Blogcast w/Chris Graham: Two competing visions for Waynesboro’s future

chris graham dogsThe Wayne Theatre is having the impact on the Waynesboro economy that the people who worked to make it happen had been saying all along would be the case.

That it didn’t come online until 2016 is a testament to the backwards thinking on the part of a cabal that is still pulling strings behind the scenes.

We could have had the Wayne opened for business as far back as 2006. The City Council was set to vote on a Monday night to approve its end of a redevelopment project that had been in the works at that stage for six years.

Heading into the chambers, the vote was going to be 3-2 in favor, but as we would come to see, the strings would get pulled, the vote would get pulled, and as to why, well, it’s hard to say.

Personal animus, is all I can come up with. Because the cabal would only tell us that their motivation for blocking the project from coming to fruition is a supposed philosophical opposition to the use of public money for supposed private economic-development deals.

Which would be fine, except that those same supposed philosophical predispositions were swept by the wayside when it came to the cabal backing the $3 million-plus purchase in 2011 of scrub brush that one of them owned and couldn’t sell for pennies on those dollars.

Which gets us back to the personal animus. Basically, it’s the cabal flexing its muscles, and, credit to them, holding onto power, however it could.

Every two years, Frank Lucente would wave the bloody flag of the Wayne Theatre, practically tearing up talking about the mythical little old ladies living on a fixed income who were being asked to pay taxes to support pricey theatre shows for a cultured elite.

Problem there being, number one, the same little old ladies living on a fixed income had to pay a lot more taxes to go to buy the scrub brush, and two, cultured elite?

This is still Waynesboro, which is to say, not Charlottesville, not Richmond, not even Staunton.

If the Wayne Theatre was banking on making money selling tickets to people in Waynesboro, it would be out of business in a couple of months at best.

The driver all along was, build a theatre that can host theatre, music, science and history lectures and movies that appeal to people locally, regionally and statewide.

Then, how these things work, not only do people come downtown for the show, but before the show, they have dinner downtown, and after the show, they hit another restaurant for a dessert or nightcap.

And if they’re coming from out of town, maybe they stay the night at a hotel or a bed and breakfast.

This is Economics 101, and presumably, the cabal knows how economics work. Hell, Lucente, on paper, at least, made his mint selling hot dogs. You don’t make money off hot dogs if you don’t know the basics of how economics works.

Their opposition to the Wayne was never about the economics of the Wayne, and it sure as hell wasn’t about the little old lady paying taxes. They have made clear that they will take that little old lady’s tax dollars for their own purposes.

It was about, not letting someone outside their cabal succeed.

The people behind the Wayne Theatre’s revival represent a competing political power base, and one inimical to the interests of the cabal that has run things here dating back as far as anybody can remember.

The success of the Wayne is, thus, an existential threat. Which is why the cabal was willing to throw the city’s reputation into the landfill to protect its interests.

Because you surely realize that the city’s actions in reneging on the economic-development incentive package that was ultimately approved by city council in 2008 hasn’t helped bring other investment to Waynesboro in the 10 years since.

Our once-thriving industrial sector is gone, forever, and the jobs that we have to replace them have people folding sweaters at Kohl’s and waiting tables at Applebee’s, which, yeah, you guessed it, don’t pay what manufacturing jobs pay.

But you can’t blame the job creators for bypassing Waynesboro when it comes to where they spend their investment dollars. A deal with Waynesboro isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and that’s pretty well-known now in the investment set.

There’s a saying about cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face that seems to fit here.

Think about that next time you drive by the Wayne when another sold-out crowd enjoys a show on a money-making night for businesses up and down Main Street.

Then keep that thought in mind when you drive by the scrub brush out by the interstate that will still be scrub brush when we’re all dead, buried and forgotten.

Those are the two competing visions for your River City’s future.

Choose wisely.

Column by Chris Graham

augusta free press

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