By John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer
With the blockbuster Vatican exhibit and a critical tax levy on the ballot, it seems somehow fitting that a minister will lead the Cincinnati Museum Center through its next few, critical months.
Douglass McDonald, a former Quaker pastor, was brought in as president in 1999 to bring the center financial health.He's cut expenses and worked to attract big exhibits. At the same time the center will be drawing tens of thousands to the St. Peter & the Vatican exhibit, it will ask Hamilton County voters in March to approve a 10-year, $26 million tax levy.
IS IT A COINCIDENCE that the levy vote comes at the same time as the biggest exhibit in the museum's history?
We think it's fortuitous. We think the Vatican exhibit demonstrates clearly in this community the types of things that the Museum Center can do that no other institution can do, and it demonstrates that for this community to have these experiences, (it) needs to have Cincinnati Museum Center.
WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT, the levy or the Vatican exhibit?
The levy, because the levy bridges us to a long-term solution. It really helps us with the enormous operating costs of Union Terminal and with a lot of deferred maintenance repairs that need to be done that we simply have not been able to do that will preserve this building for a long time.
YOU MUST HAVE PAID close attention to last November's zoo levy.
VOTERS APPROVED THAT overwhelmingly. Do you take it as a sign for what you can expect?
I think what the zoo levy shows is that well-managed organizations in which the public has confidence, who serve the public in a way that is clearly understood, like the Museum Center or the zoo, that the public is willing to support those endeavors. And a 66 percent approval is a substantial victory.
WHAT IS THE MUSEUM Center's competition?
We compete for leisure activity. Directions Research, a local research company, contributed a survey to us. And the question they encouraged us to ask was not who's our competition, but "what would you have done today if you didn't come to the museum center?" The number one response? "Stay at home." The number two thing was "go shopping."
IN CINCINNATI TODAY, what do you want to preserve for the future?
Union Terminal. People are coming up constantly, they've been in the building, they've done things. We were talking to a man today from Indianapolis who loves rail buildings and thought this was so fantastic, and he talked about how Indianapolis has not been able to preserve its downtown rail station and what a tragedy it's been. In the survey we did this year, this community identified Union Terminal as the No.1 landmark in this city. Cities have to retain those signature landmarks, it's part of the fabric of culture of what we are, and it helps us define who we are.
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