Thursday, February 19, 2009

Downtown Museum - "Naive Faith"?

On 12/04/05, an article in the JS titled "Fund Raising on 'faith', Officials stay optimistic as fund raising moves toward it's $65 (now $75) million goal"

Everybody should find this article and re-read it. Doug Stewart, a museum board member said "I feel very comfortable that we've asked all the hard questions, noting that part of the $65 million is a $14 million dollar endowment.

Interesting that the proposal given to the County Board states "an ASSUMED $5 million endowment. Stewart, president of a local bank, should know that $9 million is a large difference. $5 million at an interest rate of 5% is $250,000 as shown in the operating budget given to the county. $14 million at 5% is $700,000.

BIG difference toward a $4.4 million operating expense; operating expenses destined to rise each year.

Stewart also says with $20 million (sorry) raised already in the "bank", $11 million from Caterpillar, we are "off to a good start". Then Kathleen Woith, a Lakeview spokesperson, told John Sharp in fall of 2008 that $67 million of the $78 million needed on the private side has been raised.

What say? I can add: $78 million private money, plus 40 million (40 million is the cap set by the County Board) on the public facility tax referendum, public money, plus 14 million from the city, 6 million from the State and Federal government and an extra $4.6 million banked so far, (federal transportation money for museum underground parking lot, plus Cat's contribution of 1.2 million for underground parking) and the 40 million Caterpillar Visitors Center totals $180 million!

Not true. Unless she was counting the Caterpillar Visitors Center which is to be totally funded by Caterpillar and only if the referendum passes.

I'd say Ms. Woith figures are highly exaggerated. The rest of my figures are a matter of public record. Add them up and correct me if I'm wrong.

No wonder our banking systems are suspect. The old saying is ..... figure and figures lie. Maye that is why the 2007 Financial Statement from the museum officials is not yet ready to be seen by the public.

In this same JS article by then reporter Jennifer Davis, Adrian Ellis, a New York based former economist who now advises cultural organizations and foundations, offers a stiff dose of reality to what he says is often "naive optimism". He talks about the lack of a sophisticated cultural market the big cities have that smaller cities cannot match, yet many "supply driven" infrastructures do not take this into account. Ellis says that he won't speculate as to a downtown museum in Peoria because "God is in the details" and that "it is easy to get captivated in the excitement of the building and certainly the building by itself is "rarely sufficient to generate the traffic required".

But we must realize inside will be the African American Culture Center, the State of Illinois funded (thru public taxes) IHSA, some space for the Historical Society and the arts. And a restaurant. Plus "changing exhibits" just like the Wichita, Kansas museum whose admissions have fallen by over 60% since opening in 2000.

Somehow, someway, these facts have got to be made public before the vote,

Some of us are trying.

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