Saturday, February 28, 2009

Musem Promoters Laments

In paying tribute to nationally acclaimed sciences fiction writer Peorian Philip Jose Farmer the JSEB wrote "In 2001, this opinion page lamented that Peoria still had no museum to showcase the life of a "giant of the genre" whose name is mentioned in the same breath with legendary peers Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark. Eight years later and there's still no museum. If one ever gets built, Philip Jose Farmer would have a prominent place in it. How many of our notables have to die before we get one".

Lakeview Museum, underutilized with 33,000 square feet of space doesn't have space to honor this man? Don't count on a new museum allotting much space to Mr. Farmer much space with many other Peoria notables and with 5 groups scrambling for 83,000 square feet of space with wide halls, lesson room, a restaurant, Imax, storage space.

Why do museum promoters keep acting like Lakeview doesn't exist or could have been or still could be greatly expanded working with the PPD who owns the land, building and the whole area.

Any possibility the PPD could be a little piqued with the museum promoters because the PPD and the Children's Playhouse have not as yet completed there fund raising?

Note the two intelligent letters in the JSEB opinion section today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Citizens For Responsible Spending

This group will announce their formal organization at a press conference tomorrow afternoon at 1:30, Room 403, at the Peoria County Courthouse. They will announce the launch of their website which explains in detail what their standing is on the proposed public facility sales tax.

Citizens For Responsible Spending is a group of concerned citizens whose mission is to "advocate for responsible spending of our tax dollars by our local government for essential services".

They are not opposed to a museum per se, but are opposed to this design and the public funding mechanism proposed to fund it.

This organization and their mission has my full support.

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.

Caterpillar Stock Continues Plunge

Under terms of an agreement, (details, a lot of them, to be worked out if the referendum passes) part of what the Peoria County Board agreed to when the public facility (museum) tax was voted to be placed on the April ballot; Peoria County would take ownership of the museum if the unrealistic figures from the museum consultants do not materialize and the museum goes into default of some type. Or maybe the agreement will have language for the county or park district to take it over. Another reason I voted "no" on putting the referendum on the ballot. Too many unknowns.

Under the terms of agreement the City Council worked out with the developer on the new Marriott downtown hotel, if the hotel fails, the City and taxpayer could be stuck with up to $39 million of General Obligation Bonds.

Look at the situation in Peoria and most of this country and worldwide.

Caterpillar stock ended the day at $26 and change down $5 since Obama'a visit. Caterpillar stock was trading at $82 plus not too long ago. The stock is now trading near 1999 levels. The WSJ recently reported - "Caterpillar Financial Services - $3 billion multiranche bond sale at terms ranging from 5.75% to 7% plus. More debt at high interest rates".

Home sale prices in Peoria are down 10% or more and falling, unemployment claims are rising, the Civic Center may have greater problems than revealed on January 21, the zoo appears to still be $5 million short, The PPD is land rich, cash strapped, the ball park has not yet found a new sponsor to replace O'Brien, The Children's Playhouse is only half way to their four-five year fund raising goal, the JS reports on 2/8/09, "A Looming Homeless Problem", Ameren is asking to increase their already too high rates, higher #150 school taxes will soar out of sight by 2012, the $100 - 300 million dollar sewer system will probably start construction in 2010, the water lines serving the city are old and may require more than $100 million to partially replace, WTVP will need more public dollars soon, ICC will be starting a $31 million construction process funded by mainly tax dollars, etc.

And did Bradley complete their $100 million fund drive? I hope so.

Yet most Peoria County Board members appear to support the museum promoters and Caterpillar (I include Caterpillar because Caterpillar has pledged NOT to build their $40 million Vistors Center if the mostly publicly funded museum is not built). A vote yes on the referendum will allow Peoria County to assess $61-68 million in new sales taxes to bridge the now $35 million and growing gap in funds that the promoters failed to raise. These big ego's in Peoria who are spending $626,000 to promote (by insinuation); without revealing more transparency, they can't ask voters to vote yes; why not?, (ask them) that a new museum is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity which many and perhaps most, construe as a "lifetime of more taxes and lifetime of museum maintenance tax dollar burdens".

The country, including Peoria, is wracked by the worst recession or depression in most people's memory; "if it walks like a duck and acts like a duck, it may be a duck". People and businesses in Peoria County are going broke; some who are maybe not yet aware they are going to be in severe financial distress.

Property taxes are too high for current value. Some members of the Peoria County Board of Appeals have exceeded the "Peter Principle"; more on that later. In the meantime, population growth is basically stagnant and incomes are declining.

The old or new saying, "people who are proven wrong, would rather sink the whole ship than admit they are wrong". In Peoria, they are wealthy enough to retire or move elsewhere and leave the lifetime taxes to those not as fortunate.

Too Bad.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rethinking Further Development of the Peoria Riverfront

In April of 1999, Caterpillar stock closed at $32 and change. This Friday, 10 years later, Cat stock closed at $31.94. More layoffs are being considered. Caterpillar suppliers locally have cut their workforces drastically and some face an uncertain future.

In the year 2002, Caterpillar committed to building a $40 million dollar Visitors Center, a center they had prospered for decades without. The commitment to build came with strings attached: Peoria commits to build a Regional Museum and then Caterpillar will build.

What Regional Museum? The Museum Committee thought glossy fliers and TV ads would bring the other surrounding communities in with money. To my knowledge, they raised hardly a dime from any other public governmental body. Except for the $14 million from the City of Peoria, not even in Peoria County.

