Wisdom Seen in Reverse Solomon-Like Decision

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November 21, 2010; Source: SFGate.com | There are many ways to look at this story from SFGate.com. It’s just another cost-saving measure in these economically strained times, something that should have happened years ago for the sake of efficiency, or more likely both. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city of Oakland is considering giving up management responsibility for the Oakland Museum of California that it shares with a foundation.

While the city would still be asked to contribute as much as it can of its current $6.5 million in support, the move would eliminate some duplication of costs resulting from shared management of the institution with the Oakland Museum of California Foundation. To prevent any co-mingling of human and financial resources, the museum is currently required to have separate nonprofit and city budgets, employees, benefits, and governing bodies. This divide even extends to segregating computer servers and file cabinets.

This can make things so sticky that, as the newspaper notes, there are times when “a city worker might not be able to work on an exhibit because city rules prohibit changing an employee’s job description at will.” Handing over the reins to its partner could save it and the city a lot of headaches, says Foundation Chair Lance Gyorfi. “It’s just a mess if you think about it, all the things you have to go through because of this dual structure.”

Founded in 1969, the city was originally responsible for the museum’s entire operations. But over the years, city support has declined and the foundation has proven adept at raising the additional money to meet the $15 million annual budget. Some also think that giving the foundation full control would help it better develop a plan for any loss of support from the city, which next year faces a possible $10 million shortfall. “We’re trying to bring some stability to the museum and help the city as it focuses on its core services,” Gyorfi said. “The police and Fire Department are core services. Some people don’t view the museum to be such.”—Bruce Trachtenberg