City Council member Carolee Conklin
A City Council committee took Mayor Lovely Warren’s proposal to study a new downtown performing arts center to the woodshed yesterday. Legislation proposed by the mayor is given preliminary consideration by a corresponding Council committee before moving on to the full Council for a vote. Warren’s proposal was considered yesterday during a meeting of the Neighborhood and Business Development committee.
Committee members didn’t like the way that the proposal came to Council, or the substance of the proposal itself. In the end, they decided to hold the legislation until their concerns are addressed.
Warren announced earlier this week that she wants the city to hire two firms — Lincoln Center Global and Westlake Reed Leskosky for a combined total of $211,165 — to study the feasibility of a new downtown performing arts center. Warren rolled out the legislation and held a press conference — which, in retrospect, seems like a premature victory lap — trumpeting the proposal.
But this happened before the Council committee met and, going by what committee members were saying at yesterday’s meeting, they were given little notice of the legislation and little time to vet it. Given the politics inherent in any discussion of a performing arts center here and the bad vibes left over from the Renaissance Square crash and burn, the administration’s actions seem rash. It’s clear that the committee members felt the same way.
“We cannot have stuff given to us in this manner,” said Council member Adam McFadden, who attended the meeting but is not on the Neighborhood and Business Development committee. McFadden said that he was shocked to see the PAC study on the committee’s agenda given that Council had not had a substantive discussion with the administration on the matter.
To the substance of the legislation, committee members and other Council members in attendance wanted to know why the city needs to hire an outside firm to do the study; why the city has to pay for a study; who will cover any operating shortfalls the facility incurs; what happens to the Auditorium Theatre if RBTL becomes the new facility’s main user; can Rochester support another performance space; would a new downtown PAC put other arts organizations in jeopardy; and other questions.
Council member Carolee Conklin, who is on the NBD committee, said that the proposal was “very poorly thought out.”
The full Council meets this coming Tuesday. Theoretically, if the concerns are addressed in time, the legislation could make it on to that agenda.