August 03, 2005
Finley's Wacky Idea
When Dan Finley decided to leave his Waukesha County County Executive job to take over the Milwaukee Public Museum he ended any near-term political aspirations. He was rumored to one day run for governor, but the rise of Scott Walker snuffed his chance of being the Republican who could claim Milwaukee's vote-rich suburbs. Now, that that pressure is gone, Finley has gotten goofy by proposing a regional cultural district to run the museum as well as other cash-strapped venues like the zoo, the Mitchell Park Domes, and the Marcus Center.
What an astounding idea! Let's combine a bunch of financially unstable entities and see what kind of synergy can be squeezed out of them. That has success written all over it. Where was Finley during the halcyon dot-com days? He probably thought the Excite/@Home merger was brilliant. Finley must have standing a little too close to the microwave. I think a few neurons got fried.
Finley can claim all he wants that a cultural district doesn't equal a tax, but he used Miller Park as an example of what he envisions. Bad example since the stadium district taxes a five-county region to pay for the ballpark. Plus, how could any cultural district have any power if didn't have a source of financing? Government doesn't work like that. The purse is all-powerful. Finley isn't stupid, he knows that. Hasn't Southeast Wisconsin been taxed enough?
Finley and those that run the troubled attractions in the area have a solution that would allow people from the entire region to provide funding: offer something of value. That means places like the Domes and the public museum have to draw interest from the regional community. They'll have to do a better job marketing and improving their facilities. Marketing and cost-control have to be a priority. People need to know what's available and think they're getting something for a good price. Maybe something should be closed? That's how private businesses work. What is required is creativity, ingenuity, and hard work.
Every summer we witness a great example of a non-profit providing so much value it draws in almost 1 million people: Summerfest. Paying for bands, employees, food, beer, and rent costs tons. On top of that they advertise and give away bushels of tickets. The result of all that savy was $10 million in revenue in 11 days. They're in the black. A lot could be learned from the Big Gig.
"Finley Urges New Cultural District"
"A Culture Tax"