Friday, September 16, 2011
Arizona Centennial Commission lacks transparency
Planning for Arizona’s centennial began in 2003 with Governor Napolitano’s February 7th “Countdown to the Centennial” proclamation. On each of Arizona’s birthdays preceding the centennial, 4th graders were to be brought to the Capitol for a celebration. In 2005, Governor Napolitano established a coordinating committee to honor the 2012 centennial. The mission of the committee was to develop a statewide plan, advise the legislature and state agencies, assist with the countdown to the centennial, and recommend activities and projects.
Also in 2005, Senate Bill 1065 assigned responsibility for centennial planning to the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission. Additional legislation in 2006 (HB 2870) appropriated $2.5 million for the centennial celebration with the provision that the Commission must first raise $5 million from the private sector. The Commission established six working committees “to work with stakeholders to ensure a well-coordinated effort that achieves a successful Centennial”. The Commission released their plan on February 14, 2007 (Arizona’s 95th birthday).
Then, on February 14th 2008, Executive Order 2008-15 established the Arizona Centennial Commission. Shortly thereafter, centennial planning became shrouded in secrecy. In 2009, there were secret meetings with the Arizona Historical Society and their sole source, out of state contractor. The idea of a 5C Arizona Centennial Museum emerged, and was finally presented at a small, by invitation only event on February 14, 2010. The $9 million museum was supposedly supported and financed by an industry coalition representing, copper, climate, cattle, citrus, and climate (tourism). The museum, the “number one signature project” and “centerpiece” of the centennial celebration, was to displace the existing, top rated, historic, and self-supporting Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum and its popular K-12 science education programs.
By February 2011, it became apparent that these industries, with the exception of one copper company, actually had no interest in this project. Scraps of information appearing in the media revealed that the cost had been ballooned to over $15 million, more than half of the Centennial Commissions entire projected budget. Of that, only about 10% of the funds had been raised. Then, it became very obvious that the “centerpiece” of Arizona’s centennial celebration could not possibly be open for the centennial.
Apparently the theme of the museum has now changed several times in an attempt to attract a broader base of financial supporters. However, secrecy still surrounds planning and fundraising activities. The Arizona Centennial Commission does appear to be in the process of redefining the centennial celebration as the year following the centennial rather than the year preceding the centennial. That may be a desperate attempt to distract attention from the fact that the “centerpiece” centennial project cannot be open for the centennial.
The Arizona Centennial Commission is not acting in the best interest of Arizona. Planning and fundraising for Arizonan’s 100th birthday should be completely transparent. Continuing in secrecy will mar a unique, once in a lifetime celebration, and may even suggest that improprieties are being hidden.