On 15 April 09 I joined the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party movement to protest high taxes, higher federal spending, and general disrespect for the Constitution of the United States of America. It felt good.
I also know that along with rights come responsibilities. Times are tough all over and it is difficult to see services we use being cut. Government provides many essential services, and many things that just make our communities nicer places to live.
I doubt many people consider the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) an “essential service”. According to their website:
The Minnesota Historical Society is chief caretaker of Minnesota’s story—and the History Center is home to the Society’s vast collections. Within its archives reside artifacts ranging from American Indian moccasins and artwork to furniture and photographs, Civil War-era flags and a wealth of geneaological information. All of it is accessible today and for future generations.
I love history and I love the Historical Society, and I am a paid member. However, they really are the last part of “public health, safety and welfare”; not surprisingly among the first to be cut. MHS announced today a planned 16% cut to their budget for next fiscal year, starting 1 July 09.
Minnesota Historical Society Announces Plans for a Potential 16-Percent Budget Reduction
All programs and facilities will remain in full operation until a final plan is adopted
The Minnesota Historical Society announced plans today for a potential 16-percent overall budget reduction, beginning July 1, 2009, which would result in layoffs and reduced services to the people of Minnesota. The plan is based on expected cuts in the Society’s funding from the state of Minnesota, as well as the effects of the current economic downturn. The reduction was developed in anticipation of serious budget shortfalls during the Society’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
A final decision on the Society’s state funding levels is expected in late May when Governor Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature announce an overall state budget for the upcoming biennium, which also begins July 1. In January, the Governor’s budget plan contained a 15-percent reduction to the Society’s operating budget. The Minnesota House recommended a reduction of nearly 10 percent earlier this month, and the Minnesota Senate recommended a seven-percent reduction this week.
In addition, the Society is projecting a 20-percent shortfall in its non-state revenues over the next two years, due to declines in admissions, sales, charitable gifts and investments.
“We know that Minnesotans value the work of the Historical Society,” says Nina Archabal, director. “Our main objective in meeting the challenges of today’s economic downturn is to continue to preserve the state’s history and educate the state’s schoolchildren and adults.”
Since October, 2008, the Society has been engaged in a comprehensive strategic planning process. This process provided guidance in developing the proposed budget reductions.
The planned budget reductions would result in less public access to the Society’s services, programs and facilities. It also would affect the Society’s work to preserve the state’s history.
Layoffs would occur for 94 full- and part-time employees, and an additional 223 employees would have their hours reduced. In total, 317 individuals would be affected, or 46 percent of the Society’s staff, including individuals that work directly with the public, as well as people that support public programs and preservation statewide.
Some of my favorite MHS sites are on the chopping block. Three sites would be mothballed 1 July 09:
- Historic Forestville near Preston,
- North West Company Fur Post in Pine City,
- Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls.
These are great places. I visited Historic Forestville last summer. It’s a ghost town down in the Drifless Hills of Southeast Minnesota, south of Rochester. Living history players act out original characters, literally bringing history to life. I would love to participate on a regular basis if I lived closer…and dropped seven or eight other hobbies to make time. One of those hobbies I’ve picked up of late is participating in Mountain Man Rendezvous, with their black powder rifles and tomahawk throws and leather britches over cast iron. The Fur Post at Pine City recreates the world of 1804 and the European, American and Ojibwe fur trade. Picture me lost and dreaming in buckskins.
I am a bit concerned about this bit at the end of the press release:
Also pending is a decision on how proceeds from the Legacy Amendment will support history education and programming. The constitutional amendment, which was passed by voters in November 2008, calls for funds to preserve Minnesota’s history as a way to supplement, rather than substitute for, current funding and programs. The Minnesota History Coalition, representing historical organizations statewide, including the Society, has recommended that 50 percent of the funding for the Arts and Cultural Heritage portion of the amendment be dedicated to statewide history education and preservation.
I could be cyncial and say it’s all posturing to get dedicated funding. I won’t.
I could fuss and fume, and put on a big pout. I’ve driven by the Lindbergh property several trips, each time telling myself “I’ll stop next time.” Now there won’t be a “next time.” These places are important to me and a big benefit to living in the state of Minnesota.
I could get angry, pull out the big guns, and demand my rights. But I won’t.
When times are tough we all have to tighten our belts and do our share. What I’m going to do is clear my calendar for the 2nd half of June after I get home from Scout camp. I’m going to plan a drive to Pine City before the Northwest Company Fur Post closes. Maybe I’ll go through Little Falls, or at least make a stop at Jeffers Petroglyphs on my way. I’m going to look for a book from the MHS bookstore to buy and read after the first of July. I’m going to save so I can renew my membership. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is….
Right after I write a letter to my Representative, my Senator, the Governor about cutting (my) taxes and (somebody else’s) spending.
Edit: The head of the Minnesota Historical Society makes $250,000 a year. Cuts will impact almost half of staff, but not her. In the Friday STrib.
Remember what I said about getting cyncial? yeah….