Girard at Large has learned that an unplanned ribbon cutting featuring Mayor Joyce Craig at the soon to open Rex Theatre may have been done to meet a deadline for a political mail piece from her reelection campaign. Craig was the only political figure in attendance at the event, which included a very small, select group of people affiliated with the project and the city’s mainstream media outlets, which provided generous media coverage of the event they reported as a ribbon cutting.
The original, and still to be had, ribbon cutting was scheduled for October 30, 2019. Girard at-Large has learned that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which has been invited to the event on the 30th, wasn’t invited to the event held on Thursday, October 17th. Several aldermen have privately and angrily complained that they knew nothing about it until they saw social and regular media posts about it. Moreover, those familiar with event said it was nothing more than a “photo op, ” with one one person telling Girard at-Large:
Nobody made any remarks and there wasn’t any sort of program. They didn’t even have any refreshments. They gathered people together for a photo and that was pretty much it.
Girard at-Large’s review of the subsequent media coverage on WMUR-TV and the Union Leader confirms the accuracy of our sources. There is no footage of anything but the ribbon being cut. News stories include interviews of some who were present, but no footage, photos or quotes from any speech or program presentation.
Our sources stated that not only was this done for Craig’s campaign to meet a production deadline for a campaign mailer, but that the “cover story” for it being done was that the event was being held “for the staff.”
Girard at-Large emailed questions to Mayor Craig and Palace Theatre President & CEO Peter Ramsey about the event, its nature, purpose and origins. The Palace is the Rex’s owner and operator. Ramsay replied on the phone for both himself and the mayor, saying she had asked him to contact us on her behalf. When queried about that, Ramsay said she wanted him “to make clear that she had nothing to do with the event. It was all me,” he said.
He went on to claim that he arranged the event and invited her to be present since “the renovation of the Rex was her idea.” (Publisher’s note: The renovation of the Rex was first proposed by Mayor Ted Gatsas in mid 2015. There were several twists and turns over the ensuing three years as the project took various forms before the current proposal succeeded. Ramsey said he didn’t know anything about Mayor Gatsas’ efforts because he wasn’t involved. Click here for the many Girard at-Large stories and interviews about renovating the Rex.)
At first, Ramsey said, as our sources told us, that he organized the event “for the staff.” Which staff? The Palace/Rex staff.
If it was for the staff, why bill it as the official ribbon cutting and invite the press?
You know how it is. We need constant visibility in the media. My press guy did that.
So, your media guy invited the press to a staff event? Yes.
Why not invite the Board of Mayor and Aldermen?
They’re invited to the ribbon cutting on the thirtieth.
Wasn’t the mayor and the staff invited to that one, too? Yes, everybody’s invited to that one.
Ramsey also said he organized the event because he was having a “hard time” getting the city’s inspectors to sign off on the permits they needed to open and he was concerned that they wouldn’t receive them in time for the opening acts to be promoted.
If you’re having that much trouble with the inspectors, why not call the mayor and see if she can help out?
That’s not the way I do business.
Ramsey basically told Girard at-Large that he thought hosting a ribbon cutting would impress upon the inspectors the need to wrap things up so they could open. Apparently, the scheduled event, with the city’s political, business, cultural and other leaders, wasn’t enough of a message.
Girard at Large has since learned that Ramsey sang a different tune at a meeting of the Manchester Development Corporation’s Board of Directors a week before the ribbon cutting. According to our sources, he praised the city’s departments on the amazing job they did and mentioned how easy the inspection process was. Ramsey did say it wasn’t perfect, but gave no indication of the kind of hassle he chronicled for Girard at-Large.
When asked, Ramsey said he didn’t know how or if Craig was going to use the photos in her campaign in response to our questions.
Girard at-Large followed up with Mayor Craig to find out whether or not she was going to use any photos or media coverage of the event in her campaign. A response came from her campaign manager McKenzie St. Germain:
I’m writing to let you know that no photos from the Rex ribbon cutting yesterday are being used in Mayor Craig’s campaign materials.
St. Germain didn’t reply to our follow up question asking, if that was the case, why were the pictures published on the Facebook page the mayor uses to promote her campaign on the day of the ribbon cutting and highlighted in the campaign newsletter the following day. Both campaign postings referred to the “official” Rex ribbon cutting.
Regardless of whether or not Mayor Craig had anything to do with organizing it, it seems a stretch to believe she was just a non-participatory guest. Even if true, she should have known better. Someone who brags, as she does, about collaborating with everyone to make things better, should have known the hurt, anger and disappointment it would likely cause in those who might feel like their moment, the recognition of all their hard work, was stepped on so she could make a PR splash sooner than later. Someone truly interested in others would have said something like: “Peter, thanks for the invitation. I’m flattered! However, I don’t think it’s right to do this outside of the official event where everyone who has planned to be, and is looking forward to being there will be present. It can wait.”