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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Heck of a job, Joey

There's a certain familiar odor emanating from the Citi Performing Arts Center.

Despite five straight years of losses, program cutbacks -- including a drastic shortening of the popular Shakespeare in the Common program -- the board of directors sought fit to grant president and CEO Josiah Spaulding Jr. a $1.265 million "retention" bonus while praising his selflessness in taking a 25 percent pay cut -- down to a mere $409,000 and $23,135 in benefits.
"Was it justified or not? Boy, I'll tell you it was," said [board chairman John William Poduska Sr. of the bonus. ] "Joe was being courted by everyone under the sun. . . . He stayed and did a heck of a job."
And this heck of a job included hiring his wife as web site manager (salary undisclosed) and a PR firm run by a trustee who declined to answer e-mailed questions ($43,109 annually). Nor did the organization reveal whether anyone else was included in the retention bonus program.

A 25 percent pay cut may seem impressive on the surface, but it gets easier when you know there's a big bonus just down the road.

But why are you looking to "retain" someone who has presided over five straight years of budget deficits, programming cuts and drops in performances?

Spaulding may very well have performed yeoman's service in turning the moribund Music Hall into a viable venue. But in recent years he has favored touring road companies to pay (some of) the bills -- opting for the Rockettes over the Nutcracker for example.

Bonuses, particularly in the not-for-profit world, should be rewarded on performance. Retention bonuses for productive CEOs are appropriate too.

But not for someone whose salary and benefits are slightly less than the revised costs for a popular production that was slashed from three weeks to one.

Arts organizations are in a constant battle for cash (and survival). State and federal support is an iffy thing because, for all the value of the arts in quality of life and education, there are bigger priorities. Like public safety, housing and health care.

They depend on the loyalty and generosity of people like you and me -- either to attend their performances or maybe, hopefully, write a check.

Don't hold your breath waiting for one from me folks.

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Blogger Ron Newman said...

A suggestion for the Wang Center: Bring back the movies!

The article says that the Wang Theatre has been open for "only a third of available nights", with 131 performances last year. That's a lot of dark time.

Why not fill some of it by bringing back the classic film series that the Wang discontinued a few years ago? The Ohio Theatre in Columbus, which is every bit as grand as the Wang, has been doing this quite successfully every summer. Here's this summer's schedule.

July 31, 2007 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats 131 performances between 2 theatres and a park! The Shubert, Wang and Boston Common! That's A LOT of DARKNESS!

July 31, 2007 5:06 PM  
Blogger bostonph said...

Wait a second. Aren't we talking about Josiah Spaulding jr, the developer of Great Woods and son of the founder of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital?

Even his bio/advertisement on the BlueCross site mentions his prior financial success. Why the heck does he need a $1.2 mil bonus?

He should be nailed to the wall for this quote alone:


When you're in a not-for-profit, you hire people who passionately believe in what we believe. It's not a 9-to-5 job. You live this business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. We're very fortunate to have great people who work for us. They are definitely into passion rather than profit.

July 31, 2007 11:23 PM  

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