That was then and now is now. Year 2009 may shape up to be the worst year for this economy since the Depression days. Already long lines are forming to apply for small numbers of job openings in many parts of the country. Almost all experts say it will get worse. Asset values of ownership has shrunk by over 7 trillion dollars, and that is just in the private sector, and is still shrinking. Some community leaders are saying, not in Peoria, at least not like in California or New York. Maybe, because some local leaders really don't know. Things are happening so fast with such severeness, it is difficult to keep up. Just because sales taxes are only slightly lower, does not reflect the merchandise sold below costs and the businesses, restaurants, etc., that go out of business every week.

Reports do not show what individuals have lost on their pensions, bonuses, frozen or reduced salaries, lost jobs, not the least what they have lost in property value and investments. The stimulus plan laden with special interests and earmarks, despite Obama's pledge that the bill would include no earmarks, is temporary because it is a SPENDING bill that has to be repaid later with taxpayer dollars. Otherwise, we will become a bankrupt nation.

Government employees and administrators are the last to feel an economic crunch. They have built in raises, fixed pensions, guarantied vacations and time off for everything from "illness" to child care to holidays. Or if in elected management, just don't show up for work. Who is going to report their absence? And it looks like the stimulus bill is going to expand mostly government jobs.

I have many times written that those who have the money and security and want non-priority amenities, let them step forward and do the funding. The rest of us will pay the admission when and if we want to go see what their money has contributed.

This museum thing has dragged too long. The private sector did not step forward as promised. It didn't develop into a Regional Museum. To stick the taxpayer with more taxes for a guaranteed revenue loser is beyond the scope of good common sense. I ask Jim Owens to step forward and say Caterpillar will not build an evidently "really not needed" visitors center until the economy is running again at full throttle. Let the museum people take the rest of the money they were going to use for "promotions" to fill in the hole, plant the trees and grass, have the donors move their money to an outdoor winter ice skating rink and a summertime outdoor skateboard park.

Caterpillar can then spend their money to rehire some laid off workers and build stockholder values. They owe that common sense to this community. We are all sorry that the economy went to pot. It may be quite a while coming back. But more taxes are guaranteed.

Read some of my older blogs like "Projections Missed in Peoria" and new taxes on the horizon. $0.25 tax adds up to over $3,000,000 a year that can't be spent with local merchants.

Community Reality Check

On 10/12/05, the JSEB wrote on the Editorial page "Fund Raising Fears Up" and Jennifer Davis of the JS wrote that "only $20 million of the $65 million had been raised to date". Then Mayor Grieves said "the federal government is tapped out. It's going to have to come from private individuals". Then Congressman Ray LaHood, said "it may take three to five years to raise the money". These were remarks made at the leveling of the old Sears Building to make way for the new museum.

The JSEB Editorial ended with this prophetic statement, "We will need to know more in 2006, but at some point, a financially reality check may be in order".

Almost four years later, private funding appears to have ground to a halt. Many pledges, I suspect, are just that, "suspect". The fund raising baton has been passed to what appears to be an eager County Board and Administration who strongly supported our politicians in Springfield who legislated and won the right to put new public facilities on referendums. The Museum Committee has committed over $626,000 to promote a project that would be eagerly funded with largely "private donations" Sure, and they don't even have an endowment anywhere close to the $9-13 million need to help fund operations forever. While the missing gap of $34 million,(actual cost with interest on the borrowed money, $61-$68 million) can only come with the approval of a referendum, the county has capped the amount that will go to the museum at $40 million dollars. Capped by this board at this time.

Museum Committee member and Methodist Hospital Chief, Michael Bryant was quoted by DeWayne Bartels on 9/10/08, "$66 of the $78 million in needed private funding has been raised". Really. Then why the referendum for $34 million?? I guess we'll have to see what the delayed Lakeview Museum 2007 Financial Statements show when they are made available for public scrutiny. Next week, I've been told.

Two months later,construction on Methodist Hospital expansion was halted. CEO Bryant is quoted as saying "on the advise of our investment bankers and others , we just think it is prudent to say 'Let's move it back to the original timetable and let's watch and see what happens'. We're just deferring this project until a better economy exists."

At the same time Mr. Bryant is gung-ho to go on the "more taxes for public spending" of $86 million dollars, give or take a few million, depending on whether construction materials and labor costs will have gone up. All union labor on the project, you know.

Reality? On January 10, 2009 the JS reported that "empty building tell the story of our economy on Peoria" but it was only 240 days ago the media was reporting a job growth of 24% for Peoria. Now every day, someone is being laid off and the "employers seeking help" section in the JS has shrunk from 8 pages a couple of years ago to 3 pages today. More than half of the jobs offered in the mostly lower paying health services.

Again I say "wake up, Peoria and Caterpillar's Jim Owens". Now is not the time to be building community amenities (of which we have an abundance, some incomplete, like the zoo), and do not put $61-68 million more new taxes on our citizens. Plus who is going to make up the scheduled operating yearly deficit? And how much is in the needed $9-$13 million Endowment Fund to help make up the revenue deficit?

More taxes are coming anyway, from all areas, local, state and federal.

And soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heros and Heroines

Senator Judd Gregg, Republican tapped to be Obama's Secretary of Commerce withdrawing when Obama moved one step further down the road to a socialist government or worse. Keep an eye on Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. I pegged him long ago as a Democrat Socialist and he is living up to my impressions.

