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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Word up

Now that the Oregon Historical Society has decided to ask Multnomah County taxpayers to increase their property taxes to pay for the society's operation, suddenly the word "Library" is going to be featured prominently in all its propaganda. Surely some high-priced political consultant has reminded the organization that county voters consistently pass levies for the county's public library -- but I'll bet the polls are showing that a new property tax for a museum isn't such a good bet.

Since when has it been called "the Oregon History Museum and Library"? In 32 years of living around here, I've never heard that phrase -- until now. Heck, the phrase doesn't even appear on the society's own website. How ham-handed can you get?

Stand by for "For the Children," in 3... 2... 1...

Comments (28)

The library takes up the top floor of the Historical Society Building and is open to the public Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 1 to 5pm. Access is with membership in the society or admission fee. It's a huge source for old books, micro-fiche copies of all Oregon Newspapers going back to the 19th Century, scrap books, photographs, maps, it gets quite a bit of use the few hours that it is open and the two librarians and staff of three volunteers are kept busy.

They need to call it the "Children's Library at OHS" if they really want to make sure the levy passes.

Or maybe, "Pass this levy or we'll torch your historical archives Library"

JackBog, The use of the word "library" is a true characterization of the resources and is a true part of the organization. In past years, some marketing campaigns have pushed the "museum" aspect of OHS and left the Library behind. That doesn't mean that the Library wasn't there all the time. However, the recent emphasis on the Library is due in large part to community activism that is reminding the Board and management that the Research Library is a gem, priceless, and not be lost to Portland and the state. So, I see the reemergence of the "Library" in marketing as a victory for what is really valuable --- please don't dismiss the hard work of our community to make the real issues visible to all. (appreciate your blog - thx)

Gee, 12 hours a week of access. Where do I sign the check?

To paraphrase Nancy Reagan - keep our politicians off finanicial highs, JUST VOTE NO

I have a "library," too. It's in my bathroom. Can I get a tax levy for it, too?

Granted, it is a pretty humble library, but it has been useful to me as a research facility and as a safe place to contribute family materials.

That being said, the publication of the historical society's magazine has often suffered from insane editing choices in recent years.

One that comes to mind is a denunciation of Bonneville Dam as a "masculinst project." Mexican basket weavers in present day Tigard, and etc.

While one realizes the magazine shouldn't be about eccentric prospector's from the 1880s, but it often has a tghoughtless and trendfy political agenda that falls somewhere between the grotesque and the ludicicrous (agitprop).

It is unfortunate that the Oregon Historical Society is in such dire financial straights. Some of it is self inflicted but most of the problems are economy related. I would have rather seen the city go after a federal grant for the OHS instead of wasting a million dollars on “sharrows”, or stupid bike boxes. This city could fund the society with petty cash if Adams didn’t have 30 staffers wasting our money with his egocentric agenda. The county could afford to bail them out just by eliminating ten of those hundred grand per year positions they are so fond of paying for.

No tax breaks for emergency toilet paper.

My only question is if it is the Oregon Historical Society why is Multnomah County being asked to pay for its operating costs? Are any other counties in Oregon being asked to support the Oregon historical society?

Larry, through his generous donation of "family materials", illustrates what OHS is really about - it's a tax shelter scheme. We have better things to do with our property tax dollars.

As a OHS volunteer, I recognize the value of OHS to our state and community. And if people have forgotten, OHS was going to close the library last year (on occasion of Oregon's 150 birthday...)

What is *really* disgusting is that Scam Adams is trying to get some of the money that would be for OHS to "diversity organizations". Wha?

Sigh. But whether one thinks of history at all, history is important and we have to know where we come from in order to point a way forward. Henry Ford was wrong, history is NOT bunk!

Few comments:

1. Bonneville Dam is feminine, no?

2. Adams' 30 staffers are expensive, sure, but at least they're pretty.

3. John, don't you mean "charretts?" Or did we actually spend money developing green sparrows?

Stan -

Scam Adams and the City of PDX have nothing to do with the current real estate tax proposal. Its a Multnomah County thing. PDX City Council actually had the sense to turn down the OHS request for tax dollars.

I don't know what you mean by "...money that would be for OHS...". OHS is a private organization, operating as a non profit for state and federal income tax and property tax purposes. As a non profit, OHS is already being heavily subsidized by the rest of us poor schmucks.

On another thread on this blog, someone else had the right idea. OHS needs to donate all its holdings, including the downtown building, and the warehouse, and the contents of each, to the state of Oregon for placement of the collections in the State Archives, and sale of the real estate by the state to fund the added cost to the Archives division of maintain the valuable parts of the collections (mostly photographs and hand written journals) and making same available to the public.

OHS is not some magical non profit deserving of endless taxpayer funding. Its a dead financial model, and has crippled itself by operating as a bluestockings "club" providing tax write offs for donations of mostly junk from the local pioneer descendants in place of serious cash fund raising over the last 75 years to develop a robust endowment.

Chet Orloff desrves the lion's share of the blame for the failed business model OHS has followed.

