Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just Back from State Senator Joan Carter Conway's Meeting at The Senator

Well, I just got back from State Senator Joan Carter Conway's meeting at The Senator Theatre. Before I say anything else, let me just say a BIG THANK YOU to Senator Conway for calling the meeting and helping us get some semblance of answers from some of the city representatives for the first time in this process. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and there seemed to be still some obfuscation of the real motives (fancy way of saying lying) going on by some of the city players, but it was obvious that Senator Conway gets it and is not afraid to stick up for constituents and work hard to get to the bottom of what is really going on here. Truly appreciated!

I got audio of the whole meeting and video of some key parts of it. Others did too, so some of this will be up on YouTube in the next few days. Unfortunately, the media outlets got their soundbites and left before the real interesting stuff came out, so it's hard to see how they'll report what really happened, since by the time things started getting interesting, they weren't there.

The city was at first still trying to say they will own the theatre after they buy the note, but got immediately corrected by several audience members pointing out that they will own the mortgage, not the theatre. We were then able to get city officials such as Comptroller Joan Pratt and the BDC's Kim Clark on record repeatedly as admitting that there will be a foreclosure auction on the theatre (probably in about 60 days, according to a lawyer from the city). They also publicly committed to widely publicizing the auction, which since they've been apparently trying to hide the fact that they are having one up until now was quite unexpected.

Many members of the public spoke out to say there is clearly a hidden agenda here on the part of the city, which Kim Clark denied, but those of us who have been volunteering in the theatre and close to the situation know the hidden agenda exists.

Tom Kiefaber and others also managed to put in front of a wider audience the facts about the CHAP process scaring away private investors that would have saved the theatre and prevented the necessity of the city spending this money. An audience member spoke up to bring out James "Buzz" Cusack's conflict of interest on the CHAP board, since he has expressed an interest in buying the theatre. When Kim Clark quickly pointed out that Buzz had recused himself, I was able to reveal that another commissioner, Bob Embry, abstained from the vote at the CHAP meeting after his own conflicts of interest were pointed out, but had reportedly been driving the whole process up to that point.

Score some points for the good guys! This meeting got a little truth out there at last. More to come on YouTube.

Tom Harris and Mimi Shelley's video of what has happened to so many theatres in Baltimore, and what happened to the Mayfair after Baltimore City took it over, was premiered before the meeting, and that will be up on YouTube soon too. If that video doesn't make you cry, I don't know what will.

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