Wednesday, April 15, 2015
VIOLATING LAW TOSSED KIDS FROM THE MINING AND MINERAL MUSEUM
The following is a guest post by Mardy Zimmermann, a retired teacher. She is currently mitigating some of the damage done by the AHS with out reach programs to K-8 classes on rocks and minerals. On the behalf of students, she attempted to save the mineral museum in 2010.
The sad state of our Arizona democracy is that our students were rudely locked out of “their” loved and much used Mining and Mineral Museum at the end of April of 2011 in violation of law. What most people don’t remember is that Governor Brewer announced her birthday gift to AZ for the Centennial—a 5 C’s Museum paid for by her asking each of the 5C’s to give her a million dollars for it. She and the AZ Historical Society had already joined forces and chose the expensive east coast designer, Gallagher and Associates, to design it, without following AZ law which requires competitive bids. Their high-handed approach caused a great deal of opposition and questions about the fate of the popular Mining and Mineral Museum, used by 40,000 students a year for earth science education.
I became involved at this point as an advocate for students, who were horrified at the thought of losing the MMM. When presenting a guest science demonstration at a local high school, I encountered a group of very anxious students who wanted to talk to me about the MMM. I agreed to meet with them after school. This impressive and caring group of students formed the Students’ Committee to Save the Mining and Mineral Museum and crafted a petition that outlined what was wrong with the Governor’s and AHS’s plans. They waged a very effective campaign and got thousands of signatures. I agreed to serve as their advocate to get their concerns and message to the legislature and Governor.
At the same time, great effort was expended by AHS, who already had management responsibility for the MMM, and the Governor’s office to gag all museum employees. This failed, as much opposition was coming from non-employees. Finally a meeting to quell the mounting concern about the 5 C’s Centennial project was held in the Governor’s office. I admit to being very outspoken and after some testy exchanges the meeting ended up with an agreement that the MMM and a 5C’s Museum could easily share the building. AHS failed to work with the MMM staff, who were willing to help, to get a 5C’s display designed for the Centennial.
The next important event was the Senate Hearing on the bill to give the Governor permission to create a Centennial museum. AHS advocated for a fancy museum, and MMM supporters opposed it. I advocated for the students and presented their petitions to the committee. The bill passed, but with the sponsor, Senator Allen, agreeing to amend it to specifically provide for the joint use of the building, saving the MMM , as was previously agreed upon in the Governor’s office. Senator Allen called participants from both groups to meet with her and Rep. Russ Jones to write the amendments. Dr. Ray Grant, Charlie Connell (engineer) and I, as the advocate for students, as well as Dr. Woosley and Jim Norton from AHS, and Kevin Kinsall from the Governor’s office crafted the legislation. The amended bill passed and was signed into law by Governor Brewer. It was entered into the AHS statutes and can be seen today by going to the AZ Revised Statutes. The law provided for both the MMM and 5C’s Museum the Governor wanted. Specifically, the equipment and outdoor displays of the MMM were mandated to remain.
This law was blatantly violated when the AHS fired the MMM staff, closed the MMM despite scheduled fieldtrips, and removed the contents of the building without explanation. They had not raised the $5 million for the 5C’s part of the Museum. What emerged next, without legislation, was a $15 million fancy AZ Experience Museum that, of course, never happened either. AHS’s final act was to hire a contractor to remove the rare working outdoor mining display and move it to the desert near Bisbee. The building was now empty, the Centennial gone, and still an attack on what remained of the MMM. My husband and I responded to the anguish of the kids, and hired a lawyer to advise AHS that they were violating their statutes (law) and were able to prevent the needless destruction of the still standing display by scaring the contractor off. The issue should have been resolved when the Attorney General’s office responded to us that AHS would comply (with their statutes). They didn’t put the displays back in the building or even attempt to restore the MMM—even if they didn’t want the 5C’s.
We had hoped that the serious violation of their own statutes, that they helped to craft with Sen. Allen and MMM supporters, would have been addressed in their recent problematic Sunset Review. We supplied the auditor with the lawyer’s letter, and the response to it, but AHS was given a free ride on the violations which were simply not addressed. We asked for an explanation from the auditor, but have not received an answer. Was the powerful AHS lobby involved in this omission?
So now we still have the kids booted out of their Mining and Mineral Museum and the building has been empty for four years. AHS is once again trying to get rid of the outdoor working mining display—their mission is to keep and preserve AZ history and artifacts! Why do they continue to violate their statutes? AHS, with its powerful lobby, was able to get Governor Ducey to veto the bill, and even suggest that it might be OK to not preserve history. AHS wants the building as a reception center or other expensive use, which would strengthen their lobbying efforts, and allow them to have downtown parties, complete with help from their state liquor license. What do we want on West Washington—to restore the MMM and welcome kids back, even if the MMM building stands out as not “holistic”, or to pander to AHS’s lack of concern for their statutes and kids? Oh yes—AHS expects taxpayers to pay for altering the use of the building, with an added charge for removing that pesky mining display. I will continue to advocate for kids and science education until we get the Mining and Mineral Museum back and under a responsible agency, the AGS, which is a perfect scientific fit. SB1200, with its overwhelming legislative support, would have eliminated the legal issues, as well as served kids and earth science education without requiring major remodeling costs for taxpayers.