Friday, July 30, 2010

Was the Judge mislead about the Arizona Centennial Museum?

Charles Jones, a retired Arizona Supreme court judge, is co-chairman of the Arizona Centennial Commission. As such, he should be familiar with the Centennial Commissions number one signature project, as described in However, his published comments on the Arizona Centennial museum are not consistent with plans presented by others.

The other Centennial Commission co-chairman, Governor Brewer, announced the Centennial Museum on Feb 12, 2010 and issued a press release. Curiously, the Coolidge Examiner published the release, but the Arizona Republic did not. Over a week later, on February 19, the Republic published a brief paragraph about the Centennial Museum in a short editorial entitled “Centennial is an Opportunity to Create, Teach.” The editorial did feature a sketch about the proposed Centennial Museum, but most of the text was about planning and preparing statewide centennial projects during a bleak economy.

Subsequently, the Republic printed three responses expressing concern about the historic and top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum that currently occupies the building. The first (Paul Jeager, February 24) was entitled “Don’t sacrifice state mining museum”. It expressed concern about what will happen to the state mineral collection, which was established over 125 years. The second (Robin Evans) was entitled “Mining, Mineral Museum a treasure” and discussed the loss of essential K-12 educational programs. The third (Dr. Eugene S. Meieran, March 6), expanded further on the educational value of the mineral museum.

Dr. Merian explained how a crystal display he saw in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History over 60 years ago inspired his highly successful scientific career. He explained that the experience was not unique, and that many scientific careers are inspired by a childhood experience such as a museum visit. He went on to explain why displacing the existing world class mineral museum would be a major loss to Arizona and education.

On April 10, the Republic then printed an editorial by Judge Jones addressing concerns about the mineral museum and assuring readers the “the historic pieces of equipment and world class mineral and gem collection will remain prominently displayed” Judge Jones editorial was entitled “Looking back on the states’ 100 years: Existing mining and mineral exhibits will find new home in new Centennial Museum”.

However, Judge Jones assurances are not supported by statements from others. During the Governors February 16 briefing, listeners were told that each of the Cs in the 5C Centennial Museum would be allocated 20% of the floor space (less after other industries are added per subsequent releases). How the existing mineral museum can be fit into less than 20% of the existing floor space has not been explained. Centennial Museum planners do not appear to understand that the mineral museum is similar to an iceberg. Only about 15% of the mineral collection is on display at any one time. Most of the collection is in storage (within the existing building), along with tens of thousands of supporting documents and photos. Without the storage space, the mineral museum cannot function.

Although the Judge said the historic equipment will be preserved, the illustration included in the February 19th editorial clearly shows all of it removed. In fact, at the Governors briefing, listeners were specifically told that it would be “relocated”. Even though an amendment to the bill establishing the Centennial Museum says the historic equipment will be retained, no change to the original plan has appeared.

Finally, even though the bill establishing the Centennial Museum states that the Centennial Museum will “house the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum”, the Arizona Historical Society (manager of the Centennial Museum) continues to say there will be no specific mineral museum area within the Centennial Museum. They specifically say their sole source contractor will mingle items from all of the 5Cs in the Centennial Museum displays. That doesn’t sound like the complete mineral collection will “remain prominently displayed” as promised by the judge.

In fact, the Centennial Museum bill that was rushed through the House and Senate to be signed by the Governor was amended to specifically state that the mineral collection will be split between the Arizona Historical Society and the Arizona department of Mines and Mineral Resources. Exactly which specimens go where is unclear, but it is clear that the entire collection will not remain intact as the judge promised.

Perhaps the two co-chairs of the Arizona Centennial Commission need to have a coordination meeting on the Centennial Museum.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who will Pay for the Arizona Centennial Museum?

The February 12, 2010 press release entitled “Governor Announces Centennial Birthday Present”, stated “The Governor also explained that no public funds will be used to build this new museum. The Arizona Centennial Commission, The Arizona Centennial 2010 Foundation, and the representatives from the “Five Cs” are working collaboratively to collect the necessary private sector funds to renovate and maintain the museum.” The
Governor elaborated further during her February 17 Centennial Summit, saying “In our continuing effort to streamline and bring efficiencies to government, and to privatize whenever possible – NO FUNDS from the state will be used – rather funding will come from foundations, corporations, citizens, and grants.”

So, within 5 days, the Governor contradicted herself concerning the funding. First she said there would be no “public funds”, and then she said there would be no “funds from the state”. The obvious implication is that Federal funds will be used if possible, and there is hearsay evidence that at least one of the Cs did in fact apply for a Federal grant.

If any truly private money has been either collected or committed, that is apparently being kept secret. On May 25, 2009, NAZ Today published an article entitled “Fundraising at a Standstill for Arizona’s Centennial”. At that time, no funds had been raised. Former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs was quoted as saying “We ought to be doing the best job, and frankly, we’re not doing any job at all”. In March of 2009, the Arizona legislature eliminated the 2.5 million dollars of state money that had been budgeted for the centennial, leaving the Centennial Commission with nothing. If any private money has been subsequently secured, the Centennial Commission has been surprisingly quiet about that.

The Arizona Centennial Museum (ACM) is to be part of the Arizona Historical Society (AHS). At the same time the Centennial Commission fundraising was stumbling, the future of the AHS looked bleak. In a June 7, 2009 letter to the Governor, the Director of the AHS stated “We respectfully request that you do not pursue your five year plan to phase out all state appropriated funding for the AHS. To do so will result in the elimination of the AHS ---“.

