Sure, he’s good with other people’s money
The contributions to Minnesota culture by U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis were profiled in a front-page article May 26 (“Banker body, preacher soul”). The paper lionizes his problem-solving.
Problem: The Minnesota Orchestra is losing money. Solution: Cut workers’ pay by 30 percent and shut down the orchestra until they accept it.
Problem: The Minnesota Vikings might move. Solution: Give $500 million of taxpayer money to build a stadium for team owners from New Jersey, thereby increasing the value of their team by $500 million.
Problem: Minneapolis wants the Super Bowl. Solution: Pledge $30 million of other people’s money and waive tens of millions of dollars in taxes, all for the benefit of the NFL.
The profile fawns over the Davis style: “Commanding” 60,000 employees, he bravely stands up to the governor, calling him Mark. (The paper does not mention his courage in standing up to the Vikings or the NFL). Before a presentation begging the NFL for the Super Bowl, he sings “We Are the Champions” with his high school sophomore class, er, I mean his co-presenters.
James McGovern, Minneapolis
WASP stewardship had its shortcomings
So, Bonnie Blodgett bemoans the demise of the WASP ascendancy (“Diminuendo: The dying sound of stewardship among the American ruling class,” May 25), then somehow connects that to the recent financial turbulence of the Minnesota Orchestra. While she lionizes the WASPs who she says understood the importance of supporting culture, she conveniently forgets that at the same time they were supporting orchestras they were restricting access to their schools, their clubs, their neighborhoods, their businesses, their law firms and the medical staff of their hospitals except to “their kind.”
As to the orchestra, perhaps she should know that in those bygone days, concert revenues covered 50 percent or more of the orchestra’s costs. Most recently they covered 22 percent. Hence the need to control costs.
Ken Cutler, Edina
What did he do to get such fine coverage?
How is it, we may ask, that Davis was honored with a front-page profile in the Sunday paper? The Star Tribune must feel that it owes him some special effort toward the rehabilitation of his public image. I think that the paper owes its readership an explanation of why this is so.
Robert Kloehn, St. Louis Park
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The photo of Richard Davis with the Wilf brothers on page A10 of Sunday’s Star Tribune was very telling. There is an old saying: “If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”
Wayne Martin, Plymouth
There’s nothing new under the baton
Orchestral music was the first stereophonic sound and remains the best quality ear candy for those with discerning taste. A full orchestra can capture mood and textures of emotion not possible with any other combination of amped-up sound (she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.) So what if people with money have bad taste and want to hear the same old lame sound at a discount price? Artists have been fighting this battle for centuries. Bach composed a new Sunday mass every week as part of his day job. Rembrandt employed an army of assistants based on his “brand” name to crank out what was considered the 17th-century equivalent of “Elvis on Velvet.”
Come to think of it, why should orchestras depend on rich donors at all? In this age of crowdsourced fundraising, I would think you could find enough people willing to pony up some serious money to hear Mahler as it was meant to be played, or the “Water Music” played on its original instruments.
If the Philistines can construct a billion-dollar stadium for a wealthy owner and his well-paid gladiators, how difficult could it possibly be to get public funding for the fine arts?
Benjamin Cherryhomes, Hastings
We need philanthropy. We need the right kind.
The three-page puff piece on Davis stands in stark contrast to local writer Blodgett’s commentary on the death of philanthropy.
The first piece highlights Davis leaping for joy and singing after securing the 2018 Super Bowl, while his bank stands to reap huge dividends from the new football stadium’s loan revenues. Blodgett’s piece exposes the dying throes of stewardship by Davis and America’s ruling class, while an anesthetized public watches sport on the telly.
Philanthropy plays a key role in our society: to spur creativity, problem-solve, improve our lot and alleviate suffering. Advancement of excellence in science, learning, the arts and humanitarian aid is even more needed today at a time when global warming, income inequity, hunger insecurity and housing instability are at critical levels.
This requires the Davises of the world to take their eye off the football and focus on what truly matters.
Betty Folliard, Minneapolis
The writer is a former state representative.