This afternoon the Salt Lake City Council will be briefed on why its staff support giving a $600,000 loan to the yet-to-open Leonardo museum. Quotes by council members in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning suggest the Leo has some council support.
Read City deputy director Jennifer Bruno's analysis of the loan request though and for those who have followed the Leonardo over the years, there is a sense of deja vu. The Leonardo is apparently seeking a one-time exception of a loan from the Revolving Loan Fund that the City decided just twenty four months ago businesses like the Leo should not be eligible for.
Over 10 years ago, the Tracy Aviary and the Children's Museum were granted loans by the City from the Revolving Loan Fund. But in 2010 the City adopted new criteria, Bruno notes in her analysis, that non-profit concerns such as the Leo were not eligible to receive loans.
In addition, Bruno writes, the Leo wants the City to give it a pass on typical Revolving Loan Fund requirements "regarding guarantees, collateral, origination fees and job creation," since the museum "would not fit the typical standards for these categories." Since their loan request did not go through the Revolving Loan Fund committee, she also notes that "the rigor with which the applicant's business plan and ability to re-pay was reviewed was less than is typical for RLF loans."
The Leo needs the funds to help with the $221,000 per month expenses as it ramps up for the long-promised big opening. Because of a dispute with builder Ascent, the delay in opening inevitably collided with the expectation of ticket sales revenue.
While Bruno urges much caution in her analysis, pointing out that the collateral the museum offered in the form of exhibits would, if liquidated, obviously damage its ability to function commercially, the Leo has been a dab hand at charm offensives in the past when it comes to getting its way.
Which leaves me wondering what other Salt Lake City non-profits think about the Leo's latest ponying up to the table? How much has the Leo's long-standing struggles for financing impacted Utah's non-profits as they too have scrabbled around for cash in these hard times?