Saturday, October 13, 2007
Unfair competition is nothing new
Michael Arafeh, owner of Coffeehouse Recording studios in Middletown has had his share of hardships thanks to Middletown public policy. The building of new condominiums on Ferry Street, with use of heavy equipment, meant that many of Arafeh's sessions were interrupted. I was at a meeting of the Common Council when Arafeh plead for some help, and left with little to show.
Now the city is behind Arafeh as he complains that the Green Street Arts Center is unfairly competing with him.
I sympathize with him, but offer the unsettling news that the State of Connecticut has been in the same "unfair competition" business for years. At public universities like Central Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, and Middlesex Community College, instructors are "selling" their audio and video production services to the general public. These universities, which are funded by tax dollars, have none of the overhead costs of a audio of video production company (rent, salary, equipment), and are able to bid for work at a much lower cost. I own a film production company and have complained for years about the situation, and have always heard the excuse that the commercial work helps students experience real production situations. Such production also takes place at private universities like Quinnipiac, but since they are not supported by tax dollars, there is less of a reason for complaint.
To me, this situation says a few things. Students are being used as free (slave) labor on productions for which someone is charging and making a profit. Also, if instructors have the time to complete commercial projects, they are either using state time, or state equipment which should be used for instruction. Finally, it raises the question that state employees may be double-dipping, that is, collecting personal fees for production while they are collecting a university salary.
It seems to me that any entity which receives public subsidy should not be able to bid against a private concern.