WBEZ | Megan McDonald http://www.wbez.org/tags/megan-mcdonald Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What’s really going on at Cultural Affairs, and what happens to arts and music now? http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/what%E2%80%99s-really-going-cultural-affairs-and-what-happens-arts-and-music-now <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Weisberg McDonald.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-20/no art trio.jpg" alt="" title="" style="width: 486px; height: 162px;" /></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>WITH&nbsp;SEVERAL&nbsp;UPDATES, 12:30 p.m. MONDAY</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Whether it&rsquo;s onstage at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or under the Family Fun Festival Tent on the Chase Promenades, programming will continue to expand throughout Millennium Park as programming expands from seasonal to year-round,&rdquo; reads the optimistic language addressing the soon-to-be-merged Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in the 2011 Chicago Budget.</p> <p>&ldquo;In 2010, DCASE will offer 704 free programs at Millennium Park. In 2011, this number will increase to a target of 726 programs over the same programming time period.&rdquo;</p> <p>Maybe&mdash;but maybe not, say skeptical sources concerned about both the dismantling of the Department of Cultural Affairs, where 29 employees have been laid off since October, and the push to privatize the big summer music festivals in Grant Park.</p> <p>Scott Waguespack (32nd) is the first alderman to go on the record in emphatically questioning whether the Daley administration is screwing the arts on its way out. In an email to this blogger, he wrote:</p> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;Mayor Daley should do what is right by the people of this city and keep the festivals in-house instead of further suppressing the culture of the Chicago music industry. This deal is no different than the parking meters in that lame duck Mayor Daley has reduced a well-run city department to ruins overnight and sold off what could be a success story. Shifting funds and all of the staff out of the Department of Cultural Affairs in the waning days of this Administration has completely sealed the fate of experienced staff and the music festivals. The shifting of virtually every penny out of the Cultural Affairs office is a giant step backwards and people will be even more skeptical about the survival of Chicago&rsquo;s music scene.&nbsp;Unfortunately, the facts and shifting of funds that led to the inability to run the festivals have been as distorted as the parking meter deal. The actors in this deal may (or may not) be different from the ones who conspired to monopolize the summer music scene with Lollapalooza but the end result will be the same. The privatization of Chicago&rsquo;s festivals is happening out of arrogance and self-interest that plays right into the hands of private corporations looking to make a killing on the festivals and Chicago taxpayers.&rdquo;</p></blockquote> <p>Many of the other Chicago blogs that picked up my report last week about the dismantling of Cultural Affairs--<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/ct-live-1221-jazz-orlove-20101220,0,3535492.column">as well as Howard Reich at the Tribune today</a>--focused on the firing of beloved, hard-working, and extraordinarily talented music programmer Michael Orlove, and accepted at face value the city&rsquo;s attempt to spin the story as merely &ldquo;shifting&rdquo; his job to the non-profit Chicago Tourism Fund.</p> <p>But Orlove is only one of the dedicated cultural programmers who were laid off. Theater programming was hit even harder than music, and many in that community are bemoaning the loss of Claire Geall Sutton, who is as revered in the theater world as Orlove is in the music community.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-20/Sutton Orlove.jpg" alt="" title="" style="width: 446px; height: 327px;" /></p><p>Sources say that only four of the 29 people axed at Cultural Affairs have so far been offered jobs at the Tourism Fund. Many of these staffers measure their service to the city in decades, but even those who are allegedly lucky enough to be rehired by the Tourism Fund will be making substantially less money with fewer benefits, and they&rsquo;re losing their city pensions, even as the unusually well-paid and well-clouted-up employees at the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events hold on to all of their goodies.