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               January 2011

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  The Heritage Hatchet
  — by Charles Hansen

       Well, I know many states and localities have been having a lot of budget problems due to the melt down of the economy. The prime target of politicians seems to be libraries, historical societies, parks and the arts. As genealogists we need to have access to records, and the budget hatchets seem to be targeting all the records that are stored in libraries and historical societies.

       In Spokane we were very lucky as it looked for a while that the library board would be forced to close the East Central Library in one of the poorest sections of the city of Spokane. The city council and library board were both inundated with children testifying that that library was the only library they could get to, and it had computers they could use for their school work. It was really heart wrenching to listen to the people from that area tell how much they needed their East Central Library to stay open. Turned out the union that most of the library workers belong to voted to not take a raise in 2011 and that saved enough money to keep the East Central Library open. As a note the East Central Library is only open 4 hours a day so none of the workers there are union members nor do they have any benefits.

       Now our Governor Gregoire has proposed $10 million in cuts from state heritage organizations and ending a program that has since 1997 helped fund historic preservation in the state of Washington. If this budget is passed by the legislature it will be a disaster if the state walks away from maintaining its history and heritage. The actual impact is more than the $10 million as grants require $2 in matching funds for every state dollar. Here is a list of the possible cuts:

  1. Shut down both the Eastern and the Western Washington State Historical Societies.
  2. Cut all state funding for the parks, many of which are historic parks. The parks will have to sink or swim with whatever recreational and camping fees they can generate (including $5 or $10 to visit a state park), and it is anticipated that many will simply close. Goodbye, Spokane House.
  3. Slashing the budget of the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation and merging the agency with the Department of Natural Resources.
  4. Eliminate other statewide historic programs including Barn Again, which helps owners identify and maintain the historic barns that define many of our rural areas.
  5. Eliminate the Washington State Arts Commission.

       The Eastern Washington State Historical Society is here in Spokane and today they have 37.5 employees, after the budget cuts they will have 2.5 employees, just caretakers to keep the buildings running and mow the lawns. They have a big collection of pictures and records of many of the funeral homes that have closed over the years here in Spokane. Spokane House was the first permanent fur trading post in Washington or Oregon, built by the Northwest Company and later ran by the Hudson Bay Company. They have been planning to restore that fort, but with these budget cuts, it looks like a long time in the future.

       What can we do? Well the legislature will start working on the budget in January. Contact as many state senators and representatives as possible, let them know we need to keep our historical records available for research. Here is an article on the budget cuts and a PDF (file) on the elected representatives for the Spokane area.

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