Anthony McCarthy talks about The SENATOR Theatre

A podcast of the the July 3 broadcast should be available from the Anthony McCarthy Show site sometime in the near future. However, another supporter of The SENATOR, Astrogirl, recorded the show and has made it available for download: http://www.4shared.com/file/115846613/e52bfc52/001_A_004_Anthony_McCarthy__2009_07_03.html

HIGHLIGHTS

WEAAs Anthony McCarthy

WEAA's Anthony McCarthy

McCarthy

When I announced that we were doing this show I got some of the most bizarre emails from public officials and from other folks who are absolutely concerned about talking about this… Anything that makes people that uncomfortable, I want to expose.

Tom Kiefaber

Public representatives have ‘gone to ground’. It appears that their strategy, if there is one, is to let the clock run down.

The plane’s about to run into the side of the mountain and maybe we’re going to find afterwards that there was nobody at the controls.

People have alluded to some sort of plan… Some kind of fix, if you will. That would almost be comforting at this point.

McCarthy

It seems like [The SENATOR issue is] about Tom Kiefaber.  When I’ve talked to some elected officials they say, “It’s about Tom Kiefaber” and I’ll say, “No, it’s about The SENATOR Theatre.” Let’s be clear and not let personalities distract us.

Kiefaber

I guess it could be about me, since I’m current owner… And it’s about the key piece of real estate in the middle of a $20 million redevelopment plan, so I guess it’s about me to a certain extent.

Kind of like, “Thank You” for keeping alive for the intersection alive for 12 years while Belvedere Square was empty… We’ll take it from here.

But, it’s not about me, it’s about, “Where are we gonna take it”!

McCarthy

The SENATOR marquee says, “Councilman Henry Wont Meet with the Community About the Auction”. Is there a sense in the community that Bill Henry is not being transparent. Is not speaking to this process?

Kiefaber

YEAH. [McCarthy laughs]

McCarthy

He was part of the commission that was set up by the mayor.

Kiefaber

The Steering Committee… Which was essentially to isolate political entities from what was going to happen. “We’re going to take their recommendation.” Their recommendation, oddly enough, was The SENATOR can’t be a non-profit… Because the city can’t subsidize it… It’s not about the city subsidizing it. These [types of] theatres are subsidized and raise funds from all over the country, particularly iconic renowned extraordinary theatres like The SENATOR.

McCarthy

Why do you think Bill Henry will not meet with the community now?

Kiefaber

Because, he doesn’t have the answers to questions that need to be answered, that’s my particular opinion. And, if he does, then let’s get together and talk about it… The city might have a great plan, what is it?

MD State Senator Catherine Pugh

MD State Senator Catherine Pugh

State Senator Catherine Pugh [caller]

I know that city, for years, have been working with Tom in an effort to bail The SENATOR Theatre out on a couple of occasions. But there is concern that

1. This is a private enterprise.
2. Where are you trying to go from here? Is there a plan?

… Where are the banks? Where are the investors?

Kiefaber

People assume to be true, because they are repeated coming out of City Hall and the BDC, which is the city has this enormous investment in The SENATOR Theatre. For the past 10 years, prior to buying this [mortgage] note, the city has not put one dime on our side of the street. Not a penny. People don’t know that, because [officials] keep saying that.

In the past two years we’ve had numerous town meetings, we’ve had scores of round-table discussions with the extended community… With consultants. In one case, a gentleman flew in from California who has done a lot of this with historic theatres and really mapped out a plan  with the extended North Baltimore community to convert from my private ownership to non-profit ownership, which is the model that makes these theatres successful…
[Ed. Note: John Lind of Venuetech – http://venuetech.com]

… Auction is essentially playing Russian Roulette with The SENATOR’s future.

I really appreciate this forum… It takes this intelligent, back & forth discussion to really tease out the truth.

State Senator Pugh

Why not just become a non-profit?

Kiefaber

There has been a non-profit has formed. The issue is that the theatre has considerable debt. You just convert that debt to a non-profit.