On the local scene, Kingman student Treavion Baker, seven years old, honored at the Neighborhood Association awards banquet for forming "Picking Up for Dreams Team" to pick up litter around his neighborhood.

Paul Wilkinson, president of the Neighborhood Alliance and president of the AltmontPark Neighborhood Association, who received the mayor's award for his continued work in improving his neighborhood.

Also honored were Ed Dentino, Richard Slusser Nathan Wagner and David Tidd, all honored for their on-going efforts to make their neighborhoods and Peoria a better place to live.

Patti Smith, for organizing Operation Santa and making it more than work. Patti and her volunteers collected, stuffed and mailed over 25,000 packages to our military forces deployed around the globe. Donations are accepted year round and Patti is in the process of "growing" her organization. She can be reached at

Patti is a mother of two deployed Marines. She can also be reached at citizen, now operating in 43 states supporting our armed forces. A woman on the go to make this a better country. After all, "the cock may crow, but it is the woman who lays the eggs".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peoria Convention Bureau Outlook - 2009

The CVB confirms what the 2003 report from Gruen Gruen & Associates, a prominent Northbrook urban economists and market strategists firm, found in their study "Assessment of Likely Spillover and Fiscal Impacts of the Proposed New Lakeview Museum", a study commissioned by the Heartland Partnership in 2003.

In today's JS, Peoria Area Convention and Visitor Bureau Chief Brent Lonteen is quoted as saying "this year will be tough as will 2010". Lonteen also cited a concern about the number of conventioneers and participants in various events in the area. He hopes some of the events, especially sports, can withstand the economic turndown.

"Sports events tend to survive economic crisis, I think 2009 will be pleasant surprise, I do".

On 4/0803, the Journal Star quotes the Gruen Gruen report as saying that people of this region are more likely to attend a sporting event than visit a museum.

The Gruen Gruen report also says "the potential ability of the museum to raise $35 million in private funds represents a strong faith in future downtown development". As of this year, private funding MAY be around $24 million, most of this money in pledges that may be questionable, which does not show very much "strong faith".

On page 3 of the report it estimates 100% of attendance including the Caterpillar Visitors Center to be 250,000 a long way off of the promoters perpetual, (forever) total attendance to be 360,000.

On page 7, the report says "Outside of major cities, few tourists come to cities solely to attend a museum."

On page 10, it says the John Deere Pavilion attracts 230,000; 2008 figures were between 175,000 - 180,000 confirmed by the pavilion manager by phone last week. In a very recent editorial page in the IB magazine, the figure was put at "200,000 to 300,000".

Wow, how figures on this project flow and grow.

On page 12, the report says, "admissions to the IMAX theatre in Rochester, New York, have been "declining". On the same page it say "Regional museums generate limited hotel room-night demand." Lakeview is not a regional museum and expects to generate up to 83% of its visitors from the local area. Yet, museum promoters predict an additional 50,000 plus room nights as an economic impact.

On page 13, it talks about the 20,000 sq ft. In-Play entertainment complex that opened in March of 2003 and is currently in bankruptcy proceeding.

On page 16, the reports says "the market is not sufficient to support additional commercial activities".

On page 19, it estimates revenue "spillover" at between $490,000 and $1,350,000. The JS says that figure is $900,000 to $1.9 million on spending in and around the museum.

Since 2003 both attendance and impact estimated figures keep growing with the last estimate from two Bradley professors of spillover in the hundreds of millions of dollars between 2011 and 2031.

No one can predict what the spillover would be because Peoria has diverse entertainment and shopping to bring people into this area. At the same time Lakeview officials were saying it was difficult to put a dollar amount on quality of life,seemingly ignoring the underutilized current, more centrally located, Lakeview Musuem. The PPD, which owns the building, put the attendance in the 40,000 - 50,000 range while Lakeview Museum officials say attendance is in the 80,000's. Hmmmm.

What they can predict is that if the "public facility" referendum is passed, it will cost the taxpayer $61-68 million dollars, the $0.25 adds up to $3 millions plus each year for 20 years to make up the missing $34 million still needed in public funding for the museum. The county capped the bond money borrowed, at $40 million for the museum. The total the public will pay for the museum and public facilities, is over $80 million dollars. This public tax dollar support is guaranteed as see my previous blogs. "Public facility tax" is how the referendum is worded, and the new museum, by the admission of its own committee, agrees that expenses will exceed revenues by sizable amounts every year.

And those figures are based on 360,000 admittances, W. Michael Bryant of Methodist Hospital said in the April edition of IB, "upwards of 400,000" a year forever. Then, of course, the County could take over ownership. And on-going deficits.

The 2003 Gruen Gruen report is available from Heartland Partnershop and you may look up Gruen and Gruen by reputation on the internet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tazewell Construction Project _ 850 Jobs

"An upcoming project at Midwest Powerton Station will create as many as 850 construction jobs at the plant, said spokeswoman Susan Olavarria".

She said the plant, located on Manito Road, will be installing emission-reducing pollution controls to comply with state and federal environmental requirements improving the environment for the community.

Not exactly the product producing jobs we need in this country, the project does produce jobs for many of the trades.

This upcoming project was mentioned by Dan Silverthorn about a year and a half ago saying jobs worth 3 billion were on the horizon for the Peoria area.

