Wasting taxpayers’ money on a worn-down venue

It’s come to my attention that in the last seven years alone, the Auburn Avenue Theater has lost more than $1.5 million of Auburn taxpayer money. That doesn’t count the initial expenditures in the first few years.

The City Council said it is in discussion as to whether to renew the lease when it comes up. I’m not sure how much discussion is needed. The theater has never, or ever will, make a profit. And unless they shut its doors now, it will continue to lose almost a quarter-million dollars a year of your money.

Not one council member bothered to respond to my email. The mayor did, however. I find her rationalization of the loss of your money almost amusing. She stated that “87 percent of Americans polled believe that arts and culture are important” OK, but I’m guessing that 87 percent of Americans would also like to see their tax dollars spent wisely. She also stated that the theater “is run much like a business, but for governmental purposes, it is not expected to cover its cost.” Really? What kind of private enterprise would be allowed to operate this way? I’ll tell you, not one.

If I ran my business this way, squandering public money with not a chance of breaking even, the IRS would shut me down in a heartbeat.

There is a lot of nostalgia surrounding that old theater. But in reality, it’s a rundown building that should have been torn down years ago. Providing access to arts and culture for Auburn residents is important. And we have several venues that we can do that, where we’re either making a profit or at least breaking even. But continuing to fund the theater is not just wasteful, it shows a blatant disrespect to the citizens of Auburn and the use of their hard-earned tax dollars.

– Mark Silberling

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