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City Hall vets call for government-led solution to orchestra lockout

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: October 4, 2013 - 2:25 PM

An unlikely group of former politicians – two of whom are running for mayor – suggested Friday that the Minnesota Orchestra lockout could be ended by tapping outside funds, possibly from the Minnesota Vikings or Minneapolis City Council.

Former Governor Arne Carlson joined Dan Cohen – a 1960s rival on the City Council – and former council president Jackie Cherryhomes at a press conference outside Orchestra Hall to call for more government-led action to help end the lockout.

Carlson advocated bringing together a “broad group of leaders” to examine ways to close the $6 million gap identified between orchestra revenues and expenditures.

“I’d like to see government entities, the [Legacy Amendment] fund all reviewed,” Carlson said. “I’d like to see the Vikings step forth and say that yes we got an overly generous deal from the taxpayer and we’re going to become part of the solution for Orchestra Hall.”

Cohen took it a step further, calling on the council and mayor to provide “whatever is needed” in operating funds to allow the orchestra to continue performing.

Asked by a reporter whether he was calling for a “bailout” of the orchestra, Cohen said, “I think when you compare the amount of money we’re considering committing to other activities, like a stadium and streetcars, with the amount of money it would take to get operating funds to put this orchestra back on its feet, my answer to your question is, ‘Yes.’”

Cherryhomes wasn’t prepared to support that proposal, but said the state needs more long-term support for the arts. She said that could include lobbying for more legacy funds, or directing entertainment and liquor taxes to the arts rather than just sports.

“It’s a tragedy that we don’t have the orchestra right now,” Cherryhomes said. “That’s not just about Minneapolis…this is a national treasurer.”

After a number of questions about logistics and whether they had yet spoken to the Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, Carlson indicated that the assembled crowd should be more focused on ideas than details.

“I’m fearful in today’s environment that if John Kennedy were to announce that we’re going to go to the moon, he’d be bombarded with endless questions and inquiries on what kind of fuel, how much is it going to cost per gallon, what would the environmental impact be …before you know it, that never would have gotten off the ground,” Carlson said.

Cherryhomes echoed that sentiment, citing her work with Carlson on the city purchase of Target Center – a decision many current City Hall inhabitants now criticize. “I remember how we approached the Target Center discussion,” Cherryhomes said. “And I remember the fact that we didn’t get bogged down in the details of all of it. [Carlson] moved us to a leadership place that said, 'This is what we need to do, now how do all of us work to get there.'”

Carlson and Cohen served together on the City Council in the 1960s (right). Their relationship at the time is perhaps best characterized by an article from that year, headlined “Cohen, Carlson trade insults on rights issue,” which described an how they “exchanged epithets” and engaged in a “shouting match” after a hearing over civil rights measures.

They laughed upon seeing the article on Friday afternoon. “When we were younger, we were strong rivals,” Carlson said. “And the truth is we had more ambition than judgment.”

Pictured (top): Carlson, Cohen and Cherryhomes

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