Around the State- Southeast- Feb. 2002
Pop Went the Orchestra
The economy and a changing audience base make funding tricky for some institutions.
By Pat Dunnigan
It's a disquieting time for the arts community in upscale Boca Raton. Increasing competition for audiences and dwindling cultural largesse have cost the city three of its cultural landmarks in recent months, leaving some bitter patrons and discouraged cultural boosters in their wakes.
Most devastating was the loss of the city's 50-year-old Pops Orchestra, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation just short of its 51st season. The orchestra's boosters had engaged in a yearlong, last-ditch effort to shore up finances but ended up calling it quits. Nearly 4,000 season subscribers were left in the lurch.
The Palm Beach Pops Orchestra came through with an offer to add extra shows to its season and exchange seats for the Boca Pops subscribers, but the move didn't pacify everyone. Boca Executive Committee Chairman Stuart Flaum says orchestra leaders simply couldn't come up with enough community support to offset increasing production costs and the burden of a $400,000 debt the orchestra had been carrying for several years. Ticket sales, he says, were not a problem for the most part, but season subscribers and single-ticket sales had never covered more than half of the orchestra's costs.
An ambitious 50th anniversary schedule that included an extra series of concerts featuring Florida Philharmonic conductor Peter Nero exacerbated the group's money troubles, with lagging ticket sales and unexpectedly high costs for the extra series, Flaum says. Board members fell 21 donors short of their goal of 30 $10,000 "inner circle" patrons. "We tried to get some major benefactors, but it just fell on deaf ears," Flaum says.
The orchestra's demise was made more acute by the fact that it followed Boca's loss of the 25-year-old Jan McArt Royal Palm Festival Dinner Theatre, which closed last spring in the face of a shortage of donors and an excess of costs. Likewise, the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Mizner Park also announced plans to shut down.
While some feared a crisis of philanthropy, others see simply a rocky economy that is forcing a shakeout of institutions that haven't kept up with changing community tastes. Will Ray, president of the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, notes that the cartoon museum never really developed a local base of support and says the other two institutions may have depended too much on an older audience base.
Ray points out that other arts institutions in Boca Raton are thriving, including performing arts programs at Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Arts and Letters and the Jewish Community Center. A $55-million Centre for the Arts is also under construction, with plans for a 4,000- to 5,000-seat amphitheater and 1,600-seat concert hall.
Still, Ray concedes that it is a tricky time for arts funding. The cultural council, which doles out between $2.5 million and $3 million a year in cultural grants, depends on tourist development taxes for its revenues and hasn't been able to increase grant amounts for five years.
In the News
Boca Raton -- RailAmerica (Nasdaq-RAIL) has completed a $54-million private placement of common stock. Proceeds from the offering will be used to pay down debt and complete buyouts.
American Media has signed a two-year lease for new temporary headquarters in the wake of the anthrax mailing that killed a photo editor and forced the closing of its offices. The company, which publishes the National Enquirer and a collection of other supermarket tabloids, has been operating out of several sites throughout the county while testing of the contaminated building continues.
Florida Atlantic University's Technology Business Incubator has graduated its first startup, internet software provider Cynocom Corp.
Boynton Beach -- Bethesda Memorial Hospital has won state approval for a 28-bed rehabilitation unit. The $8.9-million, 52,320-sq.-ft. facility is expected to open in 2004.
Delray Beach -- Aircraft interior maker B/E Aerospace (Nasdaq-BEAV) has announced plans to close its assembly plant here this year in the wake of a stalled market for new and refurbished airplanes. The downturn is attributed to the travel lull caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Fort Lauderdale -- Broward County commissioners have approved a contract with Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software for the purchase of 5,060 touch-screen voting systems.
AutoNation (NYSE-AN) has signed an agreement to acquire a Fort Worth, Texas-based Chevrolet dealership. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The company has also announced plans to discontinue its auto lending business.
Privately held medical technology company GMP Cos. has received approval for clinical trials of therapy designed for the treatment of diabetes.
Web-hosting company Dialtone Internet, which recently expanded its Fort Lauderdale data center, is opening its third data center in London to serve its 330 European customers. The company also has a data center in Mexico City.
Construction equipment rental company NationsRent (NYSE-NRI) has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.
Hollywood -- The SunCruz VI casino boat has been ordered to vacate the city's North Beach neighborhood in the wake of years of noise complaints by residents and city officials who argued that the 165-foot boat was too large to remain under terms approved for its smaller predecessor. City officials had allowed the slightly smaller SunCruz V casino boat to remain as an "accessory" to the waterfront Martha's Restaurant. The boat is part of the estate of murdered Miami Subs founder Gus Boulis.
Los Angeles-based WorldWide Security Associates, a security company operating at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, was raided by federal agents looking into allegations of falsified employee background checks. No arrests were made.
Jupiter -- The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. has announced plans for a 285-acre gated golf club community. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa will include a Jack Nicklaus golf course, a 68,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse and 54 private residences scheduled for completion in November 2003.
Palm Beach Gardens -- Security and investigation firm Wackenhut Corp. (NYSE-WAK) has entered into a partnership with Broward County-based Guarded Networks, which specializes in computer network security.
Auto oil test kit maker Global Technovations (Amex-GTN) has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.
Port Canaveral -- Port Canaveral is the first of Florida's 14 deepwater seaports to earn certification from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for substantial compliance with the Florida Legislature's new laws for seaport security. The port is the world's second-largest multiday cruise port.
Port St. Lucie -- Donald Root, formerly director of new business development for Lakeland Electric, has been named executive director of the county's Economic Development Council.
