The latest idea for saving the Minnesota Orchestra is being borrowed from professional sports — the Green Bay Packers model of community ownership.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, has announced plans to introduce a bill to establish community ownership of the orchestra “as a means for preventing the kinds of ongoing disputes between management and musicians that we’re seeing right now,” she said.
Under Kahn’s proposal, which would ask Gov. Mark Dayton to oversee formation of a business to acquire the orchestra, no buyer could own more than 5 percent of stock, at least 50 percent of the ownership would be sold to members of the public with rules ensuring that artistic decisions are not made by the board of directors.
Blois Olson, spokesman for the locked-out musicians of the orchestra, offered no comment other than “We’ll let [the bill] speak for itself.”
Michael Henson, the Minnesota Orchestra president, did not address the bill directly, saying that the board “continues to focus on seeking talks with musicians that will lead to a negotiated settlement that can restart the Minnesota Orchestra’s season as soon as possible.”
This isn’t the first time Kahn has suggested applying this concept to a beloved Minnesota institution. The new orchestra bill is adapted from one she put forth in 1997 pushing for community ownership of the Minnesota Twins. That bill had some initial support but died after the stadium deal gained traction.
The model has worked for orchestras in other countries, including New Zealand, Mexico and Argentina, Kahn said. She is researching if it has worked in the United States.
Other civic leaders have called for government help in resolving the orchestra’s financial woes. Former Gov. Arne Carlson and Minneapolis mayoral candidates Jackie Cherryhomes and Dan Cohen have made similar pleas.
“It’s going to be difficult to explain to the people of Minnesota why we were so generous with Zygi Wilf and the Vikings stadium and so weak in response to the orchestra’s needs,” Carlson said. “It’s time for our elected leaders to come together and say, we can’t lose our symphony.”