Seven years ago, a bit of political malpractice gave the Arizona Historical Society control of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum on the Capitol Mall in Phoenix. Subsequently, AHS failed to raise funds for their plans for the building. Then, in 2011 the AHS did the unthinkable. They locked the doors as children were still scheduled to arrive on school field trips. The reason for the closure has never been explained, and 240,000 children have now been deprived of a lifetime learning experience.
Bills to fix the mess were introduced in 2015, 2016, and 2017. They all received extraordinarily strong bipartisan support, but the Governor vetoed the 2015 bill. As explained in prior posts, the veto was most probably secured by AHS lobbyists.
The 2016 bill became law, but someone (AHS lobbyist?) managed to amend it with a poison pill. If the museum did not reopen in two years, it reverted to AHS. Then, the Arizona Department of Administration (legal owner of the building in 2016) refused to allow the building to be re-occupied as is. ADOA demanded that the tenant pay for $2.5 million in upgrades before re-occupancy would be permitted. Obviously, no one was going to spend money on the building so long as there was a chance AHS would get it back. Even an attempt at fundraising was pointless.
Finally, the 2017 bill (SB 1415) brought an end to the seven years of nonsense when the Governor signed it on April 28. The bill eliminates any possibility of the AHS ever regaining control of the museum and it transfers ownership of the building from the ADOA to the University of Arizona. The UA is now in complete control, and can begin cleaning up the mess made my AHS.
Prior to the AHS takeover, the mineral museum was a part of the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources. That state agency no longer exists, thus the assignment of the museum to the UA.
The dedicated determination of Senator Gail Griffin, a strong advocate for natural resources education, is responsible for the corrective legislation. She sponsored each of the tree bills, guided them through House and Senate, and eventually obtained the Governor’s signature. Students and teachers will be forever grateful for her extraordinary efforts.