Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dubuque Museum

Everybody who works at this museum is thrilled. They have a nice job with benefits. But financially, the nice museum which I have visited is a financial bust even though originally financed by a grant from the the State of Iowa for $50 million. The Chamber of Commerce supports the museum as do all chambers everywhere, support projects using taxpayer dollars. Since it received the large lump sum grant, it has received other taxpayer funded grants and at least $1 million dollars from the gambling boat next door. Despite drawing 301,000 visitors the first year it still failed to meet it's operating budget by $500,000. The second year, the museum drew 250,000 and the third year, 220,000. Since then, the museum will not release numbers to outsiders.

The Peoria Museum Committee gave the county a list called "Museum Benchmark Matrix" listing the attendance figures of 9 museums. Dubuque was listed but missing were attendance figures. Hmmmm. Only one museum listed figures more than Peoria and that was the Louisville Science Center at 315,000. Louisville has three times the MSA population of the Peoria area of which 83% of the visitors are expected to yearly visit the Peoria Museum.

I revisit the Dubuque Museum, I've blogged on it several times, because someone commented on the JS website that they had talked with museum officials who were pleased with their workplace.

Remember, they work for the museum. So, why do you suppose the are mum on attendance and their inability to meet operating costs without more private and taxpayer dollars?

It's a nice museum and well worth the visit. I paid $9.50 or $9.75. Peoria plans to charge less and still meet a yearly operating budget of $4.3 million.

Hmmm, again.


Scruff said...

That still doesn't explain why you don't think the voters have a right to make a thoughtful decision on the issue. hmm....

Ed Sanders said...

Merle, Thanks for your no vote on new taxes. The next time you are in Dubuque ask a few ordinary folks - gas station, cafe, stores etc. - about their museum. I don't get up that way but every two or three years or I would do it myself. Again, thanks for being a true fiscal conservative on this taxing problem. Ed Sanders in Hollis Township

Merle Widmer said...

Thanks, Ed, I will be hosting two Town Hall type meetings. These will be "open" meetings with audience participation. No sales pitches.

Meeting space has been reserved and dates set. Bring your friends who agree with you to learn the "real" facts.

Ed said...


scruff asks a good question. your position on the museum is clear, and well reasoned. your position on the public voting on the issue is not.

i assume there was comfort in knowing the board was likely going to do their duty and pass the question to the voters, as they should.

giving the question to the voters...why is there fear in that by those opposed to the museum?

Brad Carter said...

I will go out on a limb here and answer Scruff's question "why you don't think the voters have a right to make a thoughtful decision on the issue"

I am not against voters deciding whether their future through referendum, however I am curious how in the instance of the museum how a thoughtful decision can be made. The funding for the vote yes crowd is provided by taxpayers, yet no public funds are offered to the opposing view. The "museum group" is hosting a forum at taxpayer expense, yet not allowing an opposing view. The "museum group" is asking to visit neighborhood meetings to give their view, is the same opportunity being offered to those in opposition?
You see Scruff and Ed Sanders,there is a huge lack of transparency here. How can one truly make a "thoughtful decision"?

Merle Widmer said...


The referendum calls for a tax for public facilities and does not mention the museum. So many facts are skewed by the musuem people that will never be brought to the voters attention. The referendum is a forced tax on anyone buying in our community.

Many people believe that other counties are contributing to the fund raising. They are not. Ask their leaders. I have.

The public does not know that the bond payments over 20 years will cost $67 million and the museum's portion will be capped at $40 million.

The public does not know that an endowment of approximately $13 million will probably be needed. At the present time, we can find maybe $3 million.

Our County Financial Officer is an accdountant and accountants can only work with the figures presented to him and he has no way of determing whether they are correct or exagerated. Do you really believe that the complex will average 1,000 visitors 365 days of the year, every year for the next 20 years and then the county is propsing to take ownership?

Re-read my blogs going back to 1/08. There are over 800 blogs in my archives that you can access from my sidebar.

The public will never know that the "Benchmark Musuems" are all missing their projections and that many of the pledges made to the museum fund are suspect because people's net worth has shrunk, much of it in the last 5 months..

We will be announcing dates and places for an on public forum. The date and time will be advertised.

How can voters make a "thoughtful" decision when only one side of the project is being shown?