Joco Opinion

Steve Rose — Don’t write the obituary for a King Louie museum just yet

Updated: 2013-12-10T21:09:36Z

By STEVE ROSE

Special to The Star

As I read the various news articles and viewed the television news about the death of the Johnson County Museum to be located at the King Louie facility on Metcalf, I was reminded of Mark Twain’s famous quote: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

The Johnson County Commission voted 4-3 to defeat a $10 million bond issue, leading some to believe that that is the last word.

It may be believed that King Louie will be put on the market, while the museum scrambles for another location to move into.

Not so fast.

If I were a betting man, I would bet that the current rundown museum in a dilapidated house hidden in Shawnee still ends up at King Louie. And along with the museum will come a relocated county agency and advance voting facilities, and its massive parking lot will be used for the headquarters of the Johnson County bus system.

There would not be a Museum of Suburbia, as once proposed. That is a dead issue.

Yes, I probably am a lone voice on this one. But my gut instinct tells me King Louie will eventually get the next $10 million for renovation from the county, on top of the $3.4 million spent so far.

There are several reasons that support the hunch.

First, County Chairman Ed Eilert — whose baby this is — has not been defeated very often on a major issue, if ever, in his more than two decades of public service in Johnson County. That kind of track record is worthy of a bet. The last vote is not likely to be the final vote on this issue.

Second, one of the commissioners who voted against the measure challenged the museum first to go out and see what money they could raise, before the county put any more into the King Louie facility.

The commissioner intimated he was looking for millions in private donations.

Let’s get the truth out on the table.

A shoddy museum that attracts only 30,000 visitors a year has a very small support group. And the leadership group that exists is not plugged in to the heavy hitters of Johnson County. If other past fundraising efforts in this county are any guide, a successful fundraising effort, under these circumstances, might raise — if they are lucky — about $50,000.

If we want a quality museum in Johnson County, then the county will have to pony up to make it a reality. That is true of nearly all museums. Governments keep them going.

So, I suspect, when the museum gives it its best shot at raising local dollars and comes back to the commission with hat in hand, there will be more sympathy. And, by then, King Louie may look like the best option.

Oh, and one other thing.

That 4-3 unsuccessful vote was cast about a year before the next election. The pressure was on to vote no, because King Louie is very controversial. Some folks think the county bought a white elephant.

After the next election, there probably will be a new vote taken, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a 4-3 vote in favor, rather than opposed.

I could be wrong, of course, and King Louie may be sold to the highest bidder — which wouldn’t be for much, given its current condition. And the museum might find another location that would be as suitable and accessible.

But I doubt it.

Writing the obituary for the county’s King Louie facility is way too premature.

| Special to The Star

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