Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Since SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE has been deleting any comment made that in any contradicts their views and opinions, we decided to provide a place to discuss the issues surrounding The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

The 20 Million Dollar Question
One thing I asked STCGP about was their repeated claim that the $20 million grant being held in abeyance was specifically to restore the old building:

At the time, I questioned it because I remember that grant being set aside for capital improvements; they needed a new roof, much of the building was structurally unsound, and its technology was woefully out of date. I had friends working at the Grove when the grant was awarded, and I worked at The Miracle Theater in the Gables; I'm sure I would have noticed if the Grove was going to undergo a restoration.

I asked STCGP to supply me with a link to the grant, to verify that the monies were intended for restoring he theatre as opposed to repairing, maintaining or improving it.  After all, they are the ones making a claim about it.  Unfortunately, because they de-friended me, my comments are gone.  You can't see anything that I say, there's only one side of the conversation left; theirs.

But their side is damning enough.

Here's their reply from that date, directed at me by name:

What's the big deal about this?  You'll see, soon enough.  But for now, remember that on January 23, STCGP responded to someone asking about the bond/grant document

In this most recent go-round, STCGP made the claim again:

Mr. Dew doesn't mention it, but he is also a former Grove staffer, and a personal friend.  He was Master Carpenter at their scene shop, and spent a lot of time installing scenery in the Grove.  Perhaps he will weigh in on his experiences at The Grove.

But here's that claim that the $20 million was earmarked for restoration.  So once again, I asked STCGP to supply a citation, reminding them that they didn't answer me last time: can they supply proof that the funds were allocated specifically for restoration, and not for some other capital project?

BTW, the link they supplied does not lead to any documentation that supports the assertion that $20 million was set aside for restoration.

The First Lie
I pointed out that I did in fact ask for a link showing that the $20 million was intended specifically for restoration, and not other capital improvements. I specified that it was back in January.  The reply:

So if they never got a request for it in January, how is it that they responded to a request, mentioning the details, and using my name while they did so?  STCGP has just been caught lying.  And it's a stupid lie, because you only need to scroll down a little to find the original question and answer.

Since denial wasn't working, they took a new approach:

So now I'm being painted as an associate of Marc Sarnoff.  A Sarnoff crony, no less; perhaps I'm an evil developer.  A lap-dog, heeled at his side as he lays out his swindle before the public.

We're such close pals that over the years I've been moved to write love letters to him:
... we could lose the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Miami Today News reports that Miami City Commissioner is working against theatre in Coconut Grove by getting into bed with Sony.  Mr. Sarnoff apparently knows less about concert promotion than theatre, otherwise he would note that an existing facility concentrating on music - LiveNation's Fillmore at the Gleason Center - is far from successful.

Mark Sarnoff is now the single greatest threat to the Coconut Grove Playhouse as a proper theater.
- December 13, 2010
The bottom line is this: Mark Sarnoff can't save the Playhouse.  He doesn't know how to do that.  Every time he opens his yap, he makes it apparent.  What's his "solution?"  Take it away from the current owners.  And then what will he do?  Appoint a new board.  And who will be on this board?  No one who knows anything about saving a theatre company.
- July 17, 2010
It pains me to say this, but it appears that Marc Sarnoff is even more ignorant than the current gang of incompetents that make up the current Playhouse Board. 
- May 29, 2010
So to answer STCGP's question - again - no, I was not in attendance at Mr. Sarnoff's presentation at The Sailing Club last summer.  I say "again," because my answer was the last comment I made on STCGP before they un-friended me.

I suspect they un-friended me because of this tag:
My "stake" is that I am a theatre professional of 25 years who wants to see professional theatre being staged in the Coconut Grove Playhouse.  I'm also a believe in Democracy, open discussion, and honesty.  Which means that if you make a claim, you should be able to back it up.
I also pointed out that the article they linked to said absolutely nothing to back up their claims about the $20 million being allocated specifically to restore the building.

So what was the $20 million really put aside for?
Since STCGP doesn't actually know, we thought it would behoove us to find out what, in fact, that pile of moolah was intended to accomplish: RESTORE, that is put the theater back into its previous best condition, or RENOVATE; to improve and update the facility?
" Mr. Mittelman led a team that received $20 million in government funding and $5 million in private sector support for emergency Playhouse renovations."
The county is withholding $20 million from countywide capital improvement bonding intended for physical improvements to the playhouse until it shows signs of economic vitality. The theater's historic status limits exterior renovation options.
...there is $20 million in county funding for the rehabilitation of the structure...
The playhouse has an annual budget of $5.9 million, but is poised to receive $20 million in the coming years from the county — $15 million from the multibillion-dollar capital improvement bond approved by voters in 2004 — for a major building renovation.
Well, that's just how the media portrayed it.  Maybe they got it wrong.

And they did.  But not in a manner that bolsters STCGP's position.

Here's the original description from the 2004 Building Better Communities Bond Program, Project No. 299 - "Improvements to the Coconut Grove Playhouse."

Yes, the word "restore" is in the description.  But the word is followed by "its structural integrity."

Here's how it's described on The Miami Dade County website:
Coconut Grove Playhouse
GOB Allocation: $15 million

GOB funds will help in the transformation of one of Miami’s oldest theatrical venues into a 21st century performance space. Built as a glamorous movie theater in 1926, the theater was shuttered on and off for decades until it underwent a $1 million renovation in 1956 converting it from movie house to a home for live theater, and reopening with the U.S. premier of Waiting for Godot. Considered to be an economic engine for other Coconut Grove businesses, the Playhouse has been home to numerous world-class stars, playwrights, and directors, and has seen many productions go on to Broadway and London’s West End. Reconstruction of the theater is necessary to address the structural deterioration of the building.
Wait, FIFTEEN million?  There's only fifteen? The media's been throwing around TWENTY million!

The County Commission added to the kitty on June 3, 2010.  According to County Commission records, they re-affirm the original $15 million for Project No. 299 as described above, and they kicked in another $5 million "to address the capital needs" of The Playhouse, and "to fund the development of a recovery plan," "to accomplish the goals of the plan for the reconstruction management  and operation of The Playhouse."

No matter how you slice it, at no time was the public given to believe that funds had been allocated for the purpose of restoring the Coconut Grove Playhouse to a prior condition.  This was never the purpose of either of the two grants comprising the $20 million under discussion.

Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse has been lying, repeatedly, and behaving abominably when that has been pointed out to them.  Democracy requires that all sides of an issue be presented, and STCGP has been deleting and un-friending everyone who offers an opposing or even modifying view.  If you're going to make statements that are not factually correct, you must expect to receive corrections.  And the grown-up way to deal with that is either accept that you made an error, and make the appropriate correction, or explain clearly why you haven't made an error, and offer evidence to support your claims.  And if you're going to offer opinions that are not supported by experience, you should gracefully acknowledge that there might be other points of view on the issue.

While it's laudable to preserve a piece of history, it's never laudable to lie to achieve a goal.  Whatever their intentions, Save The Coconut Grove Playhouse has undermined the worthiness of its own cause by repeated lying to bolster their position.  

The people of Miami - and Coconut Grove - deserve better.

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