Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A dollar and a dream

Note: This column appears in the 4/5 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/6 issue of the Peoria Times.

The City of Peoria recently renegotiated its lease with Arizona Broadway Theatre. ABT had requested a new lease because they are $150,000 in the hole, and could not afford to pay its $4,900 monthly rental payment. The City of Peoria was like, “Oh, that stinks about you being kinda broke. We’d be happy to create a new lease. How about … one dollar? Will that work for you?” And ABT was like, “Yeah, that should work.” (These are not direct quotes.)

Upon hearing about the lease, the City of Glendale was like, “Pfft. We’ve been charging the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox—two of baseball’s biggest markets—one dollar annually to play at Camelback Ranch-Glendale since 2009. And we spent over $200 million to build that complex for them.”

Granted, in lieu of a traditional lease, the Dodgers and White Sox are responsible for the maintenance and operational costs of the complex year-round. That agreement is more beneficial to the city in many ways, and other cities—Kannapolis, N.C., for example—are attempting to follow suit with their major and minor league teams. This warrants mentioning, but does not curb my fascination with the $1 lease.

Regarding ABT, however, the argument was successfully made before council that its presence is crucial to Peoria’s art and culture scene. And hey, I have nothing against ABT as an institution. I’ve been to a show there, and it was great, and I think more people should go. But I kind of thought art was supposed to sustain itself organically. Art can be so pretentious sometimes, I mistakenly thought it was above a government bailout.

I mean, I would certainly like to have the following conversation with, say, a car dealer.

Dealer: We built this motor vehicle.

Me: Yes, and I would like to drive it, but not forever.

Dealer: Okay, we must then negotiate a lease.

Me: Sure. I’ll start the bidding at $1 per year.

Dealer: This is not a bidding process. And that is insane.

Me: BUT—you didn’t let me finish—but, I will be responsible for the maintenance and operational costs.

Dealer: You are responsible for that anyway.

Me: Oh.

Dealer: How about $320 per month?

Me: I cannot afford that. I am broke. How about instead of that, one dollar? After all, me driving this car is very important to your reputation as a car dealership and the culture of driving cars in general. People see me driving a car and they’re like, “I want one of those, and I want to live in a city where people drive those things.”

Dealer: Silence.

Me: Plus, if you don’t work with me there’s a good chance the car could sit vacant, which nobody wants to see.

Dealer: Or, someone who can afford to will lease it.

Me: Staring.

Dealer: Staring.

Me: Staring very hard.

Dealer: Okay, it’s a deal.

And that’s just a car. Last week I paid $9 to return a pair of shoes I purchased online, so I would be more than happy to pay just a dollar to maintain a residence or establish a place of business. 

As I’m sure would lots of other people. It’s unfortunate that all local, privately owned businesses don’t enjoy the good fortune of having their services recognized as crucial to the well-being and reputation of the city at large. It’s too bad people who fix HVAC units don’t do so “culturally.” It’s too bad people who make pizza aren’t a professional sports team.

It’s too bad we don’t all get to see our dollar stretch so far.

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