Post Oliver Thomas: Give America Some Good News About New Orleans NOW!
Broadway South is the Answer to the Negative Publicity...
By Christopher Tidmore...
Only one phrase accurately describes the emotion that Oliver Thomas took a bribe--shell shocked.
The fall of the one politician who inspired faith amongst all New Orleanians, whether they be Whites or Blacks, Republicans or Democrats, seems in so many ways to intensify the crisis of hope that this city--from Orleans to Jefferson Parishes--endures every day.
"If Oliver is a crook, then is there any politician we can trust?" more than a few people have uttered this sobering question in recent days.
But, the fact is, we have a bigger problem.
National news figures from Tucker Carlson on MSNBC to Anderson Cooper on CNN to Adam Nossiter in the New York Times featured Oliver Thomas as the one competent politician honestly trying to save New Orleans. The Councilman's Guilty Plea has once more painted the Crescent City as a city beyond redemption in the national news media.
We need to send some good news to the press now!
And, we have some to send, if we are smart.
As the article below from Aug. 12th The Louisiana Weekly newspaper outlines, few in the business world are aware of the historic incentives that come from the new Broadway South tax credits enacted by the legislative session. In fact, many do not know that the GO-ZONE tax credits are still available in New Orleans.
As Bill Hines, Roger Wilson, and I describe in the below newspaper article, we have an opportunity at the end of this month when the national media descends on New Orleans for the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. If Governor Blanco will join local political leaders for a "signing ceremony" for the Broadway South legislation on Canal Street in front of those reporters, Louisiana will send the message that New Orleans is open for business.
WE CAN GIVE THE MEDIA SOME GOOD NEWS TO REPORT FOR A CHANGE.
That is the purpose of my campaign for the legislature: to send the message that we can create economic opportunity in New Orleans. And, to tell both the nation and our children who had to leave to seek better jobs elsewhere that there is the WILL end our culture of corruption--and bring about change.
To advance this cause, I need your help. If you can make a contribution to the campaign, either time or money, even if it is just an hour to volunteer or twenty dollars, I cannot thank you enough.
Click on the PayPal button on the right if you can make a donation.
(You can even send a donation to Christopher Tidmore Campaign, 3104 Roberta St. Metairie, LA 700003.)
Or if you can volunteer even just an hour to the campaign, email me at Christopher@votetidmore.com .
If you a you are pressed for time, you might be able to introduce me to some of you neighbors to get this message out), or help us find sign locations in Metairie between David Drive and Transcontinental from West Esplanade to the River, in Elmwood, in Old Jefferson, or in the Carrolton area of Uptown New Orleans.
And, take a moment to read the story below, and see that there is some good news coming out of New Orleans…
(You can read the PDF version of the Broadway South story on page 16 at http://www.louisianaweekly.com/read/PDF/August_6_2007.pdf )
Broadway South: The Next Step
By Renette Dejoie-Hall
Executive Editor, The Louisiana Weekly
Almost three weeks ago, Governor Blanco signed into law SB 218, the Broadway South legislation. Its backers believe the bill will help New Orleans--and many other Louisiana cities--attract live "Broadway bound" productions, including theater, opera, ballet, jazz, comedy revues and variety entertainment.
SB 218 offers investors a 25 percent state tax credit on their "base investment" on live performance, a 25 percent "infrastructure tax credit" based on the construction costs of rehabilitating historic theatres, and 10 percent tax credit on payroll for Louisiana residents hired for the productions or to do any of the below the line services from the local travel agents that book the national tours to the designers who build the sets.
The Louisiana Weekly sat down with three men who played roles in creating Broadway South and asked them the next logical question, now that the law has been passed, what is the next step in creating a thriving "Broadway" style theatre industry in the Pelican State--particularly the Crescent City.
From his office conference room at the Place St. Charles, Bill Hines has a panoramic view of the bend of the river down the aging historic theaters on Canal Street. As this reporter entered the room, Christopher Tidmore and Roger Wilson were gazing out that window onto New Orleans' main street.
