This blog was inspired by House Bill 2251 which the Governor pushed through to authorize her pet project, the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum. This blog is critical of that bill, because it does not just create another history museum. It replaces the existing and top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum with another history museum. Many believe the existing mineral museum, the only earth science museum in the state supporting K-12 education, is a greater asset than another history museum (centennial museum). Also, it will cost many millions of dollars to downgrade the museum to a history museum.
However, the human suffering associated with the prolonged, severe recession raises another question. Is spending tens of millions of dollars on a non essential museum at this time immoral?
Take the recent example of 32 year old Francisco Felix of Laveen, Arizona. As reported by Michelle Ye Hee Lee in the Arizona Republic, Felix needs a replacement for his damaged liver. A dying family friend donated a liver for Felix, but he did not get a transplant. After being prepared for the transplant operation, he was discharged from the hospital without surgery. That happened because his Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System insurance quit covering transplant operations on October 1st.
Obviously there will never be enough money to provide all possible desired medical service. However, is it ethical to withdraw previously covered care while there is still fat in the Arizona budget?
The sole source and out of state contractor for the Arizona Centennial Museum estimated it will cost 9 million dollars. A completely nonessential associated project (Washington Street – Centennial Way) to be built past the front of the museum is costing 7 million dollars. In addition to that, the Arizona Historical Society will be provided millions of dollars a year to operate and maintain the museum. The AHS state budget was to be phased out because of the budget crisis. To support her pet project, the Governor not only restored their full budget, but increases it by over 50%. The AHS will now get at least over 6 million dollars of state money each and every year. Granted, the Centennial Way project is using Federal stimulus money and must be squandered on something useless, and private funding is being solicited for the 9 million dollar centennial museum. Nevertheless, do such nonessential expenditures in such a time of desperate need represent responsible leadership?
According to Lee there are about 100 patients in the same desperate situation that Francisco Felix is in. Sixty of them are also in need a liver transplant that costs $200,000.
If the Governor had not decided to keep the history museums open and to even add a new one, half of those 60 patients could receive the needed liver transplants. If the Governor and the community would ask private industry to help the underinsured like Felix, rather than support a completely unnecessary capital mall monument, all of them might be treated and there might even be 3 million dollars left over.
Yet, according to Lee, the Governors spokesman (Paul Senseman) said that the AHCCCS cuts will not be reconsidered. Apparently, another history museum has a higher priority than the life of a 32 year old man.
Francisco Felix and others will die not because there is a lack of money, but because of priorities within the Governors office that will not be reviewed or reconsidered.
Note 1: Based on the attendance of existing history museums, few Arizonans are ever likely to visit the planned 5C Arizona Centennial Museum.
Note 2: How many other multimillion dollar pork projects remain in the Arizona budget as essential services are being cut?