These issues are very complex as are the situations preceding them. Representations by the boards of these organizations to the public may have been only partially reported or may have been improperly reported. I don't think without a deep understanding we can comment on the situation.
Also, many people believed the economy would turn around in 2009, 2010. That has not been the case and non-profits, including these organizations, rely on donations from people who have discretionary income. What they forecast in those years may not have come to fruition. So rather than speculate, it is better to let the parties figure it out. Bad public relations won't help either the musicians or the organizations.
FYI, many books and records of 501(c)(3) organizations are open to the public, but labor negotiations are not.
I cannot agree. You seem to be saying that ordinary music loving individuals should not voice an opinion on the manner in which a non-profit organization is managed. "Rather than speculate," we ought to just trust the integrity and good judgement of the parties.
First of all, some of what we are addressing is direct tax money from the citizens of Minnesota. Secondly, individuals with discretionary income give because it reduces their taxable income. Back in the bad old days, when the economy was good, particularly the 50s and 60s, but in this case, especially the 70s, the decade when the Minnesota Orchestra's endowment was created, wealthy individuals would give to good causes in order to put themselves into a lower tax bracket. Not only were they not taxed on what they gave, the remainder of their income was taxed at a lesser rate. I don't at all mean to impugn their love and dedication to the Minnesota Orchestra, but it must be pointed out that they were forgiven taxes by giving to good causes. In oblique, but certain ways, then, the public has paid pretty much for the whole thing.
I'm a member of that public, and feel duty bound to speak out whenever something seems suspicious or fishy concerning public money and the public good. Those who practice "public relations" will just have to direct their concern over "bad public relations" towards the "public" of "public relations"--that would include me. In that spirit, I will continue to speak out. And something does, indeed, seem "suspicious or fishy" when it comes to the lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra.
First, the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra, knowing a financial crisis was coming, and in the midst of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, chose to, and was able to, raise 52 Million Dollars to redo the lobby of Orchestra Hall. Again, they did this KNOWING A FINANCIAL CRISIS WAS COMING.
Second, in the process of raising the 52 Million Dollars, their reaction to the financial crisis was to demand that the orchestra membership take pay cuts of 30 to 50 percent.
Third, also in the process of raising the 52 Million Dollars, they deliberately deceived the Minnesota State Legislature, and quite likely, some wealthy patrons as well.
What's fishy about all of this? Priorities, priorities, priorities.
I acknowledge that the lobby was in need of an update. It was plain and sparse, and not inviting. But the stairways weren't dangerous, it wasn't a fire hazard, nor was anyone getting sued because they tripped on the carpet. It could have waited--indefinitely, if need be--for a better economic time. But even during a better time, I would question the need to go about it in such an extensive way. 52 Million Dollars, and the kind of construction I see happening downtown on the lobby, seems out of proportion.
Given all of that, the question is still one of priorities. What's more important? The continued artistic integrity of the Minnesota Orchestra, or a redo of a dated and unattractive lobby?
The Board made a very wrong choice on this question. And that is the stumbling block. What can be done at this point? It's a very bad situation. The old lobby is torn down. It's gone. The new one is partially built. We can't go back. We can't rededicate the 52 Million Dollars to the orchestra itself. It's spent.
For starters, I feel the board itself needs to show some contrition for their dishonesty, their royal screw up, and their total lack of good judgement. Perhaps they should resign, or certain members should resign. A new board is needed. At that point, perhaps a deal could be made with the musicians. Take a pay cut of 10 to 25 percent perhaps, and be willing to draw down the endowment one more time to pay that. And then, with fresh and honest faces on the board, they could get to work on rebuilding the endowment. If the current one raised 52 Million Dollars during a recession, they ought to be able to rebuild the endowment if they really try. After all, this state is in better economic shape than is most of the country. The economy overall seems to be improving. There are a few patches of blue sky to be seen. Trust going into the future, and keep your fingers crossed.
The Board has lost credibility with the State Legislature, wealthy donors, and the public at large. The Board is much easier to replace than the unequaled excellence of the Minnesota Orchestra.