Monday, October 27, 2014

Who Wants to Speak Against the Children's Museum?

I received the invitation verbally, 18 hours before the hearing.  Would I write an email in support of the January 8th Memorial Foundation's request for a bond to support the project?  Would I ask my Tucson-email-list to do the same... as long as they could do it before 8am the next day?  Would I be free tomorrow to attend the hearing, lending my physical as well as written presence to the process? 

Sure, sure and sure... as long as I could leave in time for Pilates at 10. I typed an email from my account and one from TBG's account and thanked Amster for the work she'd done in a similar vein for The Fire Chief, and herself.  I encouraged Elizibeth to write one, too; it's her history as much as it is mine or her parents'.  My email list was polled early Friday morning; some were actually awake and able to send a sentence or two themselves. 

I put on my Fall-in-the-desert-go-to-meeting dress (cotton, sleeveless, dark brown in deference to the season), my long strand of white Pop-It beads, and I was good to go. The Schnozz and I cruised down the highway to a mid-century-modern-set-on-the-frontage-road hotel.  I was two minutes late when I pulled into the parking lot.  By the time I filled out my "don't want to speak/do want to make a comment" card and entered the ballroom, the meeting was well underway.

Ballrooms are ballrooms, whether they are surrounded by the Ritz Carlton or a local, convenient-to-downtown, hotel.  The carpet pattern is busy enough to compete with stains, the ceiling is just a little bit lower than feels comfortable, the buffet is on long tables on the far side of the room, the chandeliers are oddly placed for most every use.  This one was no exception.  Rows of folding chairs arranged with a center aisle ending in a podium facing the open end of the U of the committee's seats.

Typical. Unimaginative. Functional. There was nothing to distract my attention from the business at hand.  That turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.

I walked in on the County Administrator's explanatory remarks.  He had numbers and facts and I had a sense that he was competent and comfortable as I hugged fellow survivors and found a seat in the front row and heard the chair of the committee ask the title question:
Who wants to speak against the Children's Museum?
There was laughter which lasted well into the calling of the question and the vote.  Obviously, some projects are protected. 

Every bond measure on the ballot must go through the Bond Advisory Committee of Pima County. The BAC polls the community by mail, social media, newspapers, radio, as they seek to discover which projects have the most community support.  No one likes a bond measure which fails; part of the BAC analysis is the ability of a project's sponsors to generate public support, which will translate into votes on Election Day. 

Once I thought it all through, I supposed it would be fairly churlish to speak against the Children's Museum.  A committee member did object to the bond funding an upgrade to the Africa Exhibit at the Reid Park. He said that Africa was AIDS and starving children and violence and an absent infrastructure and seeing animals penned up was a bad lesson for everyone and after he was finished and the audience was finished shaking its collective head, someone mentioned the new baby elephant who graces the news and newspaper almost every day and then the chair asked
Who else wants to speak against the zoo?
and there was laughter and a vote and then there were a few more proposals whose budgets were examined and compared to previous iterations and some were approved and one or two were not and the discussion was thoughtful and mission-specific.  Questions were given precise answers.  The items which were moved forward were done so after due consideration.

Item H, the Old Courthouse/Western Art Museum/Jan 8 Memorial bond, came before the Committee at 9am; the vote was held at 9:30.  In between there were one minute presentations by a collector who wants to give his stuff to Tucson and wants the community to pay for a space to house it; by former Mayor Walkup, who smiled and agreed that Tucson is a great place and needs to get this done; by a survivor who spoke of the response and the outpouring of love and the items which are archived but need a permanent home.... and then there were questions.

Is it more cost effective to do all three projects at once?  Yes, oh most certainly yes.

Can the open courtyard and surrounding balcony continue to be used as a party space? Yes, every evening if we can.

When did the Western Art Museum come to include Native American art, too? This one stumped the panel and the audience.  The query sat in the air for a moment, and then the chair moved the discussion on.

Will there be one admission fee for both spaces?  This is all in the conceptual stage.  We have not gotten that far. We have just received funding for the artists' Request for Proposals.

That's about when it hit me.  Item H was a request for $35,000,000 ... which is a lot of zeroes for a project yet to be designed.  Given the quality of the previous inquiries, I expected the panelists to probe further into the dollar amounts ... but that admission fee was as far as anyone got.

Apparently, the Memorial is a topic about which no one is willing to speak against.  That convoluted sentence is as twisted up on itself much as I was while watching the process.  I was glad that my confusion was swallowed up in talk about open corridors broken into make-shift offices, of structural upgrades, of the beauty of the site itself. 

Behind it all, lurked January 8th.  The bond was approved, we supporters left en masse, I shared FlapJilly photos and drove on to Pilates.  Bonds and plans and fellow survivors-of-the-aftermath filled the first part of my day; my own rehab would fill the rest. 

The community may need a physical structure to help it remember.  I'm carrying my own memorial in my limp and in the hole in my heart. I think that's why I can't be more involved in the planning, why I'm happy to be a prop to be toted out when my presence will add something to the equation, why I am ambivalent about the whole thing.

After all, no one wants to speak against January 8th.


  1. I'm sure you have heard about the killings in Sacramento area of two county sheriffs officers and then the horrible school shooting in Washington. We will not dwell on the details except to say, abominable.

    That said, the church I have recently disassociated myself of after 40 years of membership had a sermon on the armor of God yesterday. A Facebook post showed the minister, on the stage, in some sort of modern armor with an assault weapon in his hands and a pistol strapped to his leg. I was aghast. Beyond aghast. And made a comment on the FB post to that effect. I got hit back with all these people, people I had respected, saying I didn't understand and that it was just showing how the armor would be depicted with today's weaponry. What??? Insanity. Insensitivity. Especially after what had just happened on Thursday and Friday north of us.

    1. That is a frightening story, dkzody. Shouldn't a house of worship be a safe place, without violence? How sad that you felt obliged to diassociate yourself after 40 years... but if that is what was going on I don't wonder at your decision.

      There is so much ugliness In the world ....


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