Thursday, February 14, 2013

Last and Worst Centennial: Embarrassing Arizona centennial celebration ends

Feb 13 was the last day of Arizona’s centennial year. The Arizona centennial was the last of the centennials for the original, contiguous 48 states, and the celebration was surely the worst.

Two centennial commissions, appointed by two different governors, stumbled as they attempted to plan the celebration.  Seven years of planning resulted in no coherent plan. Competing pet projects vied for attention and funding as the centennial approached, and then slipped by with plans in disarray. Most of the funds that were raised were paid to an east coast firm to design a $15 million 5C Arizona Centennial Museum (the “signature project”) that was never funded and will never be built. When the absurdity of the project became apparent, half past last minute changes morphed it into an Arizona Experience Museum with vague displays about the future including “smells and vibrations”. That was a transition from bad to worse.

A few trees were planted as officials pontificated, and $7 million in Federal stimulus money was squandered planting strange artwork and placards along Centennial Way, the new Phoenix “promenade”.  Best Fest celebrations were held in Prescott and Phoenix, but the third (Tucson) was cancelled because funds were drained by designing the “signature project”. Worst of all, the once top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum was closed and gutted to make room for the “signature project”. Now, Arizona school children no longer enjoy a lifetime learning experience that the mineral museum (which traced its roots to the 1884 Territorial Fair) provided for more years that anyone can remember.

The preceding New Mexico centennial celebration established a foundation to benefit children. By contrast, the Arizona centennial celebration did permanent damage to Arizona’s earth science education programs, and was thereby harmful to children.

Note: The   Feb 16th edition of the Arizona Republic contained a shortened version (200 word limit) of the above in the letters to the editor section:

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