Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $250,000 for Stanley Theatre in New York

According to its website, the Stanley Theatre in Utica, N.Y., opened on Sept. 10, 1928, and “has been the premier showplace for Central New York ever since.” With its 78th birthday just around the corner, the Stanley Theatre is also a premier showplace for congressional pork. According to the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, the Stanley Theatre received $250,000 of taxpayer money from the 2006 Interior Appropriations Act (H.R. 2361).

Since 1974, when the theatre was purchased by the Central New York Community Arts Council, over $5.5 million has been spent on its “brilliant restoration.” The 30-year effort has since restored the theatre’s 2,945-seat interior to its original condition, with carpeting that even replicates the original pattern.

It is difficult to discern exactly why the Stanley Theatre was deemed an appropriate receptacle for America’s hard-earned tax dollars. According to its website, the theatre has no problem booking high-profile shows, including the likes of Dave Matthews, Jerry Seinfeld, Cats, and Itzhak Perlman. The theatre is also rented out for photography sessions, receptions, and parties. The website goes on to say that “every ticket sold to a Stanley event includes two dollars to help pay for the continued restoration of this magnificent showplace.” In addition, major funding also comes from the Natural Heritage Trust of the State of New York, the County of Oneida, the City of Utica, and many private sources.

My opponent likes to say that $250,000 is not a lot of money, but it’s a lot of money to me, and it’s a lot of money to the hardworking people of Rhode Island. I have knocked on thousands of doors throughout this campaign, and I can tell you that $250,000 is a lot of money to the people I meet every day. I suggest Senator Chafee go knock on some doors.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on New York’s Stanley Theatre (Senate Roll Call Vote #210) on July 29, 2005.