Mayoral hopefuls discuss Minnesota Orchestra dispute

Mayoral candidates at a debate on the arts at MacPhail on Tuesday. Credit:

As the fate of the Minnesota Orchestra continues to hang in the balance, six mayoral hopefuls talked about how they would handle the crisis if elected mayor at a candidate forum on the arts at the MacPhail Center for Music on Thursday.

When asked what they would do to help resolve the dispute between the musicians and orchestra management if it was still an issue when the next mayor is in office, all of the candidates said they would be proactive and take action. Here’s how they responded:

—   Former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew said he respects how Mayor R.T. Rybak has handled the crisis and while he “rarely injects” himself into collective bargaining disputes, he said the mayor has a “higher calling” to do what’s necessary to preserve the city’s cultural assets.

—   Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine, a Minnesota Orchestra season ticket holder, said as mayor he would force all sides to the table to work out a solution.

—   City Council Member Betsy Hodges noted that she released a statement earlier in the day calling orchestra management to renew the Mitchell plan to end the lockout. Hodges and Council Member Elizabeth Glidden co-authored a resolution a year ago calling for both sides to negotiate. She lobbied for bonding for Orchestra Hall’s renovations and noted the Council has standing on the issue and can be a “voice for the community” to call for a compromise.

—   Wind power attorney Cam Winton said he is skeptical of anyone’s ability to lead a compromise if former Sen. George Mitchell hasn’t been able to “lead them to the promised land.” He said it’s unacceptable that the newly renovated Orchestra Hall, financed with “a lot of public dollars,” now sits empty. He said if the contract talks remained unresolved months into his tenure as mayor, he’d convert the building into a “community rumpus room” or provide shelter for the homeless.

—   Former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes called the lockout a “tragedy.” If elected mayor she said she would do everything in her power to help resolve the strike, adding she was instrumental in ending a hotel strike when she was on the Council. “We cannot afford to lose the orchestra and the artists,” she said.  

—   Software business executive Stephanie Woodruff called the “lack of leadership” on the Orchestra dispute a “shame” and “appalling.” Orchestra Hall, once an asset, has now become a “liability,” she said.