Museum situation in Nevada

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Brian Norden
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Museum situation in Nevada

Post by Brian Norden » Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:17 pm

Nevada is in a budget crisis and among the threatened is the State's Department of Cultural Affairs and it's Division of Museums and History. The proposed budget will cause the closure of four State museums these include the Nevada State Railroad Museum and the Nevada State Historical Society.

For more information see the post by Dan Markoff (of E&P Eureka fame) on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum:
Nevada State Railroad Museum crisis
He states that he will be providing information for writing to the legislature in support of the museums.

In part Dan writes:
There is no question that Nevada has faced a budget crisis, as have many other states. However, the entire budget for the division of museums and history is only 3/10s of 1% of the entire budget. In the last fiscal go round the museums were cut more than 40%. That was far more than most other state agencies here. That it is now proposed to cut them back to the point of closure is unforgivable.
Brian Norden

Brian Norden
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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by Brian Norden » Sun Oct 24, 2010 3:58 pm

Dan Markoff has added another post to the thread over on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum:
http://ngdiscussion.net/phorum/read.php ... msg-171985

He says that once the elections are held he will be providing contact information for letter writing.

He has a very worthwhile commentary within the post:
My concern for the NSRM goes beyond Nevada. There are many other museums around the country that are State owned and supported. The California State Railroad Museum comes to mind as does the Cumbres & Toltec. The C&TS is run by a private corporation, but the railroad is most definitely ownded by Colorado and New Mexico.

The problems is, that the States are financially hurting. As a result, any of them can shut down whatever operations they have at any time. That it has been proposed in Nevada first to the NSRM does not mean it cannot happen to the C&TS or the CSRM.

So, the moral of the story is: If you think it cannot happen in your area, you are wrong. It can. The various states have squandered enormouus resources on worthless projects. Museums, as educational and as worthwhile as they are to the general public are easy targets.
Besides owning the EUREKA Dan is a lawyer by training and is on Nevada's Board of Museums and History.
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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by John Coker » Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:51 am

Brian, This is terrible news. I am confident the museums will open again and/or get funded again, but that could be years off and there is a danger of losing knowlegeable and skilled staff. This has been a bad year for preservation, with the C&TS suffering yet one more big setback aftermore than a decade of setbacks.
This is a depression, not a recession. During the 1930s historic preservation of all kinds all but disappeared. When the C&S closed the South Park and Clear Creek lines, they tried to give away C&Sng #6-no takers-even the City of Denver turned them down.
It will be a long road back. States will be paying off defecits for years., and legislators will be thrifty for years more.

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CraigH
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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by CraigH » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:02 pm

Just this sort of possibility is why California's Prop. 21 came about.

Unfortunately I know way too much about this one....wife's deeply involved with Calif. State Parks via one of the bigger supporting Non-Profits. I'll try to do the short version.

I won't touch the right and wrongs of taxes disguised as fees but basically California's State Park System (including CSRM, etc.) have been funded from the State's General Fund. Most of the parks also survive on donations via various non-profits and volunteer labor. CSRM is very fortunate on this count.

For about the past 15-20 years the park's budget has been slowly reduced to the point where they're about to fall over a cliff. There's over a billion dollar backlog of differed basic maintenance (that includes zero fluff projects). Ranger staffing is actually skeletal...that's why you don't see them collecting entrance fees at the gates. Also, parks are one of the few State Programs that actually bring in more tax revenue to the State than is spent...something like for each $1 the return is about $2.50. It would be a hell of a lot higher if they had been smart on the park vendor contracts...they've known it for years, and are working on it as contracts go up for renewal. They also know that most people don't voluntarily pay at the self pay parks. The Legislature took away Ranger funding years ago so Parks can't do a thing about it.

Arnold's saving of the system last year was pure B-S. The minimal operations plan he took credit for was already worked out by parks management, he used it as an excuse to play hero (actually he did it two years running, it's just that the first time the people forced him to keep the parks budgeted).

Closing the parks will be a tourist draw disaster to the State economy, it'll cost nearly $100 million in penalties (broken contracts with vendors), nobody knows how much it will cost to reopen closed parks (I asked the operations guys in Sacramento) If the basics like dirt parking lots, roads, trails, septic systems, power lines, and roofs need fixing.... There's also the State's liability for forest fires that start in Parks, pot plantations, homeless camps, trespasser's injuries, etc.

