Sunday, October 9, 2011
Why are Arizona taxpayers subsidizing private parties?
Each year the Marley Center Museum eats up millions of tax dollars for staff, maintenance, and debt service. The Marley is located next to Papago Park in Tempe. The Arizona Historical Society is attempting to rebrand it as the History Museum at Papago Park, but the sign at the street and the letters above the entry still say Marley Center because of a million dollar gift accepted from Kemper Marley. The museum displays are all but hidden on the second floor, and the layout suggests it was not intended to be a museum at all. Rather, it was designed to be a party venue.
At the time the Marley was built, a related news article stated that the AHS “consists in large part of rich people from "old" Arizona families, history buffs, and society matrons.” The history buffs were apparently in the minority, because the obvious focus of the Marley is the cocktail bar and multiple party areas. The entry way and party areas display no historical artifacts. Five years after the tax dollar funded building was completed, the second floor museum displays were only half finished. Today, the high dollar interactive displays are no longer maintained.
The Marley continues to host weddings, proms, and parties, but draws only a trickle of museum visitors. Arizona taxpayers, however, continue to foot the bill for maintain and staffing the 82,000 square foot building. Especially in a time of financial crisis, this is a completely irresponsible use of public funds.
Rather than correcting this problem, the Arizona legislature made it worse. In 2010, they passed the Arizona Centennial Museum bill, granting the AHS the authority to repeat their mistake.
The Museum That Couldn't Think Straight
Terry Greene Sterling
Phoenix New Times, Thursday, May 23 1996