Needless to say, a fully employed work force is a tremendous asset to any community.

The Impact of Science Centers/Museums on their Surrouding Communities: Summary Report

This study was funded by an informal group of science center CEO's in 2001. The aim of the committee "was to collect and collate reports and studies on the role played by science centers in their communities, to summarize and present these studies in a useful, accessible way, and to identify gaps in current knowledge on the impact of science centers".

The report is worth reading although it does not delve at all in attendance figures or funding which is the major theme of resistance to the Museum Block, along with the severe recession or upcoming depression in our country, now hitting the Peoria area hard, and the world, with no foreseeable up surge in sight.

What is significant in the study can be found on p.4 of Outputs and Impacts showing the average impact economically of 4%.

Some museums claim a much higher percentage but tracking economic impact is difficult. The study showed that books, or equivalents, life experiences, TV and school was the major source of science learning. Museums ranked fourth.

We all appreciate museums and all of us visit them on occasion. We have a fine museum at Lakeview that with an agreement with the Park District who owns the property and the building could easily be expanded. Above ground parking space, a lot better than underground parking downtown with a lot less money, could be created on what is now grass.

i would be interested to know how much the Peoria Park District has pledged to the new museum since they are having considerable trouble getting the money to finish their new zoo.

Museum Musings - Part 3

"Is the University's Museum (Brandeis University) Just a Rose to be plucked", reads a WSJ column dated 2/3/09." Endowments had plunged $1,700,000 at the end of 2008. After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the closing of the Rose Art Museum, I wondered how many other museums had been forced to close their doors recently. In less than 20 minutes online I found the following:
Fort Wayne, IN---Lincoln Museum, closed June 30, 2008. The Lincoln Museum, which has hosted an exhibit on the Lincoln Highway, closed June 30, 2008, after 80 years as a major resource for the study of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. It is operated by Lincoln Financial Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Lincoln Financial Group. The foundation owns one of the most extensive collections of Abraham Lincoln-related items — 230,000 items valued at $20 million — including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and one of 13 Thirteenth Amendments signed by Abraham Lincoln. The museum cites declining attendance, averaging 40,000 per year, according to an article in The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne.

Waltham, MA--- In the name of economic hardship Brandeis University announced Monday it will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off its collection. An internationally renown museum, the 8,000 object collection includes work by such contemporary stars as Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, and Nan Goldin, and Post-War masters including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Nam June Paik. Closing the universities budget deficit, which is said to be upwards of 10 million dollars was cited as the rationale behind the decision.

Milwaukee, WI---America’s Black Holocaust Museum, the popular but financially struggling institution on Milwaukee’s north side, was slated to close June 30, 2008 because it can’t afford to keep its remaining staff. The 20-year-old museum was started in the basement of James Cameron, who survived a lynching in 1930 in Indiana. Cameron made it a lifelong mission to teach others about the historical struggles of blacks in America, from slavery to the present. His museum is the first to commemorate and memorialize victims of lynching. Jackson said the museum remains popular. The exhibits draw about 25,000 patrons a year, and attendance swells during Black History Month and during the school year when students take field trips. About 400 people have memberships, and Milwaukee visitors from around the world come through the museum's doors, he said. But the museum has always relied on foundation support, and it doesn't have an endowment. Foundation funding has dried up since Cameron died in 2006 and as the economy has slowed.

Lexington, KY---The University of Kentucky Basketball Museum in Lexington has closed its doors (July, 2008), according to media reports in Kentucky. The museum, which was located in the Lexington Center adjacent to Rupp Arena, can no longer support itself financially, executive director Van Florence said. According to its Web site, the museum featured interactive exhibits giving fans the chance to make a radio call of a great UK moment, or play "virtual one-on-one" hoops against a favorite Wildcat. Consultants had told the original staff that the museum would bring in 130,000 visitors in its first year and average 110,000 visitors yearly thereafter, Florence said, according to the Courier-Journal. Instead, it drew 27,000 visitors in 1999 and averaged about 18,000 visitors yearly. The museum, which is separate from the university and its athletics association, owed more than $3 million to eight banks that funded its creation, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. Mullens said he understood that the banks that made those loans are willing to waive $2 million of the debt, but want the remaining $1 million by June 30. The university will assume $1.2 million of that debt and will pay $100,000 a year to pay it off, Mullens said. The University had contributed $100,000 yearly to defray the museum's operating costs.

Erie, PA---Marx Toy Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania, will be closing its doors forever on April 13 (2008). Problems cited in the article include a lack of money from the city, and the rarified ages of the volunteers who run the place.

Orchard Park, NY---Pedaling History Bicycle Museum, in Orchard Park, New York, features one of the world's largest collections of antique and classic American bicycles, including thousands of items of cycling-related memorabilia. From the antiques through the classics to modern bikes: social, design, manufacturing, marketing, and sports aspects are all reflected in our displays. The Pedaling History Bicycle Museum will close its doors soon in 2009.

