Transcription of Feb 12 Hearing, Part 5

And here’s a rather fascinating coda to what went on after the main body of the testimony… Mr. Henson was actually called back from the audience to answer a few questions from lawmakers. This concluding portion of the hearing can be heard starting at approximately 1:35:00 in this mp3.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn was the chair. Other representatives who spoke include Anna Wills (R), Jean Wagenius, John Ward (DFL), Leon Lillie (DFL), Dean Urdahl (R), and Mike Freiberg (DFL). This meeting occurred on 12 February 2013 in front of the Legacy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

***

PK: Thank you, all. Are there any quick questions for Committee members? And again, we’ll…Rep. Wills…again, we will be continuing this discussion; I don’t want to stop it here, but…

AW: Thank you, Madame Chair. It’s more of a comment, really. I just wanted to say, I really appreciate everyone coming in on this issue, and wanted to say that my first date with my now-husband was at a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert, so I’m looking forward to digging into this a little bit more, and I hope that we can focus on how it pertains to the Legacy funding that we provide, and how we can help in that way. Thank you.

PK: You know, that was one of the issues that I wanted to get to, which we obviously can’t get at the level of this discussion, which is what can we do to use Legacy funding to either – the Legacy funding that’s sequestered this year which hasn’t been spent, or the Legacy funding which we’re looking at doing in the future. And is there some package we can put together that looks at…? You know, one of the things I haven’t heard of and heard from and maybe we should talk is, are there contributions…as we’ve talked about, the penalty to the Cities, you know…are there contributions from the Cities that could be possible to fix this, and so forth. Representative Wagenius?

JeanW: Thank you, Madame Chair. A question for next time… But one of the contributions of the state taxpayers was bonding dollars and what I don’t understand and would like an answer to is… Mr. Henson said that there was a substantial financial challenge, and that was a quote, and I was wondering if he was aware of this challenge when he asked for bonding money, and if he was aware of it, did he share it with the bonding committee?

PK: Okay. Well, Mr. Henson, can you answer that one quickly, and then – ? I know we’re beyond our time, and we’re going to have Rep. Mullery in here yelling at us, but um, let’s try, and as I said, we’ll probably schedule another meeting. The first thing I looked was to see if all the bonding money had gone out yet, to see if we had any hook on that, but it had. Mr. Henson.

MH: Um, Madame Chair, Representatives. Um, when we applied for the money, the economy was in a turbulent position. We were using the endowment to stabilize the organization. We undertook a strategic planning exercise after we received the money and no one at that stage realized how volatile the economy was going to be and whether it would return quickly or slowly. Unfortunately it turned much more slowly than we expected, um, and we began our strategic planning after we had received notification of the funding in January 2010.

JeanW: That’s not answering my question.

PK: I think Rep. Wagenius is not satisfied with that answer. I think specifically she was asking what was told to the bonding committee, but…

JeanW: That’s right. Thank you, Madame Chair.

MH: We, um, explained to the bonding committee at that time that we were operating on a stable financial basis, that we had presented three years of operating, um, uh, balances – uh, we had done that, and in the short term we were operating from a stable basis. Part of that stability was how do we manage the five-year contract that we have with our musicians through to 2012.

JK: Rep. Lillie.

LL: Uh, thank you, Madame Chair and the testifier. There’s quite a few of us that serve on both Capital Investment and this Legacy Committee, and, uh, I think I just want to share, uh, Chair Hausman’s comments. I’m really disappointed in the legacy you’re leaving for Minnesota and going forward, and I really challenge you to settle. I just think it’s…it’s really unfortunate, and it will certainly be an impact – impact my decisions as I vote on Capital Investment and Legacy in the future. So.

PK: Rep. Urdahl?

DU: Thank you, Madame Chair. Real quickly, and I serve on Capital Investment as well as this committee, and uh I’m struck, you know, that with our athletic teams and everything – uh, you know, ticket sales seem to have for the most part gone up except for the Twins, and that’s another reason. But – what have ticket sales done, as far as your concerts?

MH: Um. Madame Chair, Representatives. Um, ticket sales last season continued to show a slight decline in classical sales. Uh, pops sales remain very stable. Um, it’s also important to remember in terms of the number of concerts that we give, uh, that in terms of Summerfest we actually saw an increase in our ticket sales as well.

DU: I’d just like to say quickly, in light of the performances of our athletic teams, it really is appreciative that we have at least something in this state that has been number one, and please try to remain the high level.

[applause]

PK: Okay. Rep. Ward, and then –

JohnW: Mr. Henson, real quick, because I’d asked a question of the previous testifiers about the, uh, cuts that they took. What percent of cuts and they suggested I ask you – what percent of cuts have you as a management level taken? I heard thirty, fifty percent from them. What have you taken percent-wise?

MH: Uh, Madame Chair, Representative. Um, first of all, we are in a stage of negotiations that whatever the cuts that we actually finally agree, we’ve not agreed, as part of that negotiation process with, uh, the musicians – uh, we uh, have effectively frozen salaries across the administration, uh, for the, uh, last five years while the musicians received a nineteen percent increase. We’ve cut pension contributions by forty percent; we’ve laid off twenty percent of, uh, of the management, and medical costs, uh, cost the staff twenty-five percent more than they currently cost the musicians.

JohnW: So you’re not sure. Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

PK: Representative Frieberg, quickly and then –

MF: Sure, I just wanted to second what Rep. Lillie said; I find this whole process very dispiriting. Um, I – when I was in high school, I thought about – I play the piano; um, I thought about becoming a musician, but I decided I could practice eight hours a day, um, and still not be guaranteed of being…uh, of having a reasonable career with reasonable hours, so here I am at this job, um, so instead I’m part of what Ms. Jacobsen referred to as the complex ecosystem of amateur musicians, which I enjoy a great deal, but um, I do find this whole process dispiriting, and I would like to see it resolved, and it will influence how I vote on this committee.

PK: Okay, we’ve encouraged lots more people into thinking about it, and I think we need to think about what we can do. Thank you, everyone. Meeting adjourned.

***

I heard from readers who were present that Mr. Henson left immediately after the hearing adjourned, and did not speak any further to the press or to legislators. So for what that’s worth…

If you are grateful to the Representatives for taking up the issue of the devastating orchestra lockouts, please please please consider writing them a thank-you note. Their contact information is here.

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Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra

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