As the Common Council gears up for a vote on a plan for the city to buy the Overture Center, critics of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz are advancing a contrary view.
Both former Ald. Ken Golden, who is running against Cieslewicz next spring, and former Ald. Noel Radomski, another likely challenger, are expressing concerns about the deal's long-term costs.
Golden says Overture is a treasure, but way too big for Madison; he likens it to giving Miller Park - and the responsibility for its upkeep - to the Mallards. He warns of the need for major work down the line ("After 30 or 40 years, generally a place gets rebuilt from the top to the bottom") and calls for some commitment by private donors to help bear the cost.
Beyond that, Golden objects to the plan's call to have a nonprofit manage the center. "If the city is going to own it and buy it, we're going to run it, thank you very much. It seems like the donors have been frightened of city control from day one. Well, they've done such a bang-up job, give us a chance."
Radomski also thinks the plan calls for the city to shoulder too much of the financial burden. He says the mayor and council leadership should have aggressively participated in negotiations with the banks and donors to erase Overture's debt. "The mayor's got to grow some balls and go negotiate aggressively, so the city's liability is limited," he says.
Radomski faults Overture's current management and predicts it will fail again at running the center if the plan is approved.
"We have to get more diverse programming in the Overture. It's too damn elite," he says. "We don't have enough kids, people in 20s, 30s and 40s. We need opera, but also hip-hop, spoken word, etc."