What Next for the VAPAF
Wednesday, October 12, 2005 :::
The news that the Virgina Performing Arts Foundation is retrenching comes as a surprise:
On Wednesday, the group's leaders say getting the Mayor's support or the money the city owes the project isn't possible. So, they say they're pushing forward without the city focusing on fixing the Carpenter Center, and leaving their grand plans for a arts center to the future.
They're trimming their staff from 12 to 5, decreasing their payroll by more than 60 percent, cutting operating costs by 30 percent and as of the end of this year, controversial foundation CEO Brad Armstrong is resigning. He told reporters that “It just seemed appropriate for me to take this action at this time."
Well, he's not leaving until the end of the year, and then, he's moving upstairs (the Peter Principle still works, it seems). But what to make of all this? Over at Save Richmond, Andrew lays out several possibilities, any of which could be possible...including a lawsuit. While Eagle Eyes notes the lack of contrition in Jim Ukrop's statements so far.
But of course, what happens next depends upon Doug Wilder.
I sense he may still be willing to cut a deal on this project, if for no other reason than to avoid having a "damn hole in the ground" for the remainder of his term. He's also made it clear he's not afraid of a court fight, but that's probably nothing more than bluster.
Still, there is one thing that's been nagging me for a while now. Bear with me for a moment.
Wilder has made repeated, public statements about the costs Richmond residents will face from high natural gas prices this winter. Prices have already gone up, and will do so again. Now, it's estimated that a third of the city's residents may not be able to afford their heating bills. So, the city is mounting an aggressive campaign to inform those residents about heating assistance programs.
Those same high prices are going to affect the city budget as well. And already, organizations that were scheduled to get city money, including nonprofit agencies, may be cut off.
Given this unavoidable reality -- the pressures on residents and the city government simply to pay the gas bill -- it seems as though Wilder has an almost unassailable rhetorical position ready and waiting for him to browbeat and defeat any attempt by the performing arts folks to get money -- any money -- out of the city. And it does strengthen Wilder's position to demand more for the Thalhimer's block. "Why should the city hand over land to a private group for less than its assessed value when we've got poor people freezing to death in this city?" I would hate to be on the receiving end of that p.r. attack.
Anyway, this new turn will make for an interesting couple of days in the news. The TD's editorial board is probably crafting their Neville Chamberlain-esque "peace in our time" broadside right now.
But we all remember what happened to Mr. Chamberlain's agreement, don't we?
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 10/12/2005