"I grew up looking at the lights of Canal Street," Wilson, the President of the BroadwaySouth.com told the Weekly. "It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Going to the theatres made me want to be an actor." And, become a performer Wilson did, starting his career in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and the blond-haired lead in the Porky's films. He moved on to becoming a well-known screen writer for many hit television series like NYPD Blue.
After Katrina passed, Wilson ended up raising money for ten tractor trailer loads of food and supplies for his stricken hometown, leading the first two semis directly into the flooded city less than two weeks after the Hurricane. In fact, Wilson got past the police blockades because the office at the checkpoint in LaPlace was the New York cop who was the technical advisor on NYPD Blue.
In was in the weeks and months to come, though, that Wilson explained, he felt like he had to do something more to help the city of his birth, but one he had to leave to pursue his acting career.
"I was driving down with Christopher here," the Broadway South President said pointing to his companion at the windowsill, "and most of Canal Street was still dark 10 months after the storm, but there was enough light to see that the theaters that had once gleamed, now were failing apart. I wanted to do something for my home city, and started to wonder about bringing Broadway shows to New Orleans. That's when Christopher wondered if the film tax credits could be extended to cover live performances. We began to talk excitedly. If the state provided an incentive so that Broadway road shows would be tested here instead of Boston or Chicago, a lot of local talent would not have leave to make a living, the way I did."
Christopher Tidmore, the former Louisiana Weekly writer who is now running for the legislature from District 82, an area that comprises parts of Uptown New Orleans, Old Jefferson, Elmwood, and Metairie, looked slightly sheepish. "Roger deserves the real credit from there forward. We began breaking down the idea, how it could cover more than just theatrical shows. Particularly we started talking about music, and how New Orleans could use its indigenous talent to launch national tours. I wrote down the initial concept for the campaign, but Roger became the salesman of the concept going all over the state and gaining support from City Councils from Shreveport to Lafayette, and designing a bill that would give the 35% film tax credits to any live, legitimate performances with over $300,000 in revenue. He sold the idea to politicians and civic groups and built a coalition."
"However," Tidmore continued, "the real unsung hero is sitting across that table. Bill Hines brought the intellectual weight behind the project. His law firm Jones Walker donated thousands of dollars worth of pro bono legal work, and Bill opened countless doors to advance Broadway South. If he had not embraced Broadway South, it's quite likely that SB 218 would never have exited the governor's desk, much less had the massive coalition behind it--regardless of Roger's hard work."
This time Hines looked modest. "It wasn't hard," he said laughingly, "Republicans and Democrats, black white, rich poor, historical restoration crowd, they all like Broadway south, "Every time I'm on the Garland show[on WWL radio], I would have ten calls in support at my office...People get very excited about this."
"To me it is an extremely logical concept that makes tremendous sense when you attach it to the film and video credit When you look at our theater stock, no body else has it…You can't replicate this in Alabama," Hines said sweeping his hand over the view of Canal Street.
Moreover, "It's not that costly. I am somewhat cynical about these financial deals that give hundreds of thousands of dollars for 'steel mills'. What is the return? If it's not successful, it doesn't cost us anything. For what you get comes only from what you give."
The tax credits are granted only after the theatrical productions spend the money in Louisiana, and unlike the LIFT film credits, to get the tax credits, the Governor's office, the Dept. of Economic Development, and the Commissioner of Administration each must sign off on it.
"It's not something that is going to save the world," Hines admitted, "but it could be a critical component to retaining and attracting other mainstream business in New Orleans. If New Orleans doesn't have a lot of cultural assets to make people live here. If you're just competing with Des Moines, Iowa, than you really should close New Orleans and move it."
Hines points out that New Orleans' rich culture keeps business leaders located here, despite many of the problems and disadvantages over other areas of the United States. The attorney pointed out that many corporate leaders have said, "If you don't have those great things here, I'm not going to live here." Pulling at those executives' "hearts and souls" makes all the difference.
