Once again, businessman Jerry Frautschi opened his checkbook and has put what appears to be the final touch on settling the debt for the Overture Center for the Arts. Paul Fanlund, who writes the excellent column “Madison 360” for Madison.com says it’s time for the sniping to end.
His persuasive column, which appeared yesterday, acknowledges that there’s been grousing about the Overture Center since the day Frautschi proposed it to then-Mayor Baumann. A few days ago, Frautschi met the lenders about half-way so the quarter-billion-dollar structure, with the approval of the City Council, can be sold to the city for a dollar, and the city will staff and operate it.
Do NOT assume this will fly through the City Council. And do not assume that even though the 800-pound Gorilla, the remaining debt on the Overture Center, has been removed, that the huge downtown building will now be embraced by the nay-sayers.
As Fanlund points out, the debt issues that plagued Overture have now been settled, so the argument about the city taxpayer being on the hook for millions and millions is now moot. Estimates from city hall are that it will cost the city about a million and a half dollars a year to run the place – well within the same ball-park of what it cost to run the Civic Center.
But there’s the rub.
Even though the city would take ownership of a magnificently-appointed performing arts venue at a cost similar to running the Civic Center, which is, let’s face it, a glorified, renovated movie theater, this is a time when budget priorities are being examined more closely than ever before.
A few clicks away from Fanlund’s column on Madison.com is a story about the committee appointed to study better ways to clear snow in the winter, suggesting that about a million bucks would do it, and discussion about what a huge object that million-dollar price-tag is right now.
Another few clicks away is a story about salaries paid to Dane County employees, and calls for reform on how public employees are paid and how their contracts are negotiated.
We’re not in a mood to throw money at anything, and that’s not likely to change until the economy moves solidly up and unemployment moves solidly down. And the city alders are going to hear that message loud and clear from their constituents when debate begins on the fate of the Overture Center on August 3rd.
And there will always be the small but noisy crowd that’s still angry that their favorite hamburger joint (Dotty’s) had to move to make way for the Overture Center.
I wonder if Jerry Frautschi ever thinks that passage in the Sermon On The Mount – the one about casting pearls before swine – was written with Madison in mind.