Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Arizona mineral collection at risk?

On July 28th, someone posted a comment under the July17th blog post claiming that the AHS museum in Tempe has no operable security system and has not had one for over a year.  If true, this provided another example of gross incompetence on the part of the AHS.

The mineral collection has irreplaceable scientific value.  It also has very high monetary value becasue it includes high quality and rare specimens that are pursued by wealthy collectors worldwide. An unsecured mineral collection with a market value in the millions is a very tempting target for thieves.

When SB1200 was being debated, the AHS claimed minerals were better protected in Tempe becasue some were rain damaged in the old mineral museum.  If the AHS indeed permitted the collection to be exposed to roof leaks while the mineral museum was closed and unattended under their control, that is a minor risk compared to the risk of theft. If any items were so exposed, they could have been easily tarped or moved.

The mineral museum always had (at least until the AHS closed it) a functioning security system, and the state collection was protected by the Capitol Police.

Has the AHS actually been moving very valuable mineral specimens from a highly secure area to a location with no security?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Governor's office nonresponsive?

The following letter was sent on June 4th. To date, there has been no response.

Mr. Daniel Scarpinato
Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications
State Capitol
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Mr. Scarpinato,

In her May 23 article about SB1200 and mineral museum restoration, Mary Jo Pitzl quoted you as follows: "There's been no discussion, there's no plan."  However, there are in fact indications of ongoing discussions with someone in the governor’s office.  Lines 25 through 27 of the May 9, 2015 Arizona Historical Society State Board meeting minutes read as follows (italics added):

Woosley also noted that she with the assistance of R&R Partners have been working closely with the Governor’s office to make the transition of the governance structure as well as the Shrine building as smooth as  possible.

What the minutes refer to as “Shrine building” is formally the Polly Rosenbaum Building and informally the mineral museum building. The brief statement in the AHS minutes appears to follow up on action recommended by lobbyist Jim Norton at the April 17, 2015 Board meeting.  Although his statements are not included in the public meeting minutes, witnesses heard him say that the building should become a “protocol meeting space or a reception area for the Governor.” He also urged taking action with the Governor’s office before the Legislature has an opportunity to act again in January of 2016.

Therefore, it appears that someone in the Governor’s office is indeed having ongoing discussions with lobbyists and the AHS in an attempt to subvert the will of the people and the Legislature.  SB1200 received nearly unanimous yes votes in the Legislature, and the communications to the Governor’s office were 1376 for and only 5 against.

The unfortunate veto of budget neutral SB1220 has assured that a minimum of 200,000 children will now be deprived of the mineral museums K-12 science education programs.  Furthermore, it enables continued illegal activity on the part of the AHS (See May 21 post on the blog Mineral Museum Madness for details - 

Please determine if there are in fact ongoing discussions about the mineral museum in the Governor’s office, and if the participants are giving lobbyists priority over children and education.


Dick Zimmermann

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Details of extraordinary failure

The prior post shows the dramatic decline of attendance at AHS history museums.  The following table shows the attendance at each AHS facility for FY 2014, the last year for which data is publicly available.

Arizona History Museum, Tucson        7,014
Downtown History Museum, Tucson      927
Fort Lowell, Tucson                              3,086
Sanguinetti House, Yuma                      2,066
Museum at Papago Park, Tempe            3,375
(Marley Center Museum)

Pioneer Museum, Flagstaff                     6,277
Subtotal for all history museums        22,745
Riordan mansion, Flagstaff                    22,008
(State Park property)

Total for all AHS managed facilities       44,753

Each time AHS related issues come up in Legislative hearings, the AHS touts its museum management expertise.  If they had even mediocre management abilities, why would they keep a museum open that gets less than 3 visitors per day (Downtown Tucson)?  Why are they allowed to blatantly mismanage state property and funds?

Someone posted a comment on the prior post stating that the most out of the way highway rest stops have better attendance than some AHS museums. The data above suggests they are right. 

Referring back to the bar chart in the prior post, it is obvious that AHS museum attendance is declining at a greater rate since 2012. Could that be because the AHS offended the public by destroying the once top rated mineral museum (annual attendance over 50,000) and its K-12 education programs in less than a year after they gained control of it?

Museum management expertise?
 “Excelling”* at museum management.

Source: FY 2016 Baseline budget, page 236
*Claim made by AHS lobbyists during Senate hearing on SB1200

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fading into history?

Does the Arizona Historical Society have a future? Attendance at its history museums suggests that it may not. The trend in the plot below clearly shows continued loss of public support. The only significant increase is the one time increase during the centennial year, when 10,000 people apparently came to look at quilt displays.

Particularly absurd is the just over 3,000 annual attendees at the huge 80,000 square foot museum in Tempe. That museum has a $1.3 million annual mortgage payment, and ten state paid employees. What is the justification for keeping it open?

Taxpayers provide the AHS with over $3 million in cash every year. The hidden costs of maintaining the many state owned facilities are obviously greater than that. Therefore, the state subsidy is obviously hundreds of dollars per museum visitor and rising

How long will this be allowed to continue?

Total attendance at six AHS history museums by fiscal year.

Note 1: The attendance numbers are from the Arizona state budget where they are show as a performance measure. They do not include attendance for a State Park facility managed by the AHS or for attendance at the mineral museum in FY2011.

Note 2:  The attendance at the mineral museum was over 50,000 per year.  The AHS closed it in less than a year of gaining control of it.