"If the rest of the state doesn't notice, it [departure of businesses] is not just a New Orleans issue." Hines made the case that corporations are not moving to Baton Rouge from New Orleans. "These companies are not just leaving the city. They're leaving the state."
We need to think of economic development regionally, and Roger Wilson said Broadway South is a good step in that direction. SB 218 will benefit most of Louisiana, not just New Orleans. "Shreveport is in a very unique position to exploit this immediately. They are two hours from one of the largest cities in the country, Dallas." Their Casinos and race tracks will help underwrite the costs of the staging shows, and he said, "In the Strand and the Arena, they have two major arenas that are ready to go."
Baton Rouge with its Shaw center is excellently placed to start staging productions, the Broadway South President included, and, often unappreciated, "Monroe is in a unique position. There are two million people who live within 45 minutes of the city."
"A lot of these cities that did not suffer extreme damage from Katrina can start the benefiting for Broadway South right now."
Tidmore interjected, "A lot of small towns could benefit over time as well. I like to use the example of Branson, Missouri. Thirty years ago it was a wide spot on a country road in the Ozarks. Nothing particularly special about the area, it was far from interstate or major road routes. But, through a series of incentives, it went from one theatre to seventy-five. Over a hundred thousand visitors come to Branson annually to see live music and theatrical shows. That could happen anywhere in Louisiana. Natchitoches or Ruston might be the next Branson."
Not every aspect of the original bill survived legislative committee, but Wilson said, "In the wake of how many tax credits were vetoed, the bill is a remarkable success story for all the people who pushed for it. We didn't get everything we wanted, but what we got is better than anywhere else in the country."
Both Hines and Wilson maintained that the next step is to make sure that national developers know that the Broadway South incentives exist--and how well they work with the existing federal Gulf Opportunity Zone credits.
"Roger and I were in a meeting in New York," Hines explained, "with a major investment group, and we started talking about how GO-Zone would increase the incentives to restore these theatres, and they started asking, 'Can these incentives be used for other things like factories and production facilities.' They honestly did not know GO-Zone existed. Should they have, probably, but whose fault is that. Ours. Shame on them, but really shame on us. This is not getting out on the market place. The market place is not picking up on them enough." Local leaders need to do more, and Broadway South might prove a vehicle to make the state's economic case.
Wilson was equally emphatic. "We have to market these opportunities both to the developers. And explain the potential of a Canal Theatre district to the producers of shows."
In order to institute on the production end the eventual arrival of a whole new level of live entertainment to the city," Wilson continued, "It is imperative that we explain that this new legislation and these production incentives are only available in Louisiana and no where else in the country."
"These incentives that will make Louisiana the most cost effective state in the country to premier and market any form of live entertainment that initiates its productions here. It's essential that these are marketed and advertised and made pointently clear to the production world at large. The New York theater community, the music touring community, the variety entertainment community...I believe its already been demonstrated by Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu's recent trip to Los Angeles and his conversations with Disney that the entertainment world will respond to Broadway South in an extremely favorable manner provided they are made aware of the opportunities that it offers them. I am hopeful and confident that the Lt. Gov, the Mayor of New Orleans, as well as Mayors around the state, and DED, will create an embraceable campaign that will reach every corner of the nation. As well as those cultural capitals in Europe that will suddenly find Louisiana an entrance point for the productions that they would normally aim at New York. "
"Thus it's a two pronged attack, a two pronged mantra, build and promote, build and promote."
The men hope that Governor Blanco takes advantage of the national media attention at the end of August when the eyes of the nation once more turn to New Orleans for the second anniversary of Katrina. Wilson and Hines have been trying to convince Gov. Blanco to conduct a signing ceremony on Canal Street in front of the cameras for the Broadway South legislation. "It would send a piece of good news," Hines said. "It would show the nation that we are bouncing back from the storm. We are ready--and serious--about doing business...When you go to the trouble to adopt a new economic development tool, you need to market it."
August 14, 2007 3:12 PM