Summit County voices support for Save Our Stages Act, Goodyear

Emily Mills
Kent Weeklies
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Summit County is voicing support for federal legislation that would help live performance venues financially during the coronavirus pandemic and for Goodyear after the president’s call to boycott the Akron company last month.

Summit County Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Save Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act.

The federal legislation would provide $10 billion in grants to be used for expenses like payroll costs, rent, utilities and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Small Business Administration would be able to give an initial grant of up to $12 million to an eligible live venue operator, promoter, producer or talent representative for costs incurred between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, and a supplemental grant equal to 50 percent of the initial grant for expenses incurred through June 30, 2021.

"We have these fairly large facilities, and the costs of those facilities doesn't go away just because we're not programming and bringing in revenue,” said Akron Civic Theatre executive director Howard Parr.

Parr said the pandemic has had a $400,000 effect on the Civic. Countywide, the effect on performance venues is estimated at $9 million, with about 1,500 jobs directly impacted, Parr said.

“It will grow as the COVID crisis has lasted much longer than we expected,” he said. “I tell our staff, this thing turned off like a light switch. It's gonna come back on like a dimmer.”

The Civic is in the midst of an $8.5 million capital campaign to fund a range of projects, including a new performance space in the adjacent Whitelaw building and restoring the theater's grand lobby and arcade.

“I think we all believe that in the long term, the market is strong, and that once we're able to get back and running at our full capacities that we'll be able to be back where we were,” Parr said. “The question is what happens in between, that bridge, what happens to the organizations while we're waiting for that to occur.”

The resolution lists other local venues, many of which have been closed since March, that have been negatively affected, including Blossom Music Center, Weathervane Playhouse, Magical Theatre Company, E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall and the Goodyear Theater.

“Live entertainment generally is so important to the quality of life in Summit County that we want to do everything we can to encourage positive action on this legislation,” said at-large council representative Clair Dickinson, who sponsored the resolution along with District 2 representative John Schmidt.

County council also unanimously approved a resolution stating the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has the “full and unwavering support” of County Council and the county executive, “with heartfelt appreciation for all the company has done globally and for the Summit County community.”

The support comes after President Donald Trump’s tweet last month calling for a boycott of its tires over a Goodyear tire factory training presentation slide saying employees could wear Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ apparel but not Blue Lives Matter, MAGA or other political attire or materials.

Goodyear clarified a policy so that employees can show support for law enforcement and wear Blue Lives Matter attire, while standing by its long-standing rule asking employees refrain from showing support for political candidates and parties while in the workplace.

The resolution states the company, which employs nearly 3,000 people in Summit County, “has recently been attacked and embroiled in an unnecessary political squabble.”

“Many of us are either related to someone or have had some time working for Goodyear,” said District 8 representative Paula Prentice, who sponsored the resolution. “I believe that we should take a stand in supporting them and letting them know that we appreciate all that they've done.”

The 11-member county council — which includes eight Democratic members — is the latest of several local politicians and entities criticizing Trump for the boycott call, including with a rally at the Steelworkers Local 2 union hall in Akron.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at emills@thebeaconjournal.com.