The Latest Example Demonstrating Why You Need An Effective Government Affairs Committee

Adaptistration People 102The New Haven Independent published an article by Paul Bass on 4/20/2016 which reports that the New Haven Symphony (NHS) may lose its primary venue, Yale University’s Woolsey Hall, where the orchestra has performed for 114 years (not a typo).

According to the article, the NHS is being used as a pawn in a larger political battle over a proposal in the state legislature that would impact a 182-year-old law (again, not a typo) which grants additional tax exemptions to Yale in the form of sharply reduced taxes that partly house commercial activity.

NHS leadership issued a statement to the newspaper addressing the potential eviction.

We have been advised by Yale that if this legislation were enacted, it would require the University to prohibit the Symphony’s use of Woolsey Hall to keep it free of taxation,” symphony Executive Director Elaine C. Carroll and board President Robert Santy wrote in the email. “This would greatly impact the Symphony, which has called Woolsey Hall home since the Hall opened in 1902.  Yale has supported the Symphony by giving us easy access to the Hall at affordable rates (well below market price).  Should we be required to move, there is no comparable facility in New Haven to accommodate our concerts.”

Reportedly, Yale’s own lobbying efforts are attempting to shut down or amend the bill but some inside the state legislature are crying foul over Yale’s decision to rattle the cage of community groups that use the hall.

New Haven State Rep. Roland Lemar called the letter to the symphony — which he said other local arts organizations received, too — “the very definition of a scare tactic.”

If nothing else, this situation provides the latest example behind why orchestras need to maintain an effective Government Affairs Committee as part of their board organization.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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