The Alameda Museum tries to be nonpolitical, but when the city asked its board of directors if the museum wanted to return to the Carnegie Library, the board had to say yes. Measure C on the June 5 ballot adds a half percent to the current 8.75 percent sales tax. The extra money would fund several public projects, among them housing the Alameda Museum in the historic Carnegie Library building.
Empty for 10 years, the Carnegie sits as a tragic example of the economic downturn and a reminder that historic preservation is important to Alameda. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to Fred Croll -- longtime city assessor and founder of the Alameda Historical Society -- the society opened a museum in the Carnegie's basement in 1951. The museum stayed there rent-free for 30 years.
When library staff needed more space, the museum moved to the former auto shop in the Historic Alameda High school; rent was about $150 per month to help pay utilities. Ten years later, the museum lost its lease and moved to its current location on Alameda Avenue. A rent subsidy from the General Fund began.
Today the museum has grown and needs the entire Carnegie building to house its collection and continue most of its programs. Bal- ancing the city's 2012-13 General Fund budget has put the city's $45,000 sub- sidy to the museum in jeop- ardy. Measure C would allow the museum to remain in its current location. Measure C would keep the rent subsidy going until the Carnegie is ready for occupancy. Money from the measure also would provide consulting help to museum to meet various benchmarks. In about three years, with the Carnegie as a permanent home, the museum would work on improved exhibits and enhanced conservation of the collection. George Gunn, who became curator in 1971, worked in the Carnegie's dreary damp basement and knows the building well. His mind is already working on displays. Funds have been set aside for just this purpose.
Is the Carnegie guaranteed to house the museum? That depends on promises, good intentions, and a lot of hard work, money and public support. The general consensus remains that people expect the Carnegie to be a museum and people have been asking for years when museum would move in. Measure C would give the museum that chance.
Measure C taxes stay in Alameda. People like shopping here, and the sales tax would be a source of revenue for the museum's move into the Carnegie and other projects. The measure includes safeguards and careful oversight.
Measure C is a way to do a lot of good things for Alameda, sooner than later. Procrastination is an option that rarely works because as tomorrow arrives, it becomes today. At some point the city has to get the ball rolling on overdue projects. If moving the museum to the Carnegie is not possible today, then when? Some think that down the road things will be different.
They will, but it's been 10 years already. In the past 30 years the Carnegie never been offered to the museum with support from city staff? -- until now. It's time for the museum to go back home to the Carnegie. Measure C is a way to do it.
Robbie Dileo is president of the Alameda Museum board of directors.