Sesquicentennial boards

Well, the Sesquicentennial has found its Grant. Otherwise, the news is not so good.

Re-enactments that had been subsidized are being cut. In Virginia, good bye to Manassas summer camp; in Tennessee, farewell Blue Springs.

The inevitable irreconcilable differences are being presented as an "opportunity for dialogue" in South Carolina. This is not a band-aid that will stick for long. Perhaps the acrimony will become old news in a year.

Meanwhile, Sesquicentennial boards formed at the state level - I say this in all humility - are a disgrace.

As a onetime/longtime arts organizer it seems to me there are four levels of desirability in a board. You want a board stocked with money - people with money willing to spend on the cause or people with access to funding. On the second level of desirability, you want doers and achievers committed to the mission. Think of Romney or Ueberroth fixing the Olympics or Trump breaking the Rockefeller Center construction logjam. On the third level, you might want celebrities or politicians with access to publicity. On the lowest rung, you have "filler," people picked to fill out a board, either because no decent choice was available or to do a favor.

The states' Sesquicenteenial boards appear to be no meat and all filler. Here's the news from Kentucky. It's almost as if they have no idea what a board is for. (Hint: even a board with an "advisory" mission can and should move mountains.)

Here's another appointment from Kentucky - the state librarian!

In Iowa, they are cycling ineffective Lincoln bicentennial board members onto the sesquicentennial board, in this case a state senator. Here's how he wants to help: "He will assist in developing learning programs for Iowa’s youth about the Civil War." That has zero to do with board work; clearly the board will serve him (not vice versa) as a means to play teacher.

Kentucky has done the same thing: cycle a state senator off the Bicentennial board and onto the Sesquicentennial board.
"As a history buff, I am eager to begin planning the sesquicentennial celebration of Kentucky’s major role in our nation’s bloodiest war,” said Yonts.
Wrong answer! Any buff can plan. the board is not there so your innermost dreams as a buff can be realized. Here's the correct answer: "As a legislator I am committed to finding funds for every worthy project this board approves."

Well, if you're going to stock Sesquicentennial boards with hobbyists eager to spend other people's money on their own pet notions, you might want to do what Mississippi has done. Protect yourself from the board that you appointed by funding nothing. You deprive the Sesquicentennial of a state budget. Whew! Bullet dodged.

This inspiring display of near sanity (hey, board members - you need funds, get out and raise them) does not quite offset the fact that someone seated a bunch of plush toys at the board table.

More disturbing is the rum still served out of the heritage toursim punchbowl. Vicksburg is seeing year-on-year declines in tourism and its solution is to spend more to build additional attractions. Actual headline, folks:
Vicksburg Tourism: If you build it, they will come
And here's a great quote from Columbia, Tennessee:
I think we should start promoting the Civil War Sesquicentennial and building hotels to hold the tourists.
Whoa! Maybe you want to stock your boards with the right sort of people before you build those hotels.

Photo by Tiare Scott.