Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is Governor Brewer’s pet project immoral?

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?


  1. I demand (in a nice way) that you publish the actual attendance figures for ALL of the AHS Museums. Or better yet have the AHS state what those figures are.
    Those museums include the AHS in Tucson, their Downtown Museum, Ft. Lowell Museum. Yuma Museum, Flagstaff Museum, Papago Park Museum. Some of those are large facilities.
    The Centennial Museum would not bring in that many people. It will be a boring exhibit.
    Be careful...god only knows what they tell the Az Legislators. Thats a lot of money for not very much.

  2. The AHS never responded to a request for attendance figures (paid and unpaid).

    Paid attendance is shown in the JLBC summaries under "performance measures". It dropped precipitously after they were required to charge admission. Total paid attendance at ALL of their museums (30,373 in 2008) is only about 15% over that of the mineral museum. Mineral museum attendance was rising continuously.

  3. Unpaid attendance for the mineral museum was approximately equal to paid attendance. Students on school sponsored field trips were not charged admission.

  4. Other State facilities state their attendance. State Parks have always made their numbers known.

  5. Board members of the AHS are known. So when do you make copies of everything on this blogsite and mail it to all of them.

  6. The lack of attendance at the AHS Museums is an embarrassment.Just think of all of the funds pured into the locations and nobody goes in.The AHS Board does not raise money, the director of AHS does not raise money. Just go and stand in front of the Papago Park AHS Museum and count how few people go in. Thay even dropped their "gift shop" Thats how bad it is.

  7. You are correct. Arizona should not be funding the AHS. This blog has made several suggestions about budget items that should have much higher priority than AHS,and there are undoubtedly many, many more. Yet, the Governor gave them a 50% INCREASE! Taxpayers should not accept this misuse of funds.

  8. AHS is a state funded institution, so legally the numbers cannot be kept secret. But they will be secret until there is a public demand for the figures.
    Tucson figures for the last FY were barely over 10k visitors. Half of that figure was on the weekend that the Declaration of Independence came to Tucson. Half of the number came to see the Declaration of Independence, not AHS. 5k visitation for AHS proper. Ft. Lowell was less than 2k visitors.
    AHS has a wonderful collection of artifacts and is an important public institution. But, AHS is killing itself from within because it is staffed by people who do not desire to please the public. They demand public funding yet disdain the public. The result is failure.

  9. Dick:

    The AHS should be funded because they hold important artifact collections as well as library and archives collections.The director and board would never be able to raise the funds to do this.So they will need some kind of help. The collections are the most important thing, not the people who claim to run the operation.

  10. Then AHS needs a new director and a new board. They will have to raise private funds to preserve the collections that are worth preserving. Planning has begun for a completely private mining and mineral museum, and the AHS needs to do the same.