Somehow, between June 2009 and February 2010, the AHS was pulled of the chopping block and assigned the responsibility of operating the ACM. Therefore, even if the ACM is somehow built with private funds, the taxpayers have to support the cost of keeping the AHS out of the grave. According to JBCL Analyst Bob Hall (FY2011 Appropriations Report) that cost is $4,062,500 for FY 2010 and $6,292,200 for FY 2011. The increase is due to rent for the ACM building and rent for the Papago Park Museum building which was sold and leased back. So, there is a partial answer to the opening question. The taxpayers will pay a minimum of 6 million dollars per year for the AHS – ACM package.

Now, how about the cost of creating the ACM in the building rented for $589,700 per year? First, how much money is required to design and build the museum displays, and how much money is required for the planned renovation of the building? No one seems to really know. The sole source contractor for the museum displays provided a rough half page estimate for displays and architectural work on the building. That estimate was nine million dollars, but examination of that document shows it does not include renovation costs. The total project cost is obviously much more, but there appears to be no documentation (or at least no released documentation). A clue may be found in the FY2009 and FY210 AHS budgets prepared by JLBC analyst Caitlin Acker. It shows and extra 6.5 million dollars of non-appropriated funds in FY 2009 and an extra 25 million dollars in non-appropriated funds in FY 2010. Assuming that the extra funds were for the ACM, someone somewhere estimated the total cost of the project as 31.5 million rather than 9 million.

However, during the Senate hearing on HB 2251 establishing the ACM, the cost was said to be only 9 million. Concerned citizens commented on the bill stated that the true cost had to be much higher, but the committee brushed this comments aside and approved the bill. One of the Senators commented that it did not matter how much the ACM cost because it would be built with the “Governors money”. No one seemed to wonder why a law establishing the ACM was necessary if it would not require any state funds.

So, we know that the ACM will cost more than 9 million dollars, and perhaps as much as 30 million dollars. Whatever the number, hearsay evidence at the time of the Senate hearing suggested that each of the Cs were going to contribute 1 million, and the state was going to put in 4 million. Given the bleak future of several of the Cs (as discussed in a prior post), chances of each of them contributing a million seem slim. No information concerning other potential contributors appears to be available.

So, there appears to be no complete answer to the opening question at this time. Whatever happens, the Arizona taxpayer is on the hook for 6 million dollars per year whether the ACM is built or not. Beyond that, what will happen? Will some money from the sales tax increase be diverted to the ACM? Will Federal stimulus dollars fund the ACM? Will corporations requiring permits and licenses to operate in Arizona be expected to contribute? Will more State Parks and rest stops be closed to make funds available?

The Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR) previously paid the $589,000 rent on the building for use as office space and for the mineral museum. The Governor cut the ADMMR budget, so that they could not pay the rent and must move out next month.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Arizona Centennial Museum Displaces Polly Rosenbaum Legacy

Poly Rosenbaum was in the Arizona House of Representatives for 45 years. In 1982, she was honored by her colleagues as “The First Lady of the Arizona Legislature” for her many years of service.

Polly was born in Iowa in 1899. She obtained a degree in history and political science from the University of Colorado. Then, she earned a masters degree in education at the University of Southern California. After graduation, she became a teacher in the mining town of Hayden, Arizona. She also worked for Inspiration Copper and the State of Arizona. She became a state legislature in 1949 and served until 1994.

In the House, Polly was Chairman of the Education Committee. She championed education, public libraries, and historic preservation. She was particularly interested in preserving Arizona’s mining history, and was responsible for relocating the historic Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum to the Polly Rosenbaum Building. That is the historic former El Zariba Shrine Temple, and is not to be confused with the new Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building. The museum reopened in its new quarters in October, 1991. In addition to housing the states extensive mineral collection, the renovated building protected historic and scientifically valuable files, maps, photographs and library from fire and water damage. Poly loved the museum and visited it frequently. She also chose it as the place to celebrate her 99th birthday.

In a February 21, 2003, an Arizona Capital Times article quoted Polly as follows: “These new people have a very short view of history. The (mineral) museum is about more than minerals; it’s the identity of Arizona. The prospector and burro came hunting for gold and silver, but copper revolutionized the electrical industry and created the modern world. Many people have no idea how dependent we are on minerals, until they come to the museum.”

After her death in December of 2003, the Arizona Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 2042 (2004) which shows that both Polly and the Legislature assumed the renovated Polly Rosenbaum building was the “permanent home” for the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum.

How unfortunate that the current administration plans to celebrate Arizona’s centennial by replacing the “identity of Arizona” with a 5C Centennial Museum. How ironic that the Arizona Historical Society (responsible for the 5C museum) is a participant in erasing the historic “identity of Arizona”.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why does the Arizona Centennial Museum require an East Coast contractor?

The Arizona Historical Society, which will manage the yet to be built Arizona Centennial Museum, plans to use an out of state sole source contractor for designing and building the museum displays. Approximately five to ten million dollars will be spent on the high technology interactive displays.

First, why are high technology interactive displays required for a museum featuring the 5Cs? How will high tech help students learn about cows, cotton, and citrus? How can they improve on the real citrus trees and the real cotton plants currently a part of the existing 5Cs display and grade school education program at the Mesa Southwest Museum?

However, assuming high tech displays are needed, why is an out of state contractor required? Are not the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas filled with high tech companies and universities? Does the Governor and the Arizona Historical Society have so little confidence in the ability and creativity of Arizonans that they think an out of state contractor is necessary to design exhibits about Arizona? Why would Arizona want to celebrate its’ centennial by admitting that it does not have the skills needed to design and construct centennial exhibits?

Finally, there is the economic consideration. In a very poor economy with high unemployment, why export five to ten million dollars or Arizona money to design and prepare centennial displays? Why not keep that money in Arizona?

The Arizona Centennial Museum should be designed and built by Arizonans.