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My Way

Free the museum!

March 07, 2012 - I've always been a firm believer that government can do very little, if anything, right.

That's why I consistently favor divesting it of as much power, money and responsibility as possible.

That's why I favor liberating people and institutions from its insidious grip, which ranges from slavish dependence on public monies to the overabundance of laws, regulations and bureaucratic red tape.

If you truly love someone or something, the last thing in the world you want to see is the government playing a significant role in their life or its existence.

Given how I feel about government I realized something last week – I want to see the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum freed from any dependence on or governance by the Village of Oxford.

Make no mistake, I do not want to see the museum leave the 1 N. Washington St. location it's called home for the last 40 years. I also do not want to see the exhibition of museum artifacts controlled by some hypothetical cultural entity that frankly, strikes me more as a vehicle for self-interest than community enhancement.

That's why I agree with Chuck Schneider that the historical society should purchase the building from the village if it truly wishes to stay there. Although I suspect my reasons for wanting to see this happen are much different than his – but I do enjoy his showmanship.

I want the historical society to be the master of its own destiny and it's become quite clear that will never happen as long as the group continues to depend on the village's good graces for housing its amazing collection.

As long as the village provides it with what is essentially a rent-free place to stay, the historical society is always going to be subject to the ever-changing winds of politics.

Today's village council could want the museum to stay forever. Tomorrow's council could want to kick it out to make way for some private business concern.

A venerable local institution deserves better than to live with that kind of uncertainty day in and day out.

It deserves stability. It deserves a permanent home. It deserves to know it's appreciated, valued and won't be tossed aside if someone with deep pockets comes along.

That's why I'm willing to lend my support and my pen to any and all fund-raising efforts designed to secure enough money for the historical society to purchase 1 N. Washington St. and stay there for another 40 years or longer. I don't have $2,000 in my pocket like the flamboyant Schneider, but I do have a deep passion for history and access to plenty of ink and paper to support worthy community causes.

What could be more worthy than keeping an historical museum in an historic building in the heart of an historic downtown area? Isn't historic preservation part of the whole Main Street program?

To me, selling the museum building to the historical society is a win-win situation.

The village gets a significant chunk of revenue to help fill its depleted coffers, plus another downtown building that's subject to taxation, providing a continuing source of revenue for years to come.

The historical society gets to keep the most ideal location in Oxford for displaying its artifacts and educating future generations. Without the village as its landlord, the museum would no longer have to worry about its fate or be forced to justify itself or its practices every time somebody comes along pitching another idea for the building's use.

Of course, in order for any of this to happen, village voters must first give the municipality permission to sell this building, so the whole thing might be a moot point.

After all, it belongs to village residents.

Once we know their wishes, then we can proceed.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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