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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My STATEments

Just wanting to let a few things be known...

I really don't dislike the State Theater for the Arts. Even with all of my lobbying for the city's proposed Amusement Tax, I am an Eastonian who sees and believes in the theater's value as a venue for arts and entertainment. But with that I also am an Eastonian that believes that no man-made structure, device, or organization has an importance that supersedes a human being.

Our city is old and beautiful with many old and beautiful traditions and institutions. Traditions and institutions that have shaped and defined our community, and have stood the tests that time can place on them. But, as awe-inspiring and as sentimental as these things may be, the fact still remains that they are just things.

Lenny's and Joe's Market are two such beautiful and sentimental Easton institutions that immediately come to mind when I think of places we know and love. Both places have come to the end-their-eras as city cornerstones, but they have in no way permanently set the city back to the dark ages with their respective transitions. I will always have sweet sentiment for Lenny's and Mr & Mrs Albanesse. Lenny himself helped me buy my first and best suit. He helped me choose and tailored a black double-breasted business suit that I used to interview for jobs. It worked like a charm. I wore that suit to get the greatest job of my life. And, even though I can't stick an arm in the sleeves, I still own it. Like MANY Eastonians I will miss Mr Albanesse. And even though I have long been an enthusiast of Josie's New York Deli, my spouse was true to Joe's.

I never wanted to see these places cease to exist in my lifetime or any other, but time never fails to march on and things are forced to sometimes change. If and when these changes occur it is us the people left to make what we can. And we always have options. Joe's will continue to serve us as a deli/market and Lenny's has been purchased by Koehler-Kheel (a fine developer who has yet to lay an egg in our city-- This can't be said for a few others).

Now I in NO way wish to see the State Theater go under. Too many people have worked extremely hard to keep the lights on and the curtains open. But let us put things in perspective...

The theater has been able to successfully charge its patrons a surcharge for several years now. The surcharge is a few points lower than the originally proposed tax (and to my knowledge it is not capped). The theater was willing to take on the burden of a surcharge in exchange for one million dollars. The money came from the city when the city was financial stable enough to offer such generous support. The theater thrived under the oppression of this surcharge. Tax records (that I have) show that that theater is financially in the black (approximately $5 million).

Now Ms Brown (the theater's Executive Director) has testified that the theater didn't have such a great year in 2004, and that 2005 may not be the greatest ever. She cited the tax as being offensive to ticket buyers. She claims that acts will shy away if ticket prices are too high. She alleges that competition from neighboring venues will steal the acts with their more modern and spacious accommodations.

The seats have been full with the patrons being surcharged. The act dictates the price-- Great acts draw great pay because people want to see them (note Tom Jones & the Super Bowl). That's why the theater can (and does) comfortably charge $80 or more for big box office draws. Bigger and better is a fact of life in the USA, but the State Theater's niche is its old age and cozy size-- That's why it still stands. Oh yeah, she cited neighboring as Reading, Philadelphia, and the Poconos (everything's relative).

If and when the theater falls on hard times, I truly hope that its wards have the presence of mind and ability to devise a more successful business plan. Because if they think that it will always be business as usual at the same cost of doing business then it was nice knowing you.

The point.

The symbiotic community of a city relies on all of its bodies to contribute when stressed to. The people, the government, and the establishments all support one another.

It's time for the establishments to contribute.

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