Chicago, IL---The McCormick Freedom Museum will close its location on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and instead takes its displays on the road.
The $10 million museum opened in April 2006 to help visitors understand freedoms with a special focus on the First Amendment.
Museum officials say they have hosted 200,000 visitors over three years. They say 100,000 of those visitors came last year after they dropped the $5 admission fee.,0,4556662.story

Cedar Rapids, IA---The organization's board announced Wednesday it will close the McLeod/Busse IMAX Dome Theatre on Jan. 20, 2008.
The board said attendance has been declining, the theater was losing money and changes in the IMAX industry would make it even harder for the theater to succeed in the future.
"The board and staff made every effort to make the theater work, but ultimately we had to make this very difficult decision," said Dan Thies, president of the board. "The theater has not been profitable in recent years, and we can no longer afford to subsidize it at the expense of our core mission."
The announcement comes 15 months after Science Station officials threatened to close the Science Station and IMAX at 427 First St. SE because of its $1.3 million debt. Adults, children, area businesses and schools rallied and raised more than enough to keep the hands-on science facility open.


I'm hoping you can make good use of this information. I'd say it flies in the face of the museum backer's rosy outlook.

Thanks again for being such an important voice on this issue.


Anne Contratto

Museum Pledges Aren't Materializing in Atlanta, Ga.

This was the headline in the WSJ by Carrick Mollenkamp recently. "Forget the big expansion plans; following the Dot-Com debacle, pledges aren't materializing. A dozen years after it was founded, the museum known as SciTrek is scrambling to stay afloat. The reasons are many: Poor record keeping hid budget problems (interesting that the 2007 Lakeview Museum Financial Statements are not yet available to the public??). Government support is minuscule and pledges have failed to materialize. Atlanta is in the embarrassing position of watching its science museum falter".

Will the Peoria Riverfront Museum Committee be upfront and tell us how many "pledgers" have been called in the past 5 month and asked to re-confirm in writing that their pledges are still solid? On 11/19/07, in as Asset and Liability report from a committee member states, "some bad luck on major gift possibilities and a dormant campaign organization".

The SciTrek center had a $2.7 million dollar operating budget but was spending $60 to $80 thousand a month more than it had budgeted for. The local newspaper reported donations meant for exhibits were used to meet payroll.

There very few success stories out their for the museum business of any kind. Those with the most success are privately owned like the City Museum in downtown St.Louis and museums with large endowments (last I heard The Riverfront Museum had anywhere from no endowment money set aside to $3 million out a needed $9 to $13 million endowment.

Another article in the Wall Street Journal, dated 8/20/05, says "Museums have long been accustomed to covering their operating cost through their endowments rather than retail operations. According to a principal in A & A Consulting, the average visitor costs a museum about $80, substantially more than the typical price of a ticket - meaning that museum directors must spend energy raising funds yearly to support a business premised on losing money".

Today the cost with inflation would be about $90 per visitor.

In the Peoria Riverfront Museum estimated operating report shows that the board intends to raise $500,000 a year in fund raising drives.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Peoria - A Bright Spot in the Economy or Not?

Bernie Goitein, Bradley University business professor and community analyst, recently wrote, "even if the rest of the country starts to recover, Peoria could still stay in the dumps".

Let's see, we have the $27 million dollar library fiasco, all borrowed money with interest, to start construction. Property tax increases will start soon to pay for these long term bonds.

A new or remodeled Bel-Wood County Nursing Home, the County Board is approaching a decision to remodel at $25 million or build new at $34 million, partly funded by taxpayer dollars. Original estimates were lower but according to museum officials, costs have risen 15%. Well, figures are just figures anyway. When estimated.

The zoo is being completed or partially completed, or, who knows? Public dollars.

ICC plans a $31 million dollar construction process. Public dollars.

District #150 schools, somewhere around $60 million, public dollars. Probably more if they can't balance their budget without raising property taxes soon.

Cub Foods closing and City stuck with $5 million plus unless the tax-paying private sector takes over that complete store. Maybe some more companies where the city and county have lent money will not make it.

The Riverfront Museum. Maybe. $80 plus million public dollars,including millions of public dollars already spent and the $34 million museum funding gap plus interest at 5.5% for 20 years or $62-69 million TAX PAYER DOLLARS, $40 million capped for the museum and any left over for other new public facilities. Plus the $14 million city contribution for the museum, taxpayer dollars. Plus $4.6 million secured by LaHood for the museum underground parking garage; $4-7 million still needed. Plus approximately $5-6 million secured in State grants including pledges by the IHSA, mostly State dollars. Dispute these figures, you number crunchers. It's all published information.

There is more like the sewers, $100-250 million. Public dollars. With more water lines leaking, one day soon, most of the underground public water systems will need to be replaced. Increased water bills, private or city owned.

The guarantted $39 million in Obligatory Bonds for the new Downtown Hotel. Taxpayers stuck if the project is completed and fails.

Questionable operating losses at the Civic Center if the convention business goes in the tank.

Millions of dollars for street and curb repair badly needed. As many as four hundred plus abandoned or structurally unsound buildings in the city and county.

Now let's look at the private sector current construction that isn't subsidized by public dollars.

Let me look over my list. Pretty barren, maybe someone can help me out. Yes, there are some small projects but even Globe Mfg. and FireFly are subsidized.

Bright spots are that we are becoming more and more of a service industry community, not the best paying jobs, but jobs if you are trained.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Museum Musing - Part II

Back in about 2005, the JSEB wrote an article (temporarily misplaced) about the PPD (Peoria Park District) struggles to get financing to build the $32 million dollar expanded zoo and that these struggles might be a forewarning of failure of the Museum Group fund raising efforts.

