A critical piece in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's search for emergency funding apparently fell into place today when two additional Common Council members said they would support a revised $1 million city bailout plan.
"I don't want to say I have nine votes until I get the commitments," Majority Leader Eugene M. Fahey said, following a meeting of the Council Finance Committee, "but it seems to be coming together."
Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts and Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola said they will support a five-year emergency funding plan for the Philharmonic if Fahey incorporates some compromise language into his proposal.
The support of the additional Council members is crucial if the plan to provide an additional $200,000 per year to the orchestra over the next five years can withstand a possible veto from Mayor Griffin.
Fahey had already lined up support from eight other Council members last December. He needs commitments from at least nine Council members to guarantee that the plan gets past Griffin and is included in the 1990-91 budget.
The mayor has said the city cannot afford to give the Philharmonic any additional funding. The orchestra already receives about $208,000 annually from the city.
Philharmonic officials said the Council's commitment to the plan is necessary if they are to avoid closing the orchestra. They said the city's support was necessary to enroll Erie County and the state in the bailout plan.
"It's obvious that virtually everyone nding plan for Philharmonic
on the Council has agreed that some version of the Fahey plan should be done," said Andrew J. Rudnick, interim executive director of the Philharmonic.
"That's very hopeful for me and an important first step."
Pitts said he'd be willing to become the ninth supporter of the bailout plan if a revised resolution includes allowing the symphony to use Kleinhans Music Hall rent-free.
Pitts and other Council members also said the Philharmonic should adopt a management plan that guarantees it will obtain more private funding. Philharmonic officials have said they need help from city, county and state governments as a bridge until a $5 million private endowment is in operation.
Pitts' proposed amendment may even do more than Fahey's plan to assist the Philharmonic. Besides allowing the orchestra to use Kleinhans rent-free, it also would require the city to spend up to $1 million renovating the concert hall. The city also would continue to operate the facility.
Coppola said he decided to support the emergency funding plan to avoid having the Philharmonic close and abandon Kleinhans. "I'm not going to stand by and let the Buffalo Philharmonic leave the music hall and leave Kleinhans empty," Coppola said.
The next step is for Fahey and the Council members to hold a meeting later this week to draw up a compromise plan regarding the Philharmonic bailout. The Council could approve the plan next Tuesday.
Lovejoy Council Member Norman M. Bakos continued his criticism that the bailout is unfair to Buffalo taxpayers. Bakos said wealthier suburban communities in Erie County should also share the burden.
Bakos said the Council will be hard-pressed to meet demands from other cultural organizations should it approve the Philharmonic package.
"This will come back to haunt you," he warned.