Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Art vs Sports in Cedar City

Southern Utah University (SUU) is planning a lavish new $12.5 million Museum of Art. This 28,000 square-foot museum would feature frequently changing exhibits along with at least one permanent exhibit. The people behind this project seem to believe that art lovers will travel from all over the globe to see SUU's art collection and that the museum will be "full and busy all day long."

The two-story museum allegedly will be funded only by private donations. University President Michael T. Benson (who does not pay property taxes on his university-owned mansion and therefore would not be taxed to fund this project) is so confident of the success of this venture and fund-raising that he apparently is seeking financial support from the county (he's short about half the cost of the project). And, "SUU student body president Cody Alderson said students will be charged a fee of $15 per semester to help cover the cost of the museum" -- that is not a private donation!

It is my opinion that this art museum would join Cedar City's underutilized Heritage Center, underutilized $47 million hot tub (I was the only swimmer in the aquatics center this morning. Again.), and underutilized parks as an egregious waste of the taxpayers' hard-earned money.

Politicians at all levels seem to have absolutely no restraint when it comes to spending money that isn't theirs. Among other wild ideas our local Cedar City and Iron County politicians want to spend tax money on are a farmers' market (to compete with an already established farmers' market as well as our local grocery stores) and so-called alternative energy.

Well, as long as our local politicians have lofty dreams, I suggest they consider bringing a major-league sports team to Cedar City or maybe even to the wide-open market of Beryl Junction. If people would flock from all over the world to see the US Army Band and Soldiers Chorus (April 23) in the Heritage Center or to see Jim Jones' work in SUU's new art museum, surely we can attract enough football fans to pull the Steelers away from Pittsburgh. (Cedar City produced the first iron west of the Mississippi, after all.)

My point is, doesn't anyone do any market analysis before barging into these projects? And, doesn't anyone consider the already excessive tax burden and budget deficits that plague our nation, States, and communities? The informed minority of Americans are finally fussing about the runaway national debt and the runaway debt of some jurisdictions such as California. Yet, there are many local jurisdictions that also have unsustainable debt, too. Cedar City is on that path and nobody seems to care!

If President Benson really wants an art museum on his campus, I suggest he seek funds only from voluntary private donors. All tax money and student fees that go into SUU must be for education and lowering the cost of, and improving the quality of, education for SUU students. Absolutely no taxpayer money must be used to fund a lavish art museum as a memorial to Benson's extravagant dreams. And, politicians at all levels must reject any idea of subsidizing the Michael T. Benson Memorial Art Museum, Cafe, and Souvenir Shop with public money.

Now, about that new Steelers Stadium in Beryl Junction....

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