Gaiman vs Dean continues with more threats, cuts and cartoons

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The contretemps over Neil Gaiman’s $45,000 speaking fee and the Minnesota House majority leader who called him a “pencil-necked weasel” has continued, in the way that all matters of life and death have. Alex Pareene at Salon has one side of it:

Minnesota does this very nice thing where 3/8 of one percent of the state’s sales tax goes to what is known as the Legacy Fund, which is primarily dedicated to clean air and land and water and parks and nature, but which also spends a bit of money preserving the state’s “arts and cultural heritage,” because Minnesotans enjoy the arts, and culture, and there is, in that state, a long bipartisan history of supporting those nice things, as a sort of public good. This very nice thing is in the Minnesota constitution, because the people voted for it.


Meanwhile Minnesota legislators are still investigating the matter, with committee chair Rep. Dean Urdahl suggesting the Minnesota state library budget be cut by $45,000 to make up for the fee.

Urdahl, himself an author, said, “I simply subtracted out $45,000 — just making a point,” in explaining why he cut the library system’s proposed Legacy budget to $3.45 million. The Legacy funding proposal, including the reduced budget for the regional library system, is being reviewed by legislators.

Urdahl also released a letter from the executive director of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, who apologized for using “poor judgment” in paying Gaiman’s fee. “In our naivete, we simply thought there was no room for negotiation,” said Chris Olson, the group’s executive director. “I am very sorry.”


Gaiman is also interviewed in the Star Tribune and writes:

Of Urdahl’s move to reduce the library system’s budget, Gaiman added: “It seems like a sad way to make a point.”


Meanwhile, the comic strip Evil Reads has looked at the original threat and taken it to the logical extreme: a cartoon. (Via Robot 6)

Gaiman is interviewed about the matter here.

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And FINALLY, everyone can make their voice known in the Star Tribune poll on the matter. At press time, Gaiman held a narrow lead.

Comments

  1. I understand that this is public money, but where is the furor over what cities pay to build sports stadiums or what athletes and celebrities/entertainers/CEOs are paid relative to teachers, firefighters, etc.

    The anger over the allegedly “high” speaking fee of a celebrated writer is more a reflection of our society’s priorities and distrust of the arts.

    We live in a capitalist society, correct? Gaiman’s fee, I presume, is based on what the market will bear.

    While raising objections to the amount of the fee or the use of the money is one thing, basing it on his supposed personal dislike or disapproval of the speaker is another, especially in the manner it was done. Yet another example of the poor example of good citizenship and leadership provided by elected officials and the continued decline of civic discourse.

  2. Well, I am glad we got to the punching part.

  3. Jeremy Holstein says:

    1) Dean has his numbers wrong. It was 33K, not 45K.

    2) This was money already allocated by the State, that the Library chose to spend on Gaiman’s appearance rather than lose the funds. It seems a win/win for all, except for Dean.

    3) This business of stripping the money from the existing Library budget seems a petty way for Dean to save political face.

    4) Has Dean explained why he doesn’t like Gaiman?

  4. I don’t understand why Dean’s anger is directed toward Gaiman and not toward the person or group that approved and hired him to do the speaking gig.
    I bet if Dean’s expenses were scrutinized, there would be some objectionable items come to light.
    “Talking tough is easy when it’s other people’s evil
    and you’re judging what they do or don’t believe
    It seems to me you’d have to have a hole you’re own
    to point a finger at somebody else’s sheet” -DBT

  5. Medieval Guy says:

    It actually was $45k. Gaiman got the $33k; the rest was the person who books his engagements.

  6. Randy, this wasn’t an example of what the market would bear. There were only two people who decided what the price would be, Gaiman in asking for the high fee and librarian Patricia Conley who recruited him for the appearance.

  7. James Van Hise says:

    As Gaiman has explained, the high fee is to cut down on all the requests he gets to do speaking engagements above and beyond the ones he does on his own because he wants to, and which his publisher’s publicist arranges. I find it sad that the library felt they had to apologize for doing something that their patrons clearly enjoyed.