</p> <p>Sutton did not respond to a request for comment, but her husband Mark, a renowed improv comic and one of the founders of Annoyance Theatre, posted the following on the wall of the Department of Cultural Affairs theater page:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Just thought I'd let the people who follow this site know that Claire Geall Sutton, who was the Director of Theater for Cultural Affairs and responsible for nuturing dozens of artists, theaters and programs for 17 years in Chicago was let go by the Department last week. She was one of 20+ people caught in a 'reduction of force' by the city... however she was one of only 2 not offered a job by the 'non-profit' Chicago Tourism Fund that will supposedly be taking over theater programming for the city. This, despite her programming being some of the little that generates revenue for both the artists involved and the city. Motives and fall-out are TBD.&quot;&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>For his part, Orlove continues to decline to talk about the lay-offs and the future of the music programming formerly handled by Cultural Affairs. But he did post a message to his Facebook page late last week. He wrote:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;First off, let me say how lucky I feel to have such an incredible &lsquo;family&rsquo; out there. This viral outpouring of support has been overwhelming and humbling to say the least. THANK YOU!!! The last couple weeks here have been quite difficult, especially having to watch many of my beloved colleagues go through this entire... ordeal. It is hard to explain or understand why this all happened but numerous dedicated and creative employees of the Department of Cultural Affairs have been terminated. I am fortunate to have the option of joining the Chicago Tourism Fund starting January 1 (2011). In this economy I feel extremely lucky. I am no longer a City of Chicago employee but (as far as I know) remain 100% involved in organizing events at Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago SummerDance, World Music Festival, etc. along with the incredibly talented team of Brian Keigher, Carlos Tortolero and Helen Vasey in the new year. Not the way I wanted to end 2010 but hopeful that next year could be even better.&rdquo;</p></blockquote> <p>The &ldquo;hopeful&rdquo; no doubt is there in part because running the formerly Cultural Affairs arts programming out of the Tourism Fund is a new and untested model, and it remains to be seen whether the same funding will be available. And at issue here again seems to be the political turf war between the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events under executive director and Daley family friend Megan McDonald and long-running Cultural Affairs chief Lois Weisberg.</p> <p>In the past, Special Events was funded by a pool of money call Fund 356, which accounted for all of the ticket sales and sponsorship revenue that its events generated.&nbsp;But as reported earlier, that income was down by almost $3 million in 2010. In 2011, the new city budget is using Hotel Tax Fund 355, which used to fund Cultural Affairs, to keep Special Events running. And Cultural Affairs is, in the words of one knowledgeable source, &ldquo;being thrown under the bus,&rdquo; even as Special Events prepares to pawn off its biggest job, the seven festivals in Grant Park, to a private promoter.</p> <p>Another source in the thick of all the turmoil and reluctant to be named for fear of hurting future employment opportunities summed it up thusly: &ldquo;For reasons no one here can really understand, it just seems like Daley or someone has decided to bring Lois Weisberg to her knees.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="483" height="335" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-20/Weisberg McDonald.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>A second benefit of shifting the politically-connected employees at the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events to the new Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is assuring their job security. In their current positions, they are exempt from the Shakman Decrees and can be fired at the pleasure of the new mayor. In their new positions, they will be covered by Shakman and cannot be fired for politics.</p> <p>I wanted to ask Peter Scales, spokesman for the office of budget and management, about Funds 355 and 356 and to further probe the Shakman implications of all of this, but he did not respond to requests for comment on Friday. Nor, for that matter, has chief Cultural Affairs spokeswoman Karen Vaughan deigned to talk about the changes in her department beyond the oblique comment that, &ldquo;I can tell you that we have every reason to believe that all of our programs will continue next year and be better than ever. When we have more information, we would be happy to share it with you.&rdquo;</p> <p>Asked to comment about how the Chicago Tourism Fund will maintain the quality and level of programming previously provided by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Dorothy Coyle, the point person there, wrote, &ldquo;Unfortunately, I don&rsquo;t have any additional information at this point, but I&rsquo;d be happy to speak with you in the new year.&rdquo;</p> <p>Most conspicuously silent of all: Weisberg, who has declined numerous requests to talk about the cataclysmic changes in the department she has spent much of her life building.