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October 21, 2010


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One Thin Dime

B. D'Angelo wrote that MCAD and 201 State were not responsible for the current debt situation, but Overture Development was. If that was in response to my comment on Soglin's 10/19 post, it misses the point. My point was that the people who ran Overture into the ground should not be choosing the new management entity. Overture Development is one architect of the proposed bank settlement, and thus part of the group selecting the new management, no?

Anyway, maybe somebody here can address the question of why forcing the banks to foreclose would be so evil. Here's how I see that playing out. The banks foreclose on the mortgage. The banks don't want to own Overture, so they will have to put it up for auction. No private entity wants to buy Overture because it is a money-losing business model.

The only potential private bidders are scavengers who would strip out the sellable items like sound and lights, and then stop paying the property taxes. How much would they bid? Seems to me it would be less, maybe far less, than the private donors are now proposing to give towards paying off the bank debt. So, at the auction, those private donors need only to outbid the scavengers to obtain ownership of Overture free and clear, with the bank debt fully erasaed. Those donors can then sell Overture to the city for the proposed $1, and the additional money they are now proposing to give to the banks can instead become an endowment towards maintenance. The only losers in this scenario are the banks, who would get back much less than in the current proposal. (But, they were the fools who loaned money to play the markets without sufficient safeguards to keep the loan value above the collateral value.)

One Thin Dime

To clarify my previous comment, I'm not saying that it is necessary to ACTUALLY force the banks to foreclose, only that I don't see why that is not a reasonable backstop as a negotiating position. The current settlement appears to give the banks far more than they have any hope of recovering by exercising their available legal remedies, and I don't understand why. The banks may be getting at least $10M more than in a foreclosure. What are the private donors buying with that additional payment? Why is avoiding foreclosure worth that much?

Pete Gruett

My point was that I would be more convinced by your argument if someone presented a straightforward comparison of costs going forward for Overture vs. the old Civic Center along with a comparison of the size of the city and its budget when the Civic Center was built vs. the present. I'm not interested in comparing Madison to other cities, we've always had a stronger commitment to the arts. I'm interested in comparing Madison to Madison and I'm concerned that, as the city has grown, its attitude has shrunk.

If we are going to compare ourselves to other cities, though, perhaps you could name a city with a population of 1-2 million (at least twice the size of Milwaukee) that has combined opera, symphony, broadway and contemporary visual arts facilities smaller than Overture.

Rob Chappell

"Unfortunately, they (MCAD and 201 State) are responsible for two of the current issues. First there are structural problems in the management of Overture. The original design created a board that was appointed by elected officials but responsible to no elected body."

You're right that the structure is the problem. However, that's not the fault, necessarily, of the current members of those boards. And it's certainly not the fault of current management staff.

Also, small nitpick - it's Overture Center for the Arts, not Overture Center for the Performing Arts. Lots of visual arts happening there, too, all free and open to the community.

Davin Pickell

Rob Chappell, Overture Spokesperson: "You're right that the structure is the problem. However, that's not the fault, necessarily, of the current members of those boards. And it's certainly not the fault of current management staff."

I won't nitpick your statement about the members of the boards, Rob, but from a scientific perspective, I'd suggest a complete cleaning of the house of cards, er boards, would help solidify in the minds of the public that the new boards are not part of the problem. I don't know if there is a scorecard of which members have been part of the mess from the git-go, and which ones are newbies. In this case, the fact that a good number of the board members are dual-citizens only helps to clarify and confuse the concerns simultaneously.

Altering the Overture management structure, and the inherent shell games, that both help confuse the public and help enhance the lack of transparency, have been options available to both boards from they day they were created, I think. Most boards have the authority to change themselves, and put themselves out of business. It only takes a sufficient number of votes, the cumulative courage to acknowledge the existence of a better alternative, and the cumulative will to head in a better direction.

Given the size of the egos on many boards, this doesn't happen too often, but the reality is that the greater good is often best served when egos are checked at the door, regardless of the context.

Given that the President of Overture is involved in both boards, I also think it is disingenuous to suggest that current management isn't somewhat culpable. Michael Kaiser hasn't stayed at any Arts institution, prior to the Kennedy Center, for more than three and a half years before that institution was turned-around, and able to stand on its own. The current Overture President is past that point, and no discernible progress has been made towards a more responsible future, if you cast aside the current hot-air proposal which is unfeasible, financially, and has no plan of how to achieve the impossibilities they 'forecast.'

Ben Masel

Would the Ho Chunk Nation bid if they were offered a full casino license for the lobby and a lease back for the original Civic Center stage?

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