How right they were. No PPD official other than Bonnie ande Tim seem to be sure what is happening with the zoo funding efforts other than this advertisement by "AECOM provided innovative engineering and design services for the initial $19 million expansion of PPD Glen Oak Zoo" published in the 2/09 edition of IB, and the recent letter sent out over Dave Bielfeldt's name appealing for $5 million more to create an entrance and parking lot. $16 million and $5 million add up to $21 million, not $27 or $32 million.

Oh, well so much for figures. Here's more:

On 10/15/04, the JS said Jim Richerson said the museum would have an operating budget of $3.8 million. Now this figure has risen to $4.4 million and the Museum supporters blame this on the fact if they had the money to had build it 5 years ago, the costs wouldn't have risen. Hmmmm. So if it's built by 2010, operating costs would be same $4.4 million, year after year? How about an approximate 3-4% yearly rise in operating costs year after year? Rising utilities, salaries, pension, insurance, to new flooring to new or replacement of most everything. After all 360,000 people a year forever will put a lot of "wear and tear" on any facility.

On 2/06/06, the JS, wrote that the Museum Group needs $3 million more for the parking lot. The original figure was $5.2 million housing 190 vehicles underground (JSEB), 2/06/06.

Now I'm told more money is needed providing more parking? Maybe 210, or did I hear badly? (See my previous blog)

On 12/03, Byron DeHaan, then Chairman of the Museum Collaboration Group, said in the Senior News that his group had learned 6 basic things from their extensive visits to other Benchmark Museums. #1, Adopt a REGIONAL, not a local approach, and by golly, they are trying with a "taxation without representation" referendum requiring EVERYBODY from everywhere to pay $3.2 million in sales taxes per year for 20 years, money that taxpayers could have spent for merchandise, etc. Hmmmmm.

#2. Locate the museum at the center of the region - in short, downtown. But it not a regional museum so the center of the County is Lakeview where were have a sparkling 33,000 sq. ft museum that blends in with its surrounding. Hmmmmm.

#4. Create a strong public-private partnership. Hmmmm. #6 was Maintain an open, continuing stream of communication with the LARGER community. Hmmmmm.

On 5/17/04, "Word on the Street" said rumors keep surfacing that Lakeview doesn't want the Caterpillar Visitors Center to be free because visitors might be 'content' to see it and not pay admission to Lakeview". (Museum Block). All rumors were denied but that a Caterpillar spokesman, Ben Cordani at that time, said "there are any number of plans being explored". Surveys show that the shopping is one of the major if not the major reasons people come to town. Hmmmm.

Now that everybody, almost, realizes the regions like Woodford and Tazewell governmental bodies have pitched in $0 dollars, let's face the reality that this project is not going to come close to drawing 360,000 visitors, 240,000 of them paying visitors to the museum each year for at least 20 years.

As Don Axt, former Caterpillar news writer, wrote in the JS opinion page a long while back, that Peoria should be known as "Dreamsville" with a baseball World Series between Rockford and Peoria.

MaybeI'll be asked to throw out the first pitch. But, then, probably not.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Caterpillar Layoffs Continue

I heard from a reliable source today that Cat will announce more layoffs in the morning. People are daily coming to work with great apprehension. Also, this source says that most all, construction has been put on hold with firms such as Fritsch and Oberlander.

I am surprised that more Caterpillar ex-employees aren't writing letters to the editor about Caterpillar building a Visitor Center they've done well without for the past 45 years while they are wrecking so many peoples lives. Caterpillar has a long record of intimidation in this community. Yes, they have made millions of dollars of contributions, yet the Peoria area in August of 2006 ranked 89 in growth and it's gotten worse.

Caterpillar tried to be a good citizen. They should have been. They dominated this area for decades. It wasn't just the collapse of the global economy and a bunch of crooked and ineffective politicians, it was some very bad planning by highly paid Caterpillar executives.

Cat has put tremendous pressure on the community to build a new museum that will put a heavier financial strain on the community starting after it's first year of operation. The one we already have is underutilized and many feel is in a better location.

Does $16 million dollar a year salaried plus all kinds of benefits, Jim Owens, have no conscious? And why didn't Caterpillar with all their "talent" like the ones who projected the $14 million and growing in "spillover" benefits from the "Riverfront Museum every year forever. The ones who believed that private money would flow like the Illinois River instead of now coming to the taxpayer to bail them out.

We'll see if Lakeview Museum administration will come forward with the number of dollars deducted from the amounts they claim have been raised from pledges cancelled.

We will see.

I suggest Owens cut his salary to one dollar a year and go on performance pay. Won't happen, the board is controlled by Caterpillar executives. My wife is till mad at me for recommending Cat stock. maybe someday, but too late for those who already overpaid.

Friday, February 06, 2009

360,000 a Year For 20 Years, Then County Could Take Over the Museum?

This figure flies in the face of reason and could be an indication of why it is taking a FDR type failed stimulus bill to get their (Cat) stock up a few dollars. (My wife is still mad at me for recommending she buy Cat stock at $56).