</p> <p>Waguespack, who says the shifts at Cultural Affairs were jammed through the City Council in committee, isn&rsquo;t the only one comparing what&rsquo;s happening to the arts in Chicago to the parking meter deal&mdash;and for a reminder on how well that went, you can&rsquo;t do better than <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/exclusive-excerpt-america-on-sale-from-matt-taibbis-griftopia-20101018">this excellent article</a> by investigative reporter Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.</p> <p>Meanwhile, pretty much everyone in the arts community agrees that the city has made a thorough mess of communicating exactly what happened and why, or how this move will improve cultural programming in 2011 and beyond.</p> <p><strong>Earlier reports in this blog about privatizing the city festivals and the battle between the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events and the Department of Cultural Affairs:</strong></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/chicagos-department-cultural-affairs-dismantled-29-are-laid">Dec. 16: Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Cultural Affairs is dismantled as 29 are laid off</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/nope-they-won%E2%80%99t-have-remain-free%E2%80%A6-and-answers-other-questions-about-privatizing-c">Dec. 14: Nope, they won&rsquo;t have to remain free&hellip; and answers to other questions about privatizing the city music festivals</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/city-festivals-chief-responds-blogs-reporting-push-privatization">Dec. 7: City festivals chief responds to this blog&rsquo;s reporting on the push for privatization</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/are-political-power-struggle-and-sweetheart-deal-fueling-citys-push-privatize-sum">Dec. 6: Are a political power struggle and a sweetheart deal fueling the city's push to privatize the summer music festivals?</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/psst-hey-buddy-wanna-buy-city-festival">Nov. 22: Psst! Hey, buddy: Wanna buy a city festival?</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 20 Dec 2010 13:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/what%E2%80%99s-really-going-cultural-affairs-and-what-happens-arts-and-music-now Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs is dismantled as 29 are laid off http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/chicagos-department-cultural-affairs-dismantled-29-are-laid <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Mike Orlove_0034.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 480px; height: 110px;" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-15/DCA Medium Header.png" alt="" /></p><p><strong>UPDATED&nbsp;11:30 A.M. THURSDAY. (SEE&nbsp;NEW&nbsp;MATERIAL&nbsp;BELOW.)</strong></p><p>While the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events has been spearheading the drive to privatize the city&rsquo;s biggest free music festivals in Grant Park, the Daley Administration has been dismantling the Department of Cultural Affairs, which has been responsible for the far more rewarding free concerts in Millennium Park and countless other worthy events annually at the Chicago Cultural Center.</p> <p>Twenty employees at Cultural Affairs were laid off on Friday, including many key programmers. This brings to a total of 29 the number of employees eliminated at the department since October, according to city spokesman Peter Scales of the Office of Budget and Management.</p><p>These losses effectively leave legendary and long-running Cultural Affairs chief Lois Weisberg overseeing a shell of a department, and raise questions about whether the city will able to present much-lauded events such as the World Music Festival, SummerDance, and Downtown Sound/New Music Mondays at the level they&rsquo;ve been offered, if at all, in 2011 and beyond.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="255" height="316" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-15/Orlove Caption_0.jpg" /></p><p>Among those who lost their city jobs: Cultural Affairs programmer Michael Orlove, the man most responsible for the events cited above, and whose work has been effusively praised by WBEZ (<a href="../../../../../episode-segments/michael-orlove-keeps-chicago-alive-music">&ldquo;Michael Orlove Keeps Chicago Alive with Music&rdquo;</a>), the Chicago Tribune (<a href="http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/turn_it_up/2009/12/chicagoan-of-year-in-music-michael-orlove.html">&ldquo;Man of the Year in Music, 2009&rdquo;</a>), the Reader (<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheBlog/archives/2007/05/03/michael-orlove-missing-man/">&ldquo;Michael Orlove, the missing man&rdquo;</a>), and just about every other news and arts organization in town.</p><p>Orlove declined to comment for this story. Weisberg rejected several requests for an interview, and Cultural Affairs spokeswoman Karen Vaughan deferred comment to Scales.