Sunday, November 23, 2014

Centennial license plate mystery



The following article was distributed to 90 newspapers across Arizona. The Sierra Vista Herald ws the first to publish it:

In 2010, Arizona Revised Statute 28-2448 established the Arizona Centennial specialty license plate.  There is an extra $25 fee for purchasers of specialty license plates. Of that, $8 is kept by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) for the extra cost of producing the specialty plate and $17 is given to the charity or nonprofit organization sponsoring the plate. The statute establishing the centennial license plate provided for the $17 to be given to the Arizona Historical Society for the maintenance and operation of the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum. In 2013 alone, ADOT distributed $126,500 dollars to the AHS from the specialty license plate fund.

However, there is no 5C Arizona Centennial Museum. There never was. The money given to an east coast designer produced a plan for a 15 million dollar museum display to be installed in an existing building. Not surprisingly, the fundraising effort for this ill-conceived project failed. The centennial museum boondoggle was a replay of the History Museum at Rio Nuevo fiasco. In that case, nearly one and a half million dollars of state funds was given to the same out of state designer to prepare plans for an impossibly expensive (85 million dollars) museum that could never be built.

Why does the state legislature throw money at the AHS for poorly planned projects that fail?

What is happening to the money collected for centennial license plates?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sylvia Allen returns to the senate



Due to the sudden death of a State Senator from District 6, Sylvia Allen became the Republican candidate in the 2014 election. Election results now show her to be the winner.

Senator Allen served in the state senate previously.  In the spring of 2010, she prepared an amendment to the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum bill to preserve the mineral museum and its K-12 education programs. The bill, with the amendment, was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor to become law in August of 2010. 

In spite of receiving the complete mineral museum budget every year since, the AHS closed the mineral museum in the spring of 2011 and then destroyed it by scattering equipment and materials across the state. In doing so, the AHS knowingly defied every provision in the Allen amendment. The AHS was represented at the meeting where the Allen amendment was drafted.

Part A of Arizona Revised Statute 41-827 begins as follows: The Arizona historical society shall operate and maintain the centennial museum that houses the mining and mineral museum ---. 

Follow on paragraphs state:


 2. To maintain the mining and mineral museum as the state depository for collecting, cataloging and displaying mining artifacts and specimens of various ores, gemstones, lapidary material and other valuable mineral specimens.

And
8: To operate educational programming for the museum.


And
B: The Arizona historical society shall maintain the items, artifacts and other inventory received for display or storage, including equipment and outdoor displays, and shall not sell or otherwise dispose of materials received for the centennial museum or the mining and mineral museum.


Will the AHS be held accountable for defying specific legislation clearly intended to preserve the once top rated mineral museum and its science education programs?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ignoring the law?


Prior posts reported  how the AHS has been disposing of displays and cases from the mineral museum. Now, minerals have appeared on eBay.  Current eBay item 201153994795 is offering two pallets of packaged minerals weighing 1400 pounds from the mineral museum. The title of the ad is “ARIZONA MINERAL MUSEUM COLLECTION 2 PALLETS 1,400 POUNDS”, and the text says a list of the minerals and photos is available at http://www.collectorsinternational.com/minerals.ht

The law governing mineral museum assets (ARS 41-827) says that the AHS “shall not sell or otherwise dispose of material from the centennial museum or mineral museum”.

The AHS had two representatives at the table when the text of the law was drafted in Senate offices in 2010. The AHS cannot credibly claim to be unaware of the law.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Arizona Taxpayers Fund Ghost Museum



The following article was released to Arizona newspapers. The Sierra Vista Herald was the first to publish it.

Taxpayers pay for many questionable government expenditures, but in Arizona they are paying for a state museum that actually ceased to exist over three years ago. 

The mineral museum in Phoenix began as a mineral display at the 1884 Territorial Fair.  As of 2009, it was one of Arizona’s top rated museums and received nearly 50,000 visitors a year. Most of them were students and teachers participating in in its very popular K-12 earth science education programs. It was the only resource supporting teachers attempting to comply with the state mandated earth science curriculum, and it provided educational programs and materials free of charge.

In 2010, the museum was transferred to the Arizona Historical Society, a state agency.  Then, in the spring of 2011, before the end of the school year, the AHS closed the museum for reasons unknown.  Children anticipating class field trips were disappointed. The closure was not due to funding cuts.  The AHS, receives millions of dollars of public funds every year. In 2011, and every year since, the complete mineral museum budget for facilities and staff has been included in the public funding provided to the AHS. Those funds are again included in next year’s AHS budget.

Today, the historic building at the corner of 15th Avenue and Washington Street stands empty and quiet.  It has now been over three years since the last school bus arrived, bringing children who eagerly lined up at the door for a unique and exciting learning experience.  The AHS is scattering the mineral collection to various locations across the state, where it is of little use and subject to damage or loss.

How long will the AHS continue to receive funding for an empty building that now provides absolutely no service to Arizona?

How long will the Arizona legislature continue to fund something that ceased to exist over three years ago?

Dick Zimmermann, Tempe, AZ

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kids and Arizona Museums


The Arizona Republic recently published two articles about “great museums” that are recommended to entertain and educate kids. The first was about 10 museums outside the Valley and the second was about 12 museums in the Valley.

Taxpayers pour millions of dollars into the Arizona Historical Society museums each and every year for seven museums. So, was at least one AHS museum included on the recommended lists?

No.

As demonstrated by prior posts, this reveals a continuing pattern of mediocrity. Despite an overly generous government subsidy, the AHS has never produced a top rated museum. They were given control of a top rated* museum that was very popular with kids in 2010 (Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum). However, the AHS destroyed it in less than a year for no apparent reason.

Each year since, they have continued to receive the budget for a museum that no longer exists. Today, the building stands empty at 15th Avenue and Washington in Phoenix as the AHS seeks even more taxpayer dollars to convert it into an unneeded “event center”. The AHS already has a newer and much larger event center / museum in Tempe.

School busses used to line up at the mineral museum nearly every school day. It was the only museum many school would approve for a classroom field trip.

How much longer will Arizona taxpayers allow the AHS to squander millions of dollars, each and every year, on museums no one wants to visit and a museum that does not exist?

* see 4/26/11 and 6/7/10 posts

References:
Summer of the Kid: Day at the Museum
Arizona Republic
August 28, 2014, page D1

Summer of the Kid: 10 museums outside the valley
Kellie Hwang, The Republic, azcentral.com, July 31, 2014