State Senator Pugh

The question becomes, “Where is the suport system”, outside of the ‘city’
Where are the foundations?… Where are they? Where are the banks to provide the relief?

McCarthy

It really does raise a whole lot more questions, in my mind, about the city and their intentions, regardless of the debt… I think the debt is a veryissue to a lot of people… But what the city invests its time, effort, expertise in is also very important.

Raymond Lucas [caller]

Are there some ways “stimulus” money could be leveraged in areas of education?…

Programs that non-profits can really drive, to help those areas where our kids need help and creating special programs that marry the arts and literacy and all of those things the state expects the kids to know and they can’t pass these assessments.

McCarthy

Raymond, what a brilliant idea and what a unique approach beyond, “Let’s sell it”.

Kiefaber

Raymond, that’s terrific. Because, what you’re highlighting is part of what has been modeled at The SENATOR… Bringing kids in to see films, tied in to the curriculum and using the screen, essentially, as a graphic interface for learning – and enhanced learning. There’s a woman named Joan Webber who lives in our community, she’s very tuned-in to this, she’s an industry expert. She has has joined the efforts in regard to the non-profit approach of the ownership of the theatre. That is part of the vision – exactly that… For the theatre to become the premiere educational & entertainment venue in the region. This has been done in other places, and The SENATOR has a unique opportunity to move that way. So why are we going to auction?

McCarthy

Something Senator Pugh said is really stuck in my mind, what about the philanthropic community… Partnering with this non-profit?

Kiefaber

You mentioned, after the last show, you got an email from Bob Embry… Essentially undermining my credibility… Bob runs a foundation [Abell Foundation], they do some wonderful things for the city… At one point in 1999 there was an attempt that was foiled, by the Abell Foundation, to take over ownership of The SENATOR. And so, Bob’s been in the background of this thing, as he likes to inhabit, for now a decade… If he has a vision for The SENATOR… Let’s get everyone in the theatre, talk about the future before it’s too late and make sure that Bob Embry is an overt part of that…

McCarthy

He’s powerful. I call him our First Citizen… Bob Embry wields an enormous amount of influence.

Kiefaber

Part of the call at the end of last year was for the city and the state, economic developers… to come to the community, the historic theatre consultants and the ownership in sorting out exactly what Senator Pugh was talking about…
[Ed. Note: They did not appear]

I would love for you to moderate… A forum at The SENATOR… Let’s get in there and make this a transparent process and not one where all of these questions are left unanswered by those who are taking these actions.

McCarthy

That is a very, very important point… Of course, I will do whatever is necessary to bring people to the table. To find some solutions.

Kiefaber

Andy Frank… is a key element of this… Bob, Andy, Bill Henry, Rebecca Murphy Jones… Let’s get in and have it all out in the open!

McCarthy

[To listeners] What do you think about appointed officials like Andy Frank, the Deputy Mayor of The City of Baltimore?..
By some accounts, when you talk to people in city government, HE MAKES the decisions when it comes to things like the future of The SENATOR Theatre. The mayor is less involved in this situation as she takes care of some other issues that seem to be distracting her right now.

The SENATOR Theatre goes on the auction block on July 22nd… To say that the community is a little concerned about the future of this theatre would be an understatement. When I announced last week that we were going to do this show about The SENATOR Theatre, my Gmail accounts, of my producer and others started calling me saying, “Anthony something is going on, because we’re getting lots of emails about the SENATOR theatre and about the rumors… The future… The finances of The SENATOR Theatre.

Around the country it appears that historic theatres, like The SENATOR Theatre are being embraced by communities. And those communities are investing their dollars and they’re asking their municipalities to invest their tax dollars in keeping these facilities open, alive and in multi-use functions. Whether its educational centers, historic theatres where movies are shown… Where all the new technology available to us are brought to bear.

Tom Kiefaber has been a friend a long time. And he has this amazing gift to speak truth even at times of discomfort. And when I’ve challenged him on his personality and the city’s response to his business plan, he faces those questions head on. That’s what he’s doing today.

I want to ask you about… Astrogirlguides.com… She’s going to post a story this weekend that i think is going to cause some controversy.

