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Arlington Taxpayers Get Hit By Arlogance

Yesterday, Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette asked at his blog “Editor’s Notebook” whether Arlington government’s new Artisphere cultural-arts center is “already on life support?” After all, it opened only last October. McCaffrey writes:

“Expenses are far above projections and revenue is well below what had been anticipated, meaning county officials will need to dip heavily into tax funds to subsidize operations over the next year or more, and maybe indefinitely. Already gone are the live bands for “salsa night,” replaced by a much-less-expensive DJ.

“The Rosslyn facility may end up getting itself righted, or may wind up being the type of boondoggle that happens when grand expectations come into conflict with grim reality. Until we know for sure one way or another, county taxpayers will be footing the bill to cover the costs, as government leaders don’t appear to be willing (yet) to downscale operations.

“Perhaps the most illuminating nugget in a dire economic update put out by the county government was this: Part of the increase in operating costs came about because staff had to be hired at rates above what had been budgeted."

The online ARL.now also wrote yesterday:

“In a presentation to the county board yesterday, county staff revealed that Artisphere admission and ticket income is projected at $174,202 for the financial year ending on June 30, 75 percent below the $789,912 in revenue that planners expected.

“The shortfall was first reported in the Sun Gazette Editor’s Notebook blog.

“Located in Rosslyn, Artisphere opened on Oct. 10 as the county’s premier arts and entertainment venue. The county originally expected Artisphere would attract 250,000 annual visitors. Since opening, it has attracted 48,169 visitors.

[ . . . ]

“For FY 2012, staff is projecting that admission and ticketing revenue will fall $455,000 short of original expectations, while expenses will be $462,000 higher than expectations. One bright spot is fundraising, which is now expected to come in at $200,000 above projections. All told, staff expects Artisphere will need another $791,1356 in taxpayer support above and beyond the County Manager’s proposed FY 2012 budget.

“County spokeswoman Diana Sun says Artisphere’s budget situation “has everyone’s attention.”

For the March 30, 2011 paper on the Artispere prepared by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, visit the County Board Work Session Follow-up webpage.

Ah, the arrogance of Arlington’s five panjandrums never ceases to amaze. If the coming Artisphere taxpayer boondoggle upsets you, e-mail your concern to the Arlington County Board, or you can call them at 703-228-3130.

UPDATE (4/2/11): Further information on the history of County Board action regarding the Artisphere can be found at the Artisphere's webpage. A July 14, 2009 county press release announced the Board's approval of the cultural center, including "free rent worth up to $15.2 million." as well as the "financial safeguards" demanded by one Board member. A second press release, dated January 26, 2010, announced the Board had approved the "public's choice" of a name for the center. Included on the Artisphere webpage are the "county objectives" for the center and information about the center's management.

UPDATE (4/3/11): I have been reminded the Artisphere is literally "in the shadow" of the million-dollar monument to Arlogance -- the Loop Bridge, which combined underestimates of the cost, overestimation of the "need," and incompetence in the execution. That only a few yards from that multimillion-dollar sink hole, Arlington's royals could have been permitted to dump what will soon be another milliondollar-dollar plus on an unneeded arts center (a short, subsidized Metro ride from more theatres than almost anyplace in the world), based upon unreasonably optimistic projections of revenues and costs shows that Arlington County is in severe need of a cure for Arlogance -- an IG being the most logical approach -- before we join the many other failing communities of the rust belt.

UPDATE (4/16/11): This week's edition of the Arlington Sun Gazette editorializes on the Artisphere, saying the "Artisphere debacle should be a warning sign," and concludes saying: "One financial black hole is enough; we do not need more."

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