Retired state representative, Columbus attorney, and friend of mine Milton Jones emailed an interesting take on my post about saving the National Civil War Naval Museum. I’m passing it along to you.
Dick – I tell you often when I agree with you, but I agree with you much more often than I respond. So, I guess I should tell you when I think you overreach on something.
Such an instance is found in your recent blog about the Civil War Naval Museum: “This discussion also brings up the question of whether tax dollars should be spent on museums. But then, if you ask that, you would also have ask if tax dollars should fund public education.”As to the Civil War Naval Museum, yes, it is an asset to our community and I would hate to see it close. However, it has turned out to be way below the projections for visitors and obviously does not have the appeal necessary to generate funds for its present level of funding and operation. Perhaps it could continue to function on fewer days per week, as we are seeing with the public libraries. You can say the same about many other items in our community, some with large constituencies and others with small.However, there is one thing which, in my humble opinion, is the absolute, Number One by light years responsibility of local government — the public education of our children. Yes, a trip to the Civil War Naval Museum would be interesting, but to compare that to the tens of thousands of students and teachers engaged daily in public education in Muscogee County does not jive.As to the economics, I do not profess to know much about that. However, I do know that the $300,000 the city has been putting into the museum is more than 10% of the total estimated revenue spent by visitors. The city is not getting that $2,800,000. Sure, local merchants, hotels, gas stations, etc. do realize it, but I would doubt that the city’s take from sales taxes, hotel occupancy taxes, etc., etc. while significant, would even come close to recouping the $300,000. The taxpayers are the ones paying most of the bill. I may be wrong on this, but I stand ready to be corrected by someone who knows more about it if I am.MiltonPS – And I am one of those many Jaycees who, under the leadership of the late Jim Woodruff, your former boss, dug the thing [the ironclad “Jackson” whose ruins are on display at the museum] out from under the river bank behind those coffer dams in the early ’60’s, so I do value it.Good points. The museum could probably close a couple of days a week without damaging its viability. However, with a staff of only 6 paid employees, I don’t think layoffs would be a good idea. Not that Milton suggested that, but drastically cutting funds poses that possibility. I agree with him about our school system being at the top of the priority list. Nothing is more important than public education to the future of the citizens of any city.