Kiefaber

Many times… The people that “get it” are often times from out of town… Is one of the members of the community around The SENATOR… She moved to town about three years ago. Heard some of the negativity about me… And bought into it, she had no reason not to – until she started coming to the theatre and talking to the staff and understanding, from an insider’s point of view… She has a great, I should say ‘detector’ for things that jsut don’t hit her ear right… Just recently we sat down and did [an interview]. I think it’s taken on a life of its own… I think it will be of great interest to your listeners.

Tammy Hunt [caller]

I simply want to let Mr. Kiefaber know that I would very much interested in supporting him. I was able to experience the world famous APOLLO Theatre transition… It was suffering just as The SENATOR… I totally understand why it is important not to destroy something as magnificent as The SENATOR, as was done to The ROYAL Theatre… I see it as a wonderful incubator for culture and art and a training ground for film and video and all kinds of technologies…

Kiefaber

Tammy, thank you. You mention supporting me. It’s really about supporting the extended community and the mandate that has been established, of which I am in agreement – because it was a collaborative effort. And that’s part of what’s generally not known.

She mentioned The ROYAL, which was a counterpart right up there with The APOLLO… And, know if you think about it The SENATOR, at York and Belvedere sits, really,  at the cultural, racial, economic crossroads of the city. And there’s a tremendous opportunity here for The SENATOR to become this multipurpose entertainment and educational facility that really represents the entire community.

McCarthy

You mention being at the crossroads when it comes to a lot of cultural and diversity… When people talk about The SENATOR Theatre, they really don’t think about the African-American community… Why should the African-American community be as invested as anybody else in making sure that this historic theatre continues to be used as a vessel and a venue, as Tammy says… As an incubator for so many things? Including bringing people of different races and cultures together to celebrate theatre, music, arts, culture – anything!

Kiefaber

You got it! It’s not generally know, but many of the events over the years have done that. But, that is part of our collective vision for the future of The SENATOR…. Why should African-Americans care… Because, it’s Baltimore’s premiere theatre… The SENATOR represents a coming together… It should be celebrated for that.

McCarthy

I read in the paper though, [the city] can’t imagine that anyone will outbid the million dollars  that the city will.

Kiefaber

Well, it wasn’t just in the paper. It was emails from Bill Henry…
If these folks don’t understand what The SENATOR represents, and the upside to The SENATOR, and the fact that in certain private hands it could become a cash-cow, it may not be good for the community…

McCarthy

I think what Bill Henry, and others, are saying is the city has stepped up with its investment and people are going to view that – and I think it can viewed in two ways, a very cynical way and  a very positive way – people are going to give the city the benefit of the doubt… The city has a plan that’s in the best interest of the community for this theatre. And, so no one is going to bid over that million dollar investment.
The other thing that scares me when people say that… There’s no way that this million dollars is going to be surpassed is that there is a plan at work… The city has already chosen.

Kiefaber

The city is sending out every signal that, “we’re gonna control this situation”. As Bill has told everyone in his email, because of the CHAP designation that have been put on the interior…

McCarthy

I would be very scared given those CHAP limitations, about what the theatre could be used for. Correct?

Kiefaber

Yes. But, if you want to get into the CHAP designations, Commissioner Embry, that’s a whole hour show… They’ve shown they can come and put them on over the objection of the owner, so why taint the auction by putting them on ahead of time?.. If the city is predicting that they are going to own the theatre after the auction… Once they’re the owner they can put whatever designations they want to… So why not wait until after the auction?… If it’s someone who announces something untoward, then come in and do that CHAP thing, as they have done, and the community would be leading the charge – and my family as well.

You feel the city perhaps deserves the benefit of the doubt? They may have a good plan? That might be true… I see what happened to The MAYFAIR Theatre when they took it over.  I see what happened to The GRAND Theatre in East Baltimore. I have no faith in the city – not the individuals now or before – just in general in terms of understanding the significance of this. But, if I’m wrong, the way to really resolve this… Is to get into a public forum.