On 12/27/05 the Wall Street Journal published an article by Bruce Courson, Director of the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich, Mass. His article titled "In the Fray" tells why rural museums are becoming ancient history. "It is a story increasingly common for rural Massachusetts museums within a day's drive of major metropolitan areas. (Peoria to Chicago or St. Louis, 3 hours) Many have current paid attendance numbers that are nearing 50% of what they were three decades ago. My own institution, the Sandwich Glass Museum, saw attendance drop from 84,000 in the 1980's to 42,000 in 2000. (The Exploration Place museum, Wichita, Kansas dropped from 400,000 in 2000 to 180,000 in 2007. In an article in the Journal Star on 1/20/02, by Byron DeHann, titled, Wichita: A model museum plan, quotes Jim Richerson, President of Peoria's Lakeview Museum as saying "this museum parallels Peoria in project size, costs and consultants and there were strong similarities between Peoria and Wichita. Wichita has a population of 335,000 is only 35% larger than Peoria and has world class manufacturers like Boeing, Cessna, Bombardier-Lear Jet and Raytheon. Richerson said "Exploration Place has a concept of constant change just like planned for Peoria's new museum." DeHaan, a co-chairman of the local group collaborating to plan a new museum admitted that by 2002, Exploration place attendance 'appeared to be leveling off' at 250,000 a year, some "leveling off" if it was down to 180,000 by 2007..

Back to Mr. Courson; "This trend in dropping off of attendance is occurring along the Boston-Washington corridor as well. Numerous causes have been cited for this precipitous decline, including the weather and 9/11. But one factor stand out among the reasons behind this consistent, decades long trend: the 1976 deregulation of the the airline industry and a new era in cheap travel. Before deregulation, most vacations were taken in the summer by automobile and the automobile was the cheapest and preferred way of travel. Inexpensive travel by air allowed people to travel to all parts of the world, leaving their cars parked at the airport. Changing leisure-travel patterns of the American public are not a new phenomenon......"

Mr. Courson goes on about holding fund raising drives, increasing the size reducing admission fees to $4.50 and group fees to $1 dollar. Even with encouraging attendance figures, "the museum has only regained one-third of the attendance lost over the past three decades. The possibility of an uptick in attendance in rural locations is highly unlikely".

Wake up, Peoria, we are a "rural" location and will remain a rural location no matter how much "lipstick" we put on the privately funded, $626,000 "educating the public" campaign and the Build the Block banners.

360,000 visitors a year, year after year for 20 years, to see the new museum and Caterpillar Visitor Center? Sure and pigs with or without lipstick fly, too.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Peoria Riverfront Museum Musings

No museum promoter seems to be talking much about the museum underground parking lot. Maybe here's why; I received a letter from Mark Johnson on 6/16/05 and I quote from this letter, "$4 million from the federal government that Representative LaHood has already obtained for infrastructure (primarily parking) improvements on the (museum) block". In this letter, Johnson said, "For the members of the County Board (Peoria), explaining their support for this financial investment comes down to trust. If they step forward and make a 6M commitment to the museum project, do they trust the federal and state elected representatives to be able to deliver a similar commitment?"

What did the museum group get from the fed and state? I don't know exactly but including the $4 million for the garage from the Feds, it appears to be well over $10 million. On 6/24/06, the Js said the museum had collected $5 million in state, federal and local funds. That figure is of course wrong as the City of Peoria says their contributions to date, including Water Street restructuring is over $14 million.

On 1/28/06 the Js reported that the planned underground garage would cost an additional $2.5 to 3 million more and this week I learned from a museum committee person that the garage alone would cost over $9 million due to additional support needed for the museum sitting on top of this underground parking garage and, I believe, 80 addtional parking spacess, 210 from 130.

On January 23, 2009, the JS reported that the City of Peoria was seeking $4 million for Riverfront Museum parking in the Peoria MSA stimulus request package.

Well, the Peoria County unanimously voted to set $100,000 a year for six years. This money was not to be given to the Museum until they had brought other governmental bodies aboard. At that time we thought it was going to be a Regional Museum.

On 11/20/2007, Jim Richerson was quoted in the JS, "We should be speaking to everyone we can, including Woodford and Tazewell counties in order to move this forward we need to be smart and think about what those solutions are and to work with everyone who is willing to work with us to find those solutions." I personally called the Board Chairman of Tazewell County and the Mayor of Metamora and both said their elected officials had not been contacted for contributions.

So much for trust.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Economy Worst in 25 Years.

"It's a continuing disaster" for the nation's families, declared President Barack Obama.

And our leaders want to suck another $3.2 million in new taxes out of our "resident" community each year to build a museum destined also, to put further pressure on private donations; donations that could go to more needy causes. Even finishing the unfinished zoo. The Museum shows in their projections the perpetual need of a fund-raising drive every year forever. Our Peoria County officials leans toward eventually taking possession and managing and funding the museum with tax-payer dollars, also, forever.

Some people in Peoria are either looking or going to be looking for jobs. In the massive stimulus bill, plenty of jobs should become available for more worthy causes than an expanded museum. It seems all the promoters forget we have 32,000 sq. ft. at our present location more in the center of the northward expanding city, easy to locate and expandable with more parking if the museum people would work with the PPD.

The present Lakeview Museum is the 2nd largest museum between Chicago and St. Louis. Underutilized with figures of 83,000 to over 100,000 depending on which source is most correct. When the new library on the north side is completed, the used book and periodical space could be emptied and given to the library where it belongs.

Market down over 100 points again today with very little good economic news. The old saying is that "some people would rather go down with the ship than to admit is is sinking".

Peoria Museum - Union Press Conference Today

I attended and listened to the presentations and announcements. Professor Scott from Bradley was one of the presenters and he started his presentation in support of the museum with these words: "Basic data provided to me........"

