Administrative costs are indeed managed


A Sept. 27 letter about the financial struggles of local orchestras raises an excellent question -- how are orchestras doing in reducing administrative expenses? In the case of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the answer is that we have done a lot, and we continue to focus on this area.

We have done significant work to manage our expenses on the administrative side of the organization in recent years, and as a result, since 2008 we have eliminated more than $1.5 million from the budget. There have been no salary increases or retirement contributions for staff since 2008, and the number of staff positions was reduced by 17 percent in 2009.

This year, the focus is on the musicians' contract, because that contract expires at the end of September. The SPCO board's goal is to collaborate with our musicians on a fair agreement that protects our financial future and ensures our artistic vibrancy.

While it is a difficult time around the country for orchestras, we believe we will be able to develop a solution that provides this community with a great SPCO for years to come.


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It certainly is obvious to those in the audience that Twin Cities orchestras are world-class. But those in the audience should remember that administrative labors are precisely not obvious. Nevertheless, the people behind the scenes, about whom you do not see nor hear nor read, work just as hard for a fraction of the pay.

It's not uncommon for these administrators to work upwards of 60 hours a week for salaries which could only generously be called "middle-class." Positions are routinely left vacant as additional responsibilities are given to already overburdened employees. Nobody applauds them. Nobody writes articles about them. Nobody cares or even notices when their jobs are cut, or when their wages are frozen.

I assure you, they do more than you know. Nobody is getting wealthy working an administrative job at an arts nonprofit. Most could find corporate jobs that pay better, but they stay because they believe in the organization, just as much as the musicians, and just as much as you.


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Surely, prevention is the only cure


I've got an idea: Since the main drive of the voter ID bill is to prevent the possibility of abuse, let's apply that to other issues of public safety that have similar potential. I suggest we start handing out speeding tickets to people who buy new sports cars. There's a likelihood that they will speed at some point.

Let's prevent that abuse before it starts. And how about DUIs to people heading out for a night at the bar, or ambulance bills to people who have a history of heart disease and eat fast food more than, say, three times a week? I'll bet we can curb a lot of future abuse by punishing people's potential instead of their actions.


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In the October edition of the Minnesota Educator, teachers union President Tom Dooher urges members to vote no on the voter ID proposition. In a similar matter, there is no mention of his position on new photo ID requirements for students taking the SAT and ACT college exams ("Heightened ACT, SAT security will test students," Sept. 27).

Among about 3.2 million students who took the exams in 2010-11, less than 1/10 of 1 percent had their tests questioned or thrown out. But because of the cheating minutia, new rules require students to upload a photo in advance with their application, present a matching photo ID when they arrive at the test site and show ID again when submitting the tests. Students' photos will also accompany the test results to their school for further verification.

According to the article, there are tens of thousands of students who don't have high-speed Internet access at home to upload the required photos.

If cheating is going on in testing, it would stand to reason that cheating is going on in voting. If educators take steps to stop cheating on tests, it stands to reason that educators would want to take steps to stop cheating in voting. I would like Dooher to explain his views on the new ACT/SAT rules to see how they compare with his voter ID views.


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Complex, but unlike Iran, it is an ally


A Sept. 27 letter writer correctly states that Israel's political scene is not monolithic, but presents only one side of it.

I read the Jerusalem Post, too. The same article from the Sept. 12 edition that the writer quotes goes on to say that Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor accused opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of endorsing Barack Obama with his overreaching attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Would the letter writer consider that a potential violation of international law, too?

The Jerusalem Post article reminds readers that several U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers have failed to see eye to eye over the years, but that at the end of the day our two countries are allies. The same can't be said about Iran.

If we're going to discuss violations of international law, actual or potential, let's look at Iran's nuclear weapons program and its support of terrorism against Israeli, Western and Syrian civilians.