The finagling museum CEO Jim Richerson is trying to get more of your money, Peoria County. You thought the museum would be satisfied after you foolishly agreed to raise your own sales tax rate during a recession to give them $40 million. Now you’ll see why giving money to the museum is like feeding a stray cat — they keep coming back for more.
The Journal Star chronicles some of the ingenious ideas Richerson the Schemer has cooked up to get his fingers in your pockets:
- Have the county reimburse the museum for some “outstanding capital costs” so they can free up some private money to purchase some Ansel Adams photographs for their collection — or have the county just buy the photographs outright and give them to the museum! I’d like to know why there are “outstanding capital costs.” Didn’t Dave Ransburg raise all the private funds needed to build the museum, plus enough to fund the endowment for operational expenses? Wasn’t that a requirement for the county to give their $40 million? From where is this shortfall coming? But the best line in this part of the story is Richerson’s quote: “I was not asking for public dollars for this purchase.” We can put that down in the annals of untrue statements, along with “Our theater will be an IMAX,” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
- Have the county sponsor a “free day” at the museum for county school children by donating public dollars to cover the cost of their attendance. Wait, you mean all the kids in the county aren’t already attending? I thought this was going to be an educational mecca for area school kids. That’s what all the museum literature touted during the run-up to the sales tax referendum, remember?
- “[C]lose off a portion of the grounds — the ground-level sculpture garden and part of the deck-level viewing platform — for a fundraiser open to museum members and their guests prior to and during the annual fireworks display over the Illinois River.” Yes, they want to block off public land for private use … just like they do on Water Street for Kellehers and like they used to do at Riverfront Village when Old Chicago/Retro American Tap were still there. But this is County, not City, property, and the County doesn’t think it’s as hot of an idea as the City does.
The good news is that he was rebuffed by Steve Morris on all these ideas. The bad news is that you know he’ll keep trying, and eventually will likely succeed. Some public body will end up bailing him out. Just wait until the museum threatens to go under. The City will jump at the chance to infuse more public cash into this private business, just like they’re doing now for the Peoria Chiefs.
And if all else fails, they can go directly to the people. Promise them an IMAX and they’ll follow you anywhere.