</p> <p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Over the years Department of Cultural Affairs and Chicago Tourism Fund employees have worked together to accomplish the many important goals the city has related to cultural affairs and tourism&mdash;promoting celebration of the arts, serving the people and institutions that create and sustain them, and marketing the city&rsquo;s cultural resources to a worldwide audience,&quot;&nbsp;Scales wrote in an email late Thursday night.</p> <p>&ldquo;However, it is important for the city to ensure that there is a separation between the two entities, as one is a city department and the other is a separate non-profit organization.&rdquo;</p> <p>Scales asserted that the music and arts programming previously handled by the Department of Cultural Affairs will not be hurt by the shift.</p> <p>&ldquo;The following functions will be transferred to the Chicago Tourism Fund, effective January 1, 2011: visual/public art; tourism; cultural programs and grants; events, production, and retail; and some finance/administration.&nbsp; Therefore, the 20 city positions that currently perform those functions in the budget have been eliminated, and a commensurate amount of funding is being provided to the CTF so that CTF can hire CTF employees to perform those functions&hellip; Because these functions and the commensurate funding are not being eliminated, but rather being transferred to the CTF, there will be no impact on current initiatives, including Downtown Sound, World Music Festival, Summer Dance, etc. In fact, this shifting of personnel should go unnoticed by residents and event participants.&rdquo;</p> <p>But several sources knowledgeable about these events and other inititiatives by the Department of Cultural Affairs are extremely dubious about that claim. So what&rsquo;s really going on here?</p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/are-political-power-struggle-and-sweetheart-deal-fueling-citys-push-privatize-sum">As outlined in this blog last week</a>, a political turf war seems to be underway as the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events prepares to merge with the Department of Cultural Affairs. Cultural Affairs chief Weisberg was to have been in charge of the newly combined department through the waning days of the Daley administration, with the woman now serving as the executive director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events, Daley&rsquo;s <strike>goddaughter</strike> Megan McDonald, answering to her. <strong>(CORRECTION; SEE&nbsp;NOTE&nbsp;BELOW.)</strong></p> <p>But McDonald and her office have suffered the loss of only one job in recent lay-offs, even as the privatization effort is set to eliminate the major function of many of its employees. Meanwhile, Weisberg has been stripped of many of her most valuable staffers, as well as many of the department&rsquo;s functions and resources.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 473px; height: 301px;" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-15/Weisberg McDonald.jpg" /></p> <p>From McDonald down through the ranks, many of the employees in the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events are not only exceptionally well-paid, but especially well-connected, as evidenced by the number of those staffers who appeared on the so-called &ldquo;clout list&rdquo; that was a centerpiece in the trial of Daley patronage aide Robert Sorich.</p> <p>While the ax is falling throughout the city as officials grapple with a $655 million budget deficit this year, cost-cutting does not seem to have been the primary impetus for gutting Cultural Affairs. Some sources say that a reorganization has been pending for some time stemming from the so-called &ldquo;<a href="http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1138.html">Shakman Decrees</a>&rdquo; crafted by the courts to eliminate political hiring in the city, and prohibiting city employees from supervising or working directly with employees of not-for-profits and using funds raised by those organizations.</p> <p>Yet the Shakman decrees have been in effect for years, and there is no obvious reason why the city would have to make these changes now.</p> <p>Many of the events programmed by Cultural Affairs were funded with money raised from corporate donors through the not-for-profit Chicago Tourism Fund. Despite Scales' claim, sources say that only a handful of staffers laid off from Cultural Affairs have been offered jobs at that not-for-profit, while some others are just facing the unemployment line. But many union employees merely have been reassigned to other city departments, which will not result in savings for the city budget.