Also, it was stated that all who visit the gallery will receive a 15% discount if they are from Peoria or did he say Peoria County? Hmmmmm.

Later, I received a rather stern call from Mark Johnson from Caterpillar saying I had said Andy Rand and Jimmy Dillon's Forum was not open to questions and answers. After some discussion, we agreed it was open (for questions and answers) to only Rand and Dillon's constituents. I guess I don't understand politics as I have the same ranking as Rand and Dillon, a Peoria County Board Member and ALL residents of Peoria County are my CONSTITUENTS.

The date or dates of an open forum hosted by myself will invite ALL who wish to attend will be announced in the near future. My committee will be presenting facts as to why to vote no on the referendum.

Mr.Johnson also denied that he said the following "it appears you've failed to recognize that the MAJORITY of visitors to the Museum are assumed to be members of the Museum. These members will support the the facility through their annual membership dues, in exchange for which they will receive FREE admission to the museum....

You can read this and the comments of Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Woith in the "Comments" on my blog titled, "Peoria Riverfront Museum Fund Raising Progress" dated 12/03/07.

In the 200- page document prepared by the attorney for the Museum and our County Administration, it states assumed membership to be 4500 at an average of $75 per membership totalling $338,000 per year. If this is the MAJORITY of visitors, $338,000is a long way from an operating budget of $4.3 million per year, a budget bound to rise, if the cost of electricity, pensions, health benefits, etc., keep risings.

Mr. JOHNSON OVER THE TELEPHONE DENIED HE WROTE ANY SUCH THING. He also advised me I was "entitled to my opinion". Gee.

Now, if admissions to the the Gallery are discounted to more than half of the attendees, will the members be given a discount of 15% also? Hmmmm.

Mrs. Woith says (on the same comment page) that "The Museums Master Plan" calls for 78 to 83% of the visitors coming from our "resident area". I interpret 'resident" tp mean thy come and visit and sleep at home that night. Ususally. If that be true, then how do the "consultants" arrive at 50,000 plus hotel overnights? Are people from. say Elmwood, going to come to Peoria to see the museum and stay 2 or 3 nights? Hmmmmm.

Sorry, Professor Scott, from Bradley, the "basic facts" just don't add up.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"UAW: Gift for museum is 'bad timing'

I thought this column written by Paul Gordon, Manager of the JS Business Section was most interesting. Mr. Gordon, on 12/14/04 wrote "When Caterpillar announced its multi-million dollar gift towards a new Downtown Museum, it touched off some protests by union employees and retirees. Stan Valentine wrote, "It seems like Caterpillar has money to give to everybody except us, the people who built the company and made the products the company sold to make the products to build a monument to themselves. It's a million here, $20 million there, and in the meantime they are throwing 560 jobs to Mexico. Why wouldn't we feel better."

Dave Chapman, then president of UAW Local, (2004) said the UAW doesn't oppose a new museum but he felt the timing was terrible. Rick Doty, Local 974 executive vice president, said "Whether the museum money comes from the Cat Foundation or not, it still comes from the sweat and blood of everybody who has ever worked for them."
Tim Elder, director of corporate affairs said "The money to the museum is a gift to all of Peoria, to all our employees, suppliers, dealers and to our neighbors".

That was then and now is now. Museum backers failed miserably in attracting regional support for the downtown museum, private donations have not meet expectations and many pledges may be "suspect" as individual wealth has taken a severe beating for all investors, attendance figures have been altered to meet expectations, no major endowment has been received; most of us believe it will take a $13 million dollar endowment, it's major contributor is in a terrible slump, stock off 65% or more and still dropping, laying off people, moving jobs out of town, cutting back on local suppliers who in turn are laying off, one local supplier has cut his work force from 300 to 80 and the Visitors Center will be a financial drain on Caterpillar every year after it is built.

Museum problems have been mounting in recent years. Nichael Conforti, writes in today's WSJ, "Hardly a day goes by without announcements by museums from Los Angeles to Detroit to New York of substantial reductions in programs, exhibitions, capital projects and staffing--collateral damage from a global financial drubbing that walloped museum donors, retail sales, and most critically, endowments.

Even the enormously wealthy J. Paul Getty Museum last month announced a job freeze and other cot cutting measures." Poorly endowed are in dire situations in on the verge of going bust. Some have taken to selling donated offering which is a "no-no" in the museum business.

To call building a museum a stimulus to the community is more than likely to be a substantial financial drag on this community forever. Short term gains will look puny 5 years from now.

I support jobs but I suggest the unions and even Caterpillar should take another hard look at the "real facts" in additions to the ones given to them by the "experts".

Cat's job is increase value for its stockholder. Like good workers, without stock investors, Cat would and may be, losing some ground to competitors. My wife, a Cat stockholder is not a happy camper and a guaranteed no vote on the referendum.

Despite the Museum Committee spending $625,000 of "private" money on "educating" the public, money that could have been spent on other charitable entities, expect to see very strong opposition to more taxes and a suspect future draw to the complex.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Imax CEO Confident Confident About the Movie Business

Reporting from Davos, Imax CEO believes that the movie business would remain "fairly recession proof". His company will benefit from the release of the new "Star Trek" film and the latest "Harry Potter" epic.

Releases of this calibre are usually made available to privately owned Imax theatres before they are released to the public sector. Even then, tax supported theaters are in competition to the tax paying private sector whose theaters are offering a more sophisticated fare as new technology becomes available.