Theater, yes; taxpayer subsidies, no

To the Editor,

I support the efforts of the Committee for Transparency in Mount Airy and City Council Commissioners Jim Armbrister and Jon Cawley in attempting to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the details of the latest “solution” to the never-ending Spencer debacle – i.e., forcing the citizens of Mount Airy (either directly or indirectly via a circuitous route to avoid another common-sense decision by the NC Local Government Commission) to pay millions of dollars to build and sustain a Barter Theatre annex.

It is irresponsible and possibly illegal for only a small group of like-minded elected officials to be privy to behind-the-scenes discussions and deal-making that will supposedly breathe new life into the white elephant known as the Spencer Project.

It is also the height of hubris for that same group of individuals to assume they are the only ones with sufficient brain power to understand and appropriately assess the value, or lack thereof, of any multi-party, multimillion-dollar “deal” being developed on behalf of (or should I say “on the backs of”?) the citizens they have been elected to represent.

Indeed, if the deal is so sweet, then why not communicate its terms and conditions with all council colleagues and all citizens? It appears they are either unwilling or unable to do that – which only leads people to conclude that individual agendas are being promulgated rather than the best interests of the residents of Mount Airy.

When the taxpayers of Mount Airy are expected to foot the outrageous bill of whatever deal is being developed (while also bearing the burden of an unreasonable tax increase), then the taxpayers deserve to know the exact composition and details of the deal or deals that are being cobbled together so they have an opportunity to ask questions and comment well before any final decision is made.

Better still, with an issue as volatile and potentially costly as this one, the council should consider putting it forward as a referendum so that all citizens can vote on it.

For the record, I’m a theater lover (and former season subscriber to the famed Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia) – but I do NOT support the use of taxpayer dollars (either directly or indirectly via “lease” arrangements) to foot the construction and/or subsequent maintenance/operations costs of any business that chooses to open its doors in Mount Airy.

Tax incentives are one thing: but paying the full tab (and assuming the full risk) for any enterprise to launch its business is patently ludicrous and fiscally irresponsible.

Finally, I sure hope that the fiscal recklessness of Mount Airy’s Give-Away Government does not reach the ears of a prospective sports-team owner – or we may find ourselves being forced to pony-up billions of dollars for the convenience and personal profiteering of that lucky individual!


Rebecca Harmon