</p><p>According to Scales, &quot;These are the 20 positions moving from DCA to CTF: 2 Web Authors; 4 Program Directors; 6 Production Assistants; 1 Supervising Production Assistant;<br />1 Project Coordinator; 2 Curator of Exhibits; 2 Cultural Affairs Coordinator II; 1 Cultural Affairs Coordinator I; 1 Executive Director, Office of Tourism. To be clear, these position reductions are separate and unrelated to the 13 DCA positions eliminated as part of the department merger (which included nine layoffs, three vacancy eliminations, and one transfer to Procurement Services)... Next year, CTF will be responsible to Department Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as they are today, for performing those functions to the City&rsquo;s satisfaction.&quot;</p><p>Yet this seems to contradict the very reason for the lay-offs, if they were indeed required under Shakman:&nbsp;The new Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events cannot supervise the workers at a not-for-profit under the law as written.</p><p>Whether the new arrangement can produce any events of the quality of those coming from Cultural Affairs in the past remains to be seen. But there is little doubt that the city has just blown up one of the very few departments that seemed to be working--and the only one that truly cared about music and the arts in Chicago.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 434px; height: 371px;" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-15/DCA org chart.gif" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><sup><strong><em><sub>Departmental chart of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs</sub></em><br /></strong></sup></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><u>Earlier reports in this blog about privatizing the city festivals and the battle between the Mayor&rsquo;s Office of Special Events and the Department of Cultural Affairs:</u></strong></p><p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/nope-they-won%E2%80%99t-have-remain-free%E2%80%A6-and-answers-other-questions-about-privatizing-c">Dec. 14: Nope, they won&rsquo;t have to remain free&hellip; and answers to other questions about privatizing the city music festivals</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/city-festivals-chief-responds-blogs-reporting-push-privatization">Dec. 7: City festivals chief responds to this blog&rsquo;s reporting on the push for privatization</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/are-political-power-struggle-and-sweetheart-deal-fueling-citys-push-privatize-sum">Dec. 6: Are a political power struggle and a sweetheart deal fueling the city's push to privatize the summer music festivals?</a></p> <p><a href="../../../../../blog/jim-derogatis/psst-hey-buddy-wanna-buy-city-festival">Nov. 22: Psst! Hey, buddy: Wanna buy a city festival?</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>CORRECTION, 11:20 a.m. Thursday:&nbsp;</strong>Though half a dozen people who work for or close to Megan McDonald have referred to the executive director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events as the mayor's goddaughter, she has emailed me to correct that information: &quot;To clarify yet another piece of misinformation printed in your article, referenced on NPR and now reported by Chicagoist... I am not, nor have I ever been, the goddaughter of the Mayor. I have two wonderful godparents who have absolutely no relation to the Daley Family. In fact, they do not even live in Chicago or the State of Illinois. They are family members of mine who live in Colorado and St. Louis, respectively. I have no idea where this rumor is coming from, or who your incredibly misguided 'source' is, but this is absolutely incorrect information that I would like to see clarified. Thank You.&quot;</p><p>McDonald is, however, a close personal friend of the Daley family who, as reported earlier, attended the same high school and college as the mayor's daughter, which may be the source of this common misperception. I&nbsp;regret the error.</p><p><strong>UPDATE:&nbsp;</strong>Several readers with contacts in the Department of Cultural Affairs have spoken with employees who were laid off but offered new jobs with the Tourism Fund. To clarify:&nbsp;By no means have all of the people who lost their city jobs been rehired. Peter Scales of the Budget Office wrote the following this morning in response to my questions attempting to clarify this yesterday:</p><p>&quot;As I explained, the funding for those 20 previous City positions is being shifted to CTF. But it is entirely up to the CTF who they will hire in their organization. Those who were laid off from DCA are certainly able to apply for those CTF positions, but I don't believe that entire process has concluded yet in these few days since the announcement last week. I'm sure you understand that hiring decisions made by outside entities cannot in any way be influenced by the City. The City has the right to ensure the services CTF must perform are done to the City's satisfaction, but who CTF chooses to hire to perform those functions is entirely up to them, and the City has no say in the matter.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 16 Dec 2010 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/chicagos-department-cultural-affairs-dismantled-29-are-laid