Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Third Anniversary of an Attack on Arizona History

On Saturday, April 30, 2011, the AHS scheduled an offsite meeting for mineral museum staff. At the meeting, the entire staff was fired, and not permitted to reenter the museum building. The photos on the May 1, 2011 post show the police presence preventing reentry and a contractor changing the locks. Students were scheduled to arrive on field trips the next week, but the AHS appeared not to care.

Subsequently, the AHS destroyed the once top rated mineral museum that began at the 1884 Territorial Fair.  They disposed of cabinets, cases, fixtures, furniture, and displays. They also had a contractor prepare to remove the historic mining equipment around the building. A legal challenge was required to save, at least temporarily, the mining equipment, which still stands around the empty building.

The reason for this senseless attack on Arizona history is unknown. Budget considerations were not a factor. Each year since, AHS continues to absorb the entire mineral museum budget provided by public funds.

Coincidentally, the Arizona Republic published a couple of  related letters.


Shuttered Ariz. mining museum got a raw deal
Douglas R. Lindsay Sr. Arizona Republic, 6:05 p.m. MST April 26, 2014
Arizona Republic

Funding cuts not behind mining-museum demise
Dick Zimmerman Arizona Republic 6:26 p.m. MST April 29, 2014
 (April 30 print edition)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Political mayhem and Arizona Historical Society

The AHS, a state agency receiving public funds, has a history of flaunting applicable policies and statutes. Their scofflaw attitude is reflected in a half dozen unsatisfactory Auditor General reports from 1995 to 2013. Even though the most recent sunset review was unsatisfactory, the House prepared and passed a bill (HB 2016) that did not schedule the next review until 2023.  The Senate Government Committee, correctly seeing that closer oversight is required, amended that bill to schedule the next performance review in 2015. The AHS could have simply accepted that, worked hard to correct their many documented problems, and obtained a clean report in 2015.  Their reputation would have been greatly enhanced. However, that is not what they did.

The AHS ran to the media and screamed persecution (see link on Apr 22 post). Then, political friends crafted a plan to evade such oppressive oversight.  Normally each agency is reviewed individually and their next review is then scheduled. Instead, the House lumped all the good apples (other agencies that were reviewed in 2013) with the bad apple (AHS). The House sent the Senate a single bill scheduling follow up reviews for all the agencies ten years later, in 2023.

The Senate rejected the new bill, but the House dug in. They refused to vote for session closure until the Senate passed the House catch all bill protecting the AHS from timely oversight. The standoff drug on into the night as antsy out of town legislatures chomped at the bit to go home. Eventually, weary senators caved in, one by one, until there were enough votes to pass the catch all “give the AHS a pass” bill. The first 2014 legislative session then officially ended at 1:42 a.m.

Will the AHS actually be free to play fast and loose with public funds for another ten years, or will responsible lawmakers find some other way to rein them in?

Arizona Legislature adjourns sine die after 16-hour workday
Alia Beard Rau, The Republic | 6:13 a.m. MST April 24, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014


The following is a guest post by an anonymous individual concerned about the future of the AHS.

I know this blog is specifically dedicated to the issues surrounding the unfortunate closure of the Mining and Mineral Museum.  But the issues with this agency and their mode of operation are more far reaching than that.  I am choosing to remain anonymous so the focus remains primarily on issues, and on people only as it relates to the accuracy or inaccuracy of what they said.  I love history and am concerned that recent events at the legislature put the taxpayer funded AHS back in the negative limelight.  My goal is to encourage the AHS to look at itself critically, and take action to establish credibility and transparency.

AHS was in the news again this week, but not because of the high standards they displayed on their recent Sunset Review.  The issues, unfortunately, were the same ones that were detected in earlier reviews.   By this time AHS should be sailing through Sunset Reviews with almost no needed changes, like other agencies (AZ Geological Survey) who set and meet high standards.  AHS’s mode of operation is to promise to change, but then use political pressure and connections to change the dialogue to “we’re being attacked and history is important” if their performance is legitimately questioned. They are enabled by weak legislators who pour money into the agency and then resort to weakening, or even rendering useless, the Sunset Review process which is about ACCOUNTABILITY.  AHS, with its poor record, was able to sneak in another 10 year approval, but it really is meaningless, as it only creates an illusion of competency, while diminishing the importance of getting a good review for the other agencies.  This is not where AHS needs to be—the 10 years gotten by political maneuvering does nothing to protect from future funding cuts.  Worse than that, any potential big donor should, and in all probability will, check AHS out and, if they read AHS Sunset Reviews and recent publicity, will keep their money!

Next, AHS must have a Board that closely supervises the high-paid administrative staff; all major projects must be approved and show in your minutes with transparency.  As an agency using taxpayer money, AHS cannot afford to pile up failed expensive projects and the negative publicity that goes with them.  Things like the failed Rio Nuevo project and then bringing an expensive east-coast designer up to Phoenix for another unrealistic, and also failed, centennial project do not help AHS.  But when AHS destroyed history for the centennial, they got the bad publicity they deserved.  The next potentially negative fiasco looming is the AHS/Driggs $10 million project that uses the Polly Rosenbaum building for something she would not like. The Board needs to look at this closely and make sure it can and will succeed.  Of major concern should be the “48 Women” really agreeing with what a small group appears to want to do. Have all 48 women agreed to even be involved?  One has informally indicated that is not true!  AHS needs to distinguish between needs and wants.  Failure on “pie in the sky” exciting wants is hurting AHS.  Do the citizens of AZ need or even want a “Community Center” that will obviously mostly be for the state government people because of location?  What makes AHS think anyone will use it, except for the elite?  AHS needs to get behind projects that meet real needs and get positive publicity.

Future state funding for AHS will diminish, and you were asked to start moving to self-funding years ago, along with other agencies that have already lost their funding.  And it has nothing to do with liking or not liking AZ history.

I don’t expect you to like what I just said, but advise you to really think about it and do something to get AHS into a positive rather than controversial position.  I wish your agency the best. I’m using this blog because I know AHS follows it (inside information from within AHS) and I have run an agency using state money and know the necessity of high standards and consistently good reviews.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fickle voters and taxpayers

People want government to be efficient and cost consciousness; right up until when someone in government tries to make it a bit more efficient and cost consciousness.

Picking up on Laurie Roberts lead (see prior post), Mari Herreras of the Tucson Weekly is also bashing Senator Griffin for requiring the Arizona Historical Society to be accountable. Both writers, along with Marshall Trimble, are trying to smear the senator as being anti-history.

The Senator is not anti-history. The senator is courageously trying to correct some of the persistent waste and abuse that has been exposed by Arizona Auditor General performance reviews over the past two decades.  Just becasue the preservation of history is a good thing does not automatically mean the the Arizona Historical Society is handling public funds properly.
For the Love of History: So Lovely Our State Legislature
Posted by Mari  Herreras on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 11:30 AM