Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $200,000 for San Franciscos Museum

The Transportation Bill, notorious for funding many a wasteful project, has found another pet project in San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society to be exact.  The 2006 Transportation Bill allocated $200,000 to the museum’s Old Mint restoration project.

According to its website, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society “is a non-profit organization focused on preserving, interpreting, and presenting the historical heritage of San Francisco, from its variegated natural history to its lively human history.”  The Museum achieves its goals through a variety of exhibitions, programs, and special events, including The Argonaut, a “beautiful journal featuring photographs and in-depth reviews of our city’s history.”  The Society was organized in February 2002, following the merger of the San Francisco Historical Society and the Museum of the City of San Francisco.

The Old Mint building where the museum is housed was conceived on July 8, 1852 when President Millard Fillmore signed an act authorizing a branch mint in California.  On May 26, 1870, the cornerstone of the Mint was laid.  It opened four years later on a rainy Saturday in November.

Restoration plans will return the historic landmark to its “original splendor while making it suitable for public use and enjoyment.”  The original courtyard will be restored, a skylight will be constructed over the entire courtyard, and walkways and escalators will be added inside.  New high-tech museums exhibits will complete the project, conveying “the very exciting San Francisco history in a user-friendly medium.”

It is exactly projects like this one that is leading our country’s finances down the tubes.  Whether it’s a museum in San Francisco or an art museum in Nebraska, Congress has got to get its priorities straight or this country will be forced to pay the price for our leaders’ recklessness.  It is a price we can’t afford.  

Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on San Francisco’s  Museum and Historical Society (Senate Roll Call Vote #264, 10/20/05).