Anyway, Prop. 21 is a last ditch effort to get the Park System out of the General Fund. The money raised will be a dedicated fund for the State Park System and a select few related land uses. The bill language makes it tough to impossible for politicians to steal the funds for elsewhere. The money expected will just keep all the parks open and staffed but won't address the maintenance backlog, new projects, new acquisitions, nothing.

If you live in SoCal, that $18 is like a day's parking/entrance fee at a State Beach. Prop. 21's $18 fee on the car registration will be an annual pass to almost all State Parks except for several that require outside vendor support like Parking Garages, ferry service.

Basically visit one or two State Parks after it passes and you get your money back for the year.

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John Coker
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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by John Coker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:53 am

Craig, good analysis of the situation. As a native of the Golden State I would like to return. However the fiscal situation for Cal is dire. The only way out is to charge the public stiff fees for everything, including parks and museums. More troubling is that state income taxes may have to be raised to prohibitive levels-close to what the federal income tax levels are.

Most states are in the hole, including Colorado. Eventually gross receipts taxes and other revenue will raise, and financial restrictions will ease. However, California is in a darker situation. It is a huge state with huge infrastructures. It had lost a lot of large (tax-paying) industries over the years to other states ands overseas. There is visibly more poverty, which translates to less tax revenues. Finally, the politicos on both sides have been very dishonest about the hard choices the state faces. Not promising. :(

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CraigH
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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by CraigH » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:57 pm

I had a chance to see the closure lists for the state parks (Calif.) over the past couple years and it was pretty grim. Of interest were those that were clearly "political", sending a message; those that were clearly out in the boonies with minimal visitorship, the parks clearly preserving something historically important and perishable; and other categories. There were a number that the State had it's hands tied on...a legal obligation to keep, and preserve in good order. Some of those were of questionable value.

With over 280 parks and a few thousand historic landmarks something can clearly be surplused. Downside: each is important to some group or local economy, each a potential political nightmare. There's also the added problem in that an ugly precisely could be set in that politicians could start selling the system to pay down the debt. Once gone... Over the past couple years Arnold made a couple attempts to give swaths of Parks land to developers for toll Hwys. And he's made several attempts to gut the Coastal Commission.

Now there is also room within parks operations management for some change, something they are highly resistant to. They're almost incapable of change and new ideas, a manifestation of the burocratic and curatorial mindset.

I agree with you that more taxation may be the result. I'd rather see the dumping of a lot of the fluff services, redundant departments, commissions, etc. and some of the crazy-high benefits packages. That'll help a lot.

Got a good paying job out of Calif.? I'll consider the move!

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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by John Coker » Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:45 am

The heavy benefit package for state employees that Jerry Brown instituted years ago is killing the state budget. As you also noted, some agencies should be merged or abolished. Alas, all these state employees have enough friends in the state house to keep anything from moving forward. That is why the state has been broke for nearly a decade. Arnie made some outlandish proposals, but I think half of that was political bluffing.

The absolute worst would be selling off state assets or privatizing parks and museums. Some years back some national politicians suggested doing that, or franchising the national parks. Imagine Google Grand Canyon or Invesco Yosemite...
So far the depression has caused a number of private museums to close and sell off displays. BTW there is a fire sale on Liberace costumes in Las Vegas :roll: .

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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by elminero67 » Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:37 am

Its happening everywhere! An unfortunate reality is that arts/culture are often the easiest for politicians to cut, although I certainly dont think any of the politicians enjoy the tough decisions that the budget part of the job entails. I personally believe America needs far more arts and culture, but thats just my 2 centavos. If I do have optimism it is that after wotking for the USFS for the last ten years, I saw two trends: Vocalizing your opinion is far more effective than we would think, and that every year there were threats to close this or that, and every year funds are moved around or somehow provided. Thanks for keeping us posted, Duane

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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by John Coker » Sun Oct 31, 2010 2:48 pm

Good point. Being a citizen and voicing your concern saves things. Politicians will do the wrong thing only when no one is paying attention-or cares. However, the public will have to pay higher fees and yes, taxes to see that their quality-of -life things like parks and museums are properly maintained.

Daniel Maxwell
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Re: Museum situation in Nevada

Post by Daniel Maxwell » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:55 pm

Mr. Norden,

Is there any update on the situation to report?

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