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“I respectfully request $100 million to allow the City to support the private development of a downtown Performing Arts Center.”

That might be the most amazing sentence ever written by a politician.

But Mayor Lovely Warren did indeed ask for the money with a straight face in a February 13 letter to the governor. She also asked for other stuff, including money to repair sidewalks, reorganized the police department, fill in the Inner Loop and assist the Sibley Building project. Her monetary request was far, far greater than the wish list sent to the governor by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Two weeks before Warren wrote her letter, I wrote a blog asking “Why Not Rochester?” The governor had just visited suburban Syracuse, awarding $100 million for a lakefront project. We can’t criticize Rochester for not getting anything and then criticize our leaders for asking.

Yes, Warren’s request was very bold. But we’re talking about a state that was prepared to give Syracuse University $200 million for an athletic stadium before Miner put on the brakes. We’re talking about a state that is giving Buffalo $1 billion, not including the tens of millions being used to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium.

That fact is, we’d have a new performing arts center on Main Street if our last two mayors cared to advocate for one. If Warren wants a theater at Midtown, she’ll get a theater at Midtown, especially with help from County Executive Maggie Brooks, who said she supports the effort. Getting our state lawmakers behind that vision would help, too. (So far, they most definitely are not.)

Here’s what former Brooks spokesman Noah Lebowitz posted on my Facebook page:

Facebook comment

 

Links of the Day:

 

– A Cornell professor weighs in on college athletes getting paid. She relates them to medical interns.

– I just do not understand putting $95 million of tax dollars into a Ralph Wilson Stadium renovation while at the same time exploring a new Bills venue.

– See ya suburbs. More people want to live in the city.

– This is hysterical: When your anonymous neighbor makes fun of you via a Wi-Fi name.

 

Video of the Day:

 

Fringe Logo SMALL FN 4.10.13In its second year, the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival arrived. The festival doubled in size to 10 days and added dozens of performances. Many were free and most were very affordable.

Here’s what we learned in the second year of Fringe:

 

1. Rochesterians love festivals, even new ones.

Our love for festivals is well-known. But we can also be really, really cynical. Fringe proved we can embrace new, fun stuff.

 

2. There’s room for Fringe and Jazz.

Sources say the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival was not happy when the Fringe Festival launched in 2012, even though the festivals are several months apart. There were concerns about competing for branding in the East End, recognition and sponsorship money. That’s all been put to rest, I hope.

The two events enhance each other and enhance the East End as an arts district. The festivals prove Rochesterians want more excuses to come downtown to enjoy live performances.

(As an aside, Jazz is for-profit. Fringe is non-profit. Jazz – which doesn’t have to open its books – gets way more taxpayer support than Fringe. Jazz got $175,000 from the city alone in 2013. Fringe got $20,000 – and will end up owing the city more than that for police and other services.)

 

3. Theater. Theater. Theater.

After getting minimal support from the city, the Rochester Broadway Theatre League has partnered with Medley Centre to build a performing arts center in Irondequoit. But Democratic Mayoral Candidate Lovely Warren wants a theater to go to Midtown. Fringe bolsters her case.

The Fringe Festival proves live theater brings people downtown who spend money. More than people who go to sporting events, people who go to theater often eat out first and get drinks afterward.

In short, theaters bring vitality and economic development.

 

4. Block F is wasted space.

Courtesy: Fringe Festival Facebook Page

Courtesy: Fringe Festival Facebook Page

The large Main St. parking lot is catty-corner to Eastman Theater. It’s rarely filled with cars. The Jazz and Fringe festivals set up performance tents on the lot. It only gets meaningful use twice a year. The University of Rochester has rights to build on the lot. It should move on this immediately to add to the character of the East End and fill in a “missing tooth” on Main Street.

 

5. Manhattan Square Park should be used all the time.

Pre-Bandaloop

Pre-Bandaloop

Thousands of people filled the amphitheater and surrounding park for the pre-Bandaloop concert. The city has said the park is too small for Party in the Park. Rubbish. It should be used for Party in the Park. It should be used for concerts every weekend in the summer. It’s a grossly underused asset.

(If you missed Bandaloop’s show, watch it here.)

Links of the Day:

 

– Three letters you’ll have to know: LDC. Indictments are coming related to Monroe County’s use of these entities.

– Upstate’s nuclear power plants, including Ginna, are in financial trouble and could be forced to close.

Child deaths by guns are vastly under-counted.

The “sell-by” dates on your groceries are useless.

– Checking in with Rochester native and Syracuse football player Ashton Broyld.