Smile Politely

We must advocate for the advocates

2020 has presented a series of economic challenges due to the continued fallout from the pandemic. This recession will likely continue for many years, and while there are going to be hard decisions to make regarding our city budgets, there is much to consider for our future. With these difficulties on the horizon, we will continue to advocate for organizations in Champaign County that champion C-U. As we remarked in April, now is [still] the time to plan our post-pandemic future

There are many non-profit organizations that work diligently to promote, perpetuate, and improve on all that this community has to offer: 40 North, Champaign County Economic Development CorporationChampaign Chamber of Commerce, Champaign Chamber of Black CommerceChampaign Center Partnership, Urbana Business Association, and Visit Champaign County, among many others. Their work is to study, formulate, and execute plans based on data and observation to expand and grow Champaign County. All of these organizations do work we often don’t see, and life is better here because of it. This is the time to publicly support this type of behind-the-scenes work that’s being done.

We must continue to support those that support all of us. This includes showing up for and speaking in support of their causes at city council meetings. These non-profits receive different amounts of funding from each city, and will need that municipal funding more than ever. While these organizations might not be deemed “essential” in an immediate way such as fire, police, and public works, they promote arts and culture and economic development that are essential for the long term growth and sustainability of our community. The cities are well into the discussions about next fiscal year’s budgets, and what they look like based on this year’s significant loss of tax revenue from hotels, restaurants, and bars. Many of these organizations will soon present their cases (or already have) to the city councils for continued funding into the next fiscal budget.

We do what we can here at Smile Politely to make sure that the best of the community is  shared with our readership, but the things we showcase are just the tip of the iceberg. C-U’s economy and culture are deeply intertwined, and if these non-profits aren’t given the funds that they need to operate, it’s going to have a long-lasting impact on our community. In not performing these duties internally, the cities have made it abundantly clear that they do not want to execute these services, and are willing to push funding outward to meet city-wide goals in economic impact and community engagement. 

Most of the aforementioned organizations are already underfunded as is, so the funding they receive from both cities is truly vital to their continued existence and development. As taxpayers, we need to be louder about their importance. We need organizations (more than we already have) to promote all that Champaign County has to offer. If funding is cut, we know that it would be years before it’s ever returned to pre-pandemic levels, and that is neither guaranteed nor productive in the long run. Now is the time to celebrate all that we do have, in hopes that even in the midst of the most significant pandemic in modern history, C-U will continue to be seen as a beacon of innovation and prosperity, inviting and enticing new residents and companies by highlighting how affordable it is, and how many opportunities there are here to live a good life. 

So while we aren’t here to state whether or not the city budgets will indeed be cut, it is important to push for the solvency of arts, culture, and tourism programming by non-profits that are continually expected to justify each and every penny they spend. We understand increased funding at this time is not likely, but it is essential that we, as community members, affirm the importance of the many organizations partially funded by tax dollars and whose fates are ultimately controlled by the cities.

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.

Top image from 40 North’s Facebook page.

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