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Sunday, April 02, 2023

Overture Center ownership comes under question

Debate continued over the ownership and staffing model for the Overture Center during an Overture Ad hoc committee meeting Tuesday.

A publicly owned and privately operated ""focused model"" was proposed to the committee.


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Local banks will resolve the Overture Center's $28 million debt, but their resolution is contingent on the Overture Center being run by a private non-profit, according to City Attorney Michael May.


The Overture Center is currently owned by a private development corporation and operated by a non-profit corporation, Committee Chair Mark Bugher said.


Members of the workers' unions associated with the Overture Center expressed concern over the proposed public-private model. Local 60 labor union representative, Lori Keif, said she favors a publicly owned facility that is also publicly run by a union who ""care about the city and the product they provide day in and day out.""


Paul Soglin, committee member and former Madison mayor, said he was frustrated with the committee.


""[We are] basically being told take or leave it,"" Soglin said.  ""We are told if we do anything else, the crash [of the Overture Center] is inevitable.""

Some community members spoke on behalf of the proposed model. Much of their support drew a connection between the plan and a plea to keep the Overture Center open.


Deirdre Garton, committee member and board member of the 201 State Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Overture Center, said she is in favor of the focused model.


""[A] public building without debt and private operation gives us the best chance to fulfill the dream of the Overture,"" Garton said.


As in previous meetings, community and committee members were concerned with the objectivity and quality of the research for the focused model.

Committee member and Ald. Tim Bruer, District 14, suggested an independent entity should review the research to avoid conflicts of interest.


The Overture Center Ad Hoc committee said they would meet again before submitting a final report to the Common Council by their deadline of Oct. 13.

""We're going to have to come to a conclusion whether we like it or not,"" Bugher said.

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