Service Corp. International
PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Accusations of mishandled bodies and bulldozed gravesites at the Palm Beach and Broward Jewish cemeteries of Houston-based Service Corp. International had company officials scrambling to respond to videotape that seemed to show human remains and broken burial monuments dumped behind cemetery grounds. Family members have sued. SCI officials say they are reviewing the allegations. Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth has subpoenaed the company's Florida records.
A Case of Meddling?
Miami-Dade officials say the state is trying to steamroll reform efforts.
By David Villano
State lawmakers exasperated with what they see as rampant fiscal mismanagement have laid virtual siege to Miami-Dade County government, launching a series of reform initiatives that angry local politicians decry as meddling from Tallahassee. Much of the legislation has been proposed by Miami-Dade's own delegation in Tallahassee, which has been largely united in its efforts.
In the past year, lawmakers have proposed a string of bills aimed at reforming Miami-Dade's government. Among them: A move to place the regulation of rock blasting under state control, a contentious issue in Miami-Dade because of the region's limestone mining; also, a bill that would force the county to elect, rather than appoint, its supervisor of elections; and a proposal, which the Legislature passed in May over fierce opposition from Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and most county commissioners, that will let Miami-Dade voters decide whether an independent authority should oversee airport spending.
In May, the Legislature also created a committee to monitor all school board land acquisitions after reports that the Miami-Dade School Board had overpaid for 11 of 14 land purchases to the tune of some $7 million.
The county's home-rule charter ostensibly gives the state little say in local affairs. But members of the legislative delegation say constant bickering at county hall, endless tales of influence-peddling and a general sense of bureaucratic malaise have forced them to take a stand on local issues.
By far the most ambitious effort by state lawmakers is a plan to reorganize Miami-Dade's government. As the first step toward that, voters statewide will decide in November whether the Legislature can place local issues on Miami-Dade's ballot. If successful, members of the Miami-Dade delegation will ask county voters to scrap their current system of government -- in which a county manager handles all day-to-day affairs -- in favor of a strong-mayor system. Under the plan, county commissioners also would gain more powers.
Supporters say a strong-mayor system is the best way to increase accountability and reduce corruption and abuse. Many local officials support the change in concept but object to what they see as an effort by the Tallahassee lawmakers to steamroll the proposal, using their own ballot wording and debating the fine points of the new system without local input.
"If we want a strong-mayor system, we should decide ourselves how to put it in place," says Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez. "It's very surprising that instead of working for us and protecting us our own delegation is trying to force their will."
In the News
Key West -- After nearly six years of negotiations, the Navy has halted plans to transfer about 40 acres of waterfront property to the city of Key West. The decision was made because of heightened security concerns following Sept. 11. City officials had been poised to begin construction of a $20-million park and marina complex on the site.
Miami -- Auto racing will return to the streets of downtown Miami in April after a six-year hiatus. City commissioners have given approval for a plan to hold The Grand Prix of the Americas April 5-7, featuring prototype sports cars from Porsche, BMW, Audi and other automakers. Officials expect up to 75,000 fans.
Citing the economic downturn, online banking and brokerage firm Patagon.com has laid off 18 of its 50 employees at its Miami headquarters. As many as 15 more may be laid off in the coming months. Four-year-old Patagon.com specializes in the Latin American market.
The world's tallest building in Miami? Despite potential security risks posed by the 155-story structure, Cuban-born developer Guillermo Socarras has been pitching the idea to local officials, insisting the market can absorb the 4 million square feet of offices, retail space, an exhibition center and hotels. The proposed site is just north of the city's central business district.
Miami-Dade-- After years of vituperative debate, plans for a commercial airport at the old Homestead Air Force Base are dead. In a split vote, county commissioners agreed to terminate a lawsuit challenging the federal government's decision to oppose the county-backed plan. Backers had pinned their hopes on President Bush interceding on their behalf. That support never came. County officials are now proposing an eco-tourism center, taking advantage of the site's proximity to both Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. Another plan, backed by at least one county commissioner, calls for a movie studio and other film industry facilities at the south Miami-Dade location.
Florida International University has named its graduate business school after Miami civic leader and former Knight Ridder CEO Alvah Chapman.
Heading off a crisis that threatened to leave thousands of residents without access to their doctors, Coral Gables-based Physicians Healthcare Plans has agreed to take over 12 CAC Medical Center clinics abruptly closed in December by their owner, Pan American Hospital. Physicians Healthcare will hire many of the roughly 1,000 workers laid off following the closure.
According to a survey conducted by the Beacon Council, more than half of all companies in Miami-Dade cut employment following the Sept. 11 attacks. The Beacon Council is Miami-Dade's public/private economic development agency.
With advertising sales plummeting, one of south Florida's most venerable publications, Miami Metro City Guide, has ceased publication. The monthly debuted in 1974, enduring a number of incarnations and name changes. In its heyday it was published as South Florida Magazine.
While New York is by far the internet's most global metropolis, Miami topped Florida cities to place eighth globally in internet capacity. A new study on international internet infrastructure ranks global internet cities according to their roles as "interregional hub cities," measuring how much internet capacity links them to other world regions:
Top 10 interregional internet hub cities, 2001
(Rank, City, Internet bandwidth)
1. New York, 149,989.5 megabits per second
2. London, 85,518.7 mbps
3. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 24,479.6 mbps
4. Paris, 22,551.8 mbps
5. San Francisco, 20,813.6 mbps
6. Tokyo, 16,745.5 mbps
7. Washington, D.C., 13,261.2 mbps
8. Miami, 11,912.4 mbps
9. Los Angeles, 11,227.0 mbps
10. Copenhagen, Denmark, 10,417.0 mbps