Might plan laid out in commentary fix things?

In May 8 commentary, I proposed a five-year plan to help fix the business model for the Minnesota Orchestra. Part of that plan would ask regular concertgoers to contribute $1 million a year over five years while the long-term sustainability path of the orchestra was figured out.

In the article, I asked people to pledge their support in an e-mail to worldclassorch@gmail.com. In one amazing midweek day, more than $70,000 per year ($350,000 over five years) was pledged by all kinds of people — from a schoolteacher who said she had not had a raise in years to a retired person who said he did not know if he would live long enough to fulfill the pledge but would make sure his heirs did.

The article was posted on hundreds of Facebook pages, and based on other comments made to me, it was clear that we could have raised $100,000 per year easily in one day, all based on a single article. That means we could achieve 10 percent of the public portion of the goal in a single day, with no organized effort.

Those responding uniformly asked one thing in return — a great orchestra, not just a good orchestra. Over and over, they said that the loss of Osmo Vänskä or the world-class musicians who could go elsewhere if circumstances are not resolved would destroy their interest in continuing to support the orchestra.

The passion and energy was real. It makes me quite confident that the concertgoing public can deliver on its part of the plan I proposed. I’ve made inquiries of both the board leaders and the musicians to determine their interest in the plan. I look forward to their response.

Lee Henderson, Minneapolis

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At last! An actual substantive proposal regarding the impasse at our Minnesota Orchestra. But Lee Henderson’s “$5 million, five-year plan” is merely better than nothing at all. It paints a graphic image of the problem’s magnitude by assigning specific portions of the financial shortfall to specific portions of the orchestra’s constituency and expects all of these parties to join in a settlement agreement where a much simpler two-party negotiation has failed. It’s a pie-in-the-sky concept at best.

It should be clear by now that a classic “settlement” of a classic “labor dispute” is the wrong objective to be seeking. Not even the most complex contract settlement can be a solution for a financial problem that has been plaguing this particular orchestra more than others — forever.

When I first moved to Minneapolis in 1948, a financial crisis loomed over every performance, and there has never been a letup. What we have here is a structural failure, not an operational imbalance. The philanthropic community in Minnesota has never trusted the orchestra’s management, evidenced by the fact that much of the support it has given has been into private trusts of various sorts.

The current board and top management team should resign. The governor and the mayors of our six largest cities should form an interim board of directors and set about the huge task of rebuilding the foundations of this great public asset.

James M. Peterson, Richfield

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Report on wide price variations is huge

If you’re interested in obscure watershed events, then this could be a red-letter day. Although probably not life-altering or, perhaps to some, not even that surprising, a national study has substantiated, for the first time, widely disparate prices charged by hospitals for common procedures (“Hospital prices show wild variations,” May 9).

A relatively uncomplicated treatment of pneumonia can range from $8,092 to $19,141 at our local hospitals. Of course, the hospital “experts” will quickly remind us that there are no uncomplicated procedures and that each case, each diagnosis and each treatment is unique. Still, hearing that treatment for heart failure can vary from $9,754 to (yikes!) $35,723 is, at least, enlightening.

Granted, it may be difficult to find many “apples to apples” price/procedure comparisons in the report, which was released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Heck, if they can’t figure this stuff out, the average price-conscious health care consumer certainly cannot. Therein lies the difficulty with health care reform: widespread, entrenched and purposeful obfuscation of price/procedure information to protect the fee-for-service model.

“It’s important to remember that what a hospital ‘charges’ rarely reflects what it is paid by government or private insurers,” Allina Health officials said in a statement. What other industry or business could (or would) make a comment like that? It is important to remember only to the extent that this report results in greater fundamental information transparency, a watershed event.

Rick Ducharme, Hopkins

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Free enterprise system: Bigger than the Beatles!

A May 7 letter (“Oil: North Dakota field is good for humanity”) stated that “nothing in history, ever, has done more to improve the human condition around the world than the American free-enterprise system.”

After reading that, I pictured Jesus thinking, “Dang! So close!”

Dave Rosene, Brooklyn Park