  8. I admire Gaiman and his work but I’m trying to figure out what he has to do with Minnesota’s cultural heritage. Perhaps I’m missing something.

    If someone wants to bring Gaiman to speak, and can raise the $45k speaking fee from voluntary contributions or ticket sales, that’s great. But for sales tax money (the most regressive form of tax) to pay for something like this does seem a bit out of line.

    It’s a shame that Dean, that dope, had to make this issue about Gaiman rather than a rather more mundane argument about whether Minnesotans’ tax money should be spent bringing in out-of-state authors to speak for a few hours.

  9. Just to expand on what James said, Gaiman gets paid this fee to speak elsewhere and he is apparently quite cheap compared to other big name authors.

  10. Scott, Gaiman lives in Minnesota.

  11. Horatio Weisfeld says:

    Jeremy Holstein said:

    “This was money already allocated by the State, that the Library chose to spend on Gaiman’s appearance rather than lose the funds. It seems a win/win…”

    >>
    Horatio says:

    Gee: That’s about the same thinking as the people I’ve worked for, who would come to me at the end of the year and say, “there’s some money left in the budget- please get rid of it somehow.”

    To which I would say: “Should I use it for gambling, drugs and prostitution — and expense it all as “entertainment” ?

    and they reply say, “sure, anything– Jesus: just make it disappear.”

    ***Gee (once more) : And Americans actually wonder why their kids are going to be making 1/2 what they do now?

  12. Its getting weirder. The money was available & for this kind of thing. Gaiman made a presentation that was apparently a success for the library. Then he donates his earnings to charitable causes.

    Now, in retrospect, the money was unwisely appropriated. Lesson: next time don’t allocate so much money for events like this. Tell libraries to use these monies for their operating budget.

  13. Torsten Adair says:

    Steve, the money could NOT be used for the operating budget… that matter was made clear when this hit the fan back in May 2010.

    http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2010/05/political-football-in-teacup.html

    If you scroll down, you’ll see links to BoingBoing which explain the fund.

    The legislature does decide which Legacy projects get funded, and to what degree.

  14. akachris says:

    State Rep Dean is wrong in his ad hominem attacks on Gaiman [and State Rep Uradahl is being pettey with his $45K reduction in the proposed State Legacy budget [side note: isn't Thor's mystical hammer Mjolnir made of Uradahl?!?].

    But at the same time, the librarians and all government employees need to be more responsible and pragmatic on how they spend the taxpayers’ money. The fact that there was no attempt to negotiate on price is naive and ignorant on the librarians’ part.

    They probably should have held the event in a bigger venue to accomodate more people [$45K ÷ 500 = $90 per person/ticket]. There probably should have been a nominal ticket price or suggest donation to help recoup the speaking engagement fee.

    And just to make something clear, I don’t think Neil Gaiman did anything wrong. He has been an incredibly generous individual to the comic book and literary communities.

    I actually hope Gaiman sues State Rep. Dean for slander and libel for 1) to serve an abject lesson for politicians to tone down their hateful and personalized rhetorice [though this might be an anethema to Gaiman who is a proponent on Free Speech] and 2) maybe he could donate any financial judgements to the Minnesota Public Libraries.

  15. Peter, thanks for filling me in. In that case, inviting Gaiman to speak makes more sense, taking for granted the logic of taxing working families (or unemployed, struggling families) to pay for cultural events most of them will never see or appreciate.

    And yes, I’m against spending millions of tax dollars on sports stadiums too. And Dean was even more out of line singling out Gaiman like that. The best response to that crass bastard is to get him un-elected next time around.

  16. Steve says:

    Torsten, I understand that the monies were not available to be used in the operating budget. I’m saying that if the pols are so upset about this, then, in the future, they should specify that these monies must be used for the operating budget. Man we are living in weird times.

  17. Aaron says:

    So… why doesn’t the state of Minnesota concede that they can’t afford this particular speaker and everyone can go about their business?

    I’m not getting how this became a war of words.

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