There is about as much sense in giving OHS a property tax levy funded bailout as there is in using local county property taxes to resuscitate the "Acme Buggy Whip and Wagon Wheel Company".

Guess I'm pretty ignorant. Who scores tax-wise on my donation? No money was exchanged and I never claimed anything on my tax forms.

Was told I could have sold some of the logging photos for big money, but I never looked in to it.

Does the historical society get a tax benefit from my donation?

Nonny Mouse-

I can agree that OHS had a role to play in the funding problems they have.

I don't think, however, that closing OHS and shipping everything to the state archives is a solution either. So everything should be in control of the state?

CoP may not have a hand in the tax proposal by Mult Co, but Adams HAS put his nose in this.

Hell, I credit Jeff C for even thinking
about OHS at all.

Through the years I've had the experiences of using OHS and several times had the assistance of it's past director Kimbark MacColl. Their resources have helped many neighborhood associations in their interests.

I have mixed feelings of having government becoming the guardian of this long established institution. Around Oregon and the NW, and elsewhere, most historical societies are not financially/politically connected to government. I've enjoyed walking into obscure, small town historical organizations, like the one in Weston, OR just east of Pendleton and discovering a trove of information mostly administered by volunteers, with no formalized, maybe political agenda. Let's keep government out of our history as much as we can.

As a side note; if voters elect to fund OHS, will the exorbitant fees charged to access old photos, documents be eliminated? Will library hours be extended to a more reasonable length of time? If we fund it, they should.

I'm inclined to vote for this, but will be scrutinizing the voter's pamphlet to see if the OHS promises to:

1) Find a long-term, statewide funding mechanism so that MultCo taxpayers do not carry the full burden beyond a few short years (it is the OREGON Historical Society after all); and

2) Like Lee said, my taxes will go towards making the collections and library more accessible to the public (longer hours, fewer fees).

If I don't find both of those in the pamphlet, it's "No" for me.

The reason they'll put it on the ballot in Multnomah County is because no other county approves every property tax levy put to voters.

That's why I moved to Washington County.

They used to have a very reasonable student membership, and lots of library hours open to members. The state should fund it. But, that is right out there with the other snowballs in this year's budget hell.

What archival resources are held by the OHS that do not exist (or would not be surrendered to, in case of financial failure) at the other (admittedly sparse) libraries in our region?

Voting no, otherwise -- because the museum itself is a bad joke.

I agree with Liz, Tom, Larry, etc. The Oregon Historical Society does maintain a rather substantial research library. The OHS has also been wrenched down in funding for about 15 years in a row and it really is running lean these days. I check off about $5 of tax donation to support the OHS and I visit there every 2-3 years. It's an inexpensive, yet valuable field trip for many public school students each year, plus provides exhibits and the library contains many resources that are not available anywhere else.

I recommend Jack and the OHS detractors here at least visit the OHS before bad-mouthing it. On the one hand you're talking about how Oregon is being ruined by bad fiscal policy (which it is), but at the same time you're not giving preservation of our rich history much respect either. Personally, I think preserving links to how great Oregon or America was before it was ruined by neo-Conservative and neo-Liberal political racketeering is one of the best ways of possibly recovering from this mess and the least we can do for the next generation who will be paying for the debts of the Baby Boomers' stupidity.

We're not asking you to follow Sam Adams into the mens room at City Hall, Jack, we're just asking that you visit the OHS and think about what it does for the money it costs before you slag it. Then blog about it. You might even change your mind.

Speaking of debt


I'm with Nonny Mouse on this one. Nose in the air people like Chet Orloff have taken large salaries as administrators and done almost nothing to raise funds. Now OHS is rattling the tin cup. They are a dollar short and a day late.

I'm not bad-mouthing anybody. But I'm also not giving the historical society any money. Let them ask the Saltzmans.

Does this mean every non profit can put a tax measure on the ballot. I intend to sue if this goes thru. Enough is enough

To Eric: one of the conditions for putting the levy on the ballot was that county residents get in for free. And, they can expand hours just as soon as they have more staff (the library is down to two librarians; hours have been directly affected by cuts.) General Burnside = the archival and photography collections are in the main, unique and irreplaceable parts of Oregon history, and are not replicated elsewhere. That's the point of why the research "library" is a cool place. To Shirley, until 2002, OHS was supported in part by the Multnomah County library levy funds, and in exchange anyone with a Multnomah County library card could get in free. And, until this year, OHS had a partnership with Portland State, where students could get in free; that partnership ended due to funding constraints also, so no free student access either. That's where that access has gone, and it's not all OHS' fault. thanks to all are talking about this; it's a solution that no one likes, but it's a possible one and we hope you'll consider it.

I don't think anyone is disputing that there is a library at the Historical Society. It's just that it's a bit, oh I don't know, ingenuous to change its name for the balloting and PR campaign.

I'm voting no, and it's not cause I'm not an OHS fan. I am. But the voters in this county vote for EVERYTHING, and I'm shocked at how much my property taxes, even with Measure 5, have increased since we bought our house. Oh, it's just $10/year here, $27/year there, $17.50/year for something else. And it's a bit much.

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