Congressman Jeff Flake and His Crusade Against Mimes and Accordions Pisses Off Polka Fans

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This weekend is the 11th annual International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas. It's a three-day gathering of accordions, polka music, and, of course, beer.

But if you ask Gwen Rivera, director of the International Accordion Festival, it's more than just a gathering of polka fans who sit around and consume brew. According to Rivera, it's a "cultural exchange" that helps teach music appreciation and provides support for artist.

The festival this year, Rivera tells New Times, has taken quite a hit in terms of the funding it gets from the National Endowment of the Arts, an independent agency of the federal government pegged with dishing out cash in the form grants to support the arts.

Enter Congressman Jeff Flake, who's running for the Senate seat getting vacated by retiring Senator Jon Kyl, and has been a tireless advocate of tightening the federal government's belt, particularly during the worst economic climates since the Great Depression.

The International Accordion Festival's annual budget, Rivera says, is about $150,000. Last year, $35,000 of the $150,000 was paid for by the federal government in the form of an NEA grant. This year, that grant was slashed to $30,000.

"We feel it," Rivera says. "We're expecting the same number of people (about 30,000) and we're gonna have to make due with less money."

In May, Flake really gave it to Rocco Landesman, chairman of the NEA, during a U.S. House Appropriations sub-committee meeting. Flake wanted to know why -- given the current realities if the U.S. economy -- the NEA should give funds to certain groups that, according to him, are "a bit tough to justify."

Flake specifically singled out the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the International Accordion Festival.

"Those kind of grants lend themselves to ridicule," Flake said.

Rivera insists, "We're not one of these ridiculous organizations" and acknowledges that cuts were made across the board when it comes to the arts -- but she's still not thrilled with Flake.

"Some representatives were on board for the arts -- some weren't," she says. "[Those who oppose the funding] think we just play music and drink beer."

Rivera says she acknowledges that cuts need to be made but says the arts isn't the place to do it. However, she had no answer when asked for a better alternative.

In other words, cutting the defense budget to subsidize an accordion festival in Texas probably won't sit well with the majority of American taxpayers -- even accordion fans.
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13 comments
Staff
Staff

This kind of interaction that was reported between Flake and Landesmann is a standard part of the  rhetoric that is out there these days, and really only rhetoric, since it is clear that the Representative’s dismissal of the International Accordion Festival is not based on any awareness whatsoever of what the Festival is. In fact, the only justification seemed to be vilification of the instrument itself, for reasons that were never even stated. Also what isn't mentioned in this article is how the arts help boost the economy?  How do we do this?  If it wasn't for this festival and other art programs who hire musicians which if you visit our website brought over 85 musicians this year, these 85 musicians would be unemployed.  These musicians come from all over the U.S.  This year they came from Louisiana, California, New York etc.  So it's just not a Texas or "polka" thing.  This festival also has to contract with different small businesses such as sound, lights, rentals, security, etc that otherwise would be out of business and their workers sent to the unemployment line if it wasn't for this festival and other art programs that hire them.  So I would say that the government should maybe take a cue from what the arts are doing and how they do amazing work on a small budget.  And instead of cutting back on programs like the International Accordion Festival that have a consistent and proven track record they should be more supportive of these art programs.  And if NEA paid $30,000 in a grant to pay for musicians whether you like the type of music or not at least they paid out the money to employ musicians.  EMPLOY being the keyword here.  At least we are in the business of employing and supporting small businesses and boosting the economy in America. Did I mention that this festival is FREE to everyone who attends?

Ben
Ben

Anyone who goes to theInternational Accordion Festival or even visits its website knows that polkasongs and beer make up a small fraction of its offerings. Over eleven years ofattendance I have heard and/or danced to music from all over Europe and theAmericas, with Asia, Africa, and the Mid-East also being well represented. Fromnearer by I’ve heard American southwestern music like Norteno, Tejano, ChickenScratch and Western Swing, Midwestern music that blends Anglo and Scandinavianstyles, Northeastern and Canadian music like Quebecois and Cape Breton, Louisianamusic like cajun and zydeco, etc. If you choose to you can dance all day, drinkonly water or sodas, and not do a single polka. The Accordion Festival showcasesamazing talent that you’ll never see on American Idol, amazing accordion music you’llnever hear inside a beer hall, and amazing cross-cultural blends that mirrorAmerica herself.

Bobby
Bobby

Sounds cool Ben.

Bobby
Bobby

'Flake is a worthless fool. How dare this a--hole question the spending of a few dollars when his utter disregard, for years, of taxpayer draining illegal immigration into his state was just fine for the Flake. Again, what a duplicitous A-hole. Any Arizonan who votes for him as a Senator deserves everything he will do down the line to screw Arizona. And he will--bigtime.

Bobby
Bobby

Now I really detest Flake more than ever. What does this ass listen to? Jeff Flake is an open borders, La Raza, Mecha, Lulac, illegal alien loving ASS, and his votes prove it. F-him.

Michael Gene Sullivan
Michael Gene Sullivan

$35,000 is a tiny drop in a really big bucket when it comes to government spending. Think of the billions that have been wasted. Or worse, realize that much more than this amount would be what "accidentally" slips into a single Congressman's pocket if a missile contract were being discussed. At least this money is going to employ some people, and entertain some others!

Bobby
Bobby

An example of what you are asserting. In LOST ANGELES, CALIFORNIA,(AZTLAN),, the county supervisor Gloria Molina bilked taxpayers out of 35 million dollars for a Mexican Museum. Among the things you can see there, is a box of cereal with Fernando Vallenzuelas picture, etc.NO ONE, not even Mexicans go to the place, yet racist Molina, spent 35 million dollars on this place and she kept a few million reportedly for herself. Welcome to the "new" America.

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

And in MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZOMBIE, Rpieholes crimes and abuses have cost well over 100 million and The cryptkeeper's son has cost the taxpayers an estimated 3 mil. to house him in the state hosp, not a dime of which has come out of the pocket of the goobernor.

Dark Man
Dark Man

I don't have a problem with Mr. Flake's "tightening of the Federal government's belt" on such wasteful spending. I don't see how it is important to fund an "arts" program that specializes in just "sitting around drinking beer" while appreciating polka music.

Bobby
Bobby

Are you by any chance jeaulous that a dark man, is a great accordian player? What' wrong with funding polka music and beer? What the hell do you think La Raza does with all the stolen taxpayers money traitorous politicians give them? Mariachi bands and all the rest. Everyone's seen this. Give me a break.

Tubes Fan
Tubes Fan

Yeah, me too. Hard to have any sympathy for this.

Jim
Jim

I'm all for the arts but $35k for a polka festival during tough times? I'll have to agree with the Republicans on this one.

Bobby
Bobby

Only idiot republicans would deny Americans(citizens) a good time. What you said about tough times, remember, those same Republicans have given your tax money to radical hispanic groups like La Raza, even now, in tough times.

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