in the budget."

The county executive says the groups will have to find other ways to survive and these cuts are necessary. Also that he is still funding some of the arts and cultural groups, those he believes have the greatest economic impact for the local economy.

Meantime, more public meetings like the one held Wednesday are expected. "We have no time at all. The budget is going to be voted on November 23rd so I have my work ahead of me," Legislator Grant said.