Kathleen [caller]

I was at The SENATOR one night, volunteering, and a local news reporter came in… And his relationship with Tom seemed really friendly. And I wondered, if you’re really a buddy, why haven’t you done a real story on this… Every article, news story has been inaccurate or negative, so Tom gets this whole group of people saying, “Oh, you know it’s just Kiefaber with his hand out again – we’ve been through this before.” They’re just not getting the right information. They’ve completely ignore the fact that he’s tried before to transition [the theatre] to non-profit… It’s very scary to think that there is someone saying [to news media], “This is how you’re going to cover it.”

McCarthy

You know, it’s very interesting that you say that… I know that people are wondering, “What does Anthony McCarthy have invested in The SENATOR Theatre?” With all of these things he’s talked about – he has brought Tom back – he’s talked about even when Tom hasn’t been here. Well, one of the reasons is: Because I Want There To Be Answers!
And I want Tom to be held accountable, I want people who are decision makers, who have the power – we say- “of life and death” in their hands to make sure that a non-profit exists or make sure this theatre is still there for generations to come – I want them to answer the questions! It makes me scared when people don’t want to answer questions, because it makes me think they already have an answer – they know I’m not going to like that answer.

Kiefaber

Nobody is sending letters to [the media]. But you know how it works… Once it became known, this time around, there was a vulnerability, “Attack Mode” goes in. Kim Clarke, from the BDC calls up The Daily Record and says, “Tom’s the problem! We’ve invested all this money in The SENATOR! Given him a $180,000 loan which he did not repay!”, which is absolutely false. Which, she then recanted later on, but you know what happens? That gets picked up… The TV stations…  Look for something provocative on the front page and it becomes the sound-byte. And two days later, people that have have known you for years start looking at you a little differently. You know what this is like, don’t you?

McCarthy

Oh, trust me!

Kiefaber

So, I think it is more the media being fed information and there not being a forum to respond to that.

Allen [caller]

What would happen if there was visible support outside… A rally kind of thing where people could speak out… Outside on the street where you could generate a little more excitement.

Kiefaber

Well, tomorrow, starting at noon we’re having a block party. We had one last week and it was fantistic… We’re repainting these hundred sidewalk blocks, which is really the last 25 years of our history – in concrete.

It’s really an opportunity for the community to come together and to express their interest/ concern and what they would like to see for the future of The SENATOR and be part of the process. The SENATOR is essentially a community center… I’m becoming increasing strident about it, because I recognize what’s at stake as well as anyone. And I think it’s really time for the community and those that care about The SENATOR and understand its importance and significance and have been to the community meetings, to look at what’s happening and say, “This is wrong! It is simply wrong! And if it’s right, let’s get the people in who are doing it to explain why it’s right.”

McCarthy

I’ve not hidden… my affection for this mayor. I believe in holding her accountable when she messes up. I believe in praising her when she’s doing good things for the city… Bob Embry has to be… One of the city’s most philanthropic citizens… I find it hard to believe that these people cannot see that we are headed toward a disaster with this auction… That there are options that are working around the country! Instead of us being focused… On finances. Let us have a conversation about what else is possible! What those options are!
… And I didn’t throw Bill Henry into that pot.

Kiefaber

Bill Henry is just basically shilling for the BDC… He doesn’t interact with his constituents. He sided with the downtown development interests. If that’s not the case, then come and speak to the community and explain what’s going on, because he’s been selling this up and down York Road.

I have great respect for our mayor. She needs to enter into this and find out what’s going on… Even from my limited point of view, this is a potential neutron bomb to be dropped on North Baltimore. … Andy [Frank] has been the point person for this all along, I understand he’s been very scarce down there now. I don’t know who’s running the show.

McCarthy

She’s gotten pretty far without my advice. But, I’m telling you, madam mayor, if you don’t take the helm of this soon, there folks of this community… that are going to hold you responsible…

We’re out of time… Tom you keep fighting. There are a lot of good people standing behind you fighting with you. And I don’t know how good I am, but I’m standing with you.

Kiefaber

Thank you!

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