Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: The Party Museum

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 29, 2009

Party on down!
The state Film Museum at the Santa Fe Railyard finally is being put to some good use.

The state Economic Development Department is having a party for employees there this afternoon. The museum, housed in the old Jean Cocteau Theater on Montezuma Avenue, seems pretty excited about that. It's up on the marquee: "Welcome EDD Halloween Party."

This raised a few eyebrows. At a time when the state is talking about laying off workers or forcing unpaid furloughs, cutting back services for behavioral health patients and even closing prisons, one department is partying?

It's really not that big of a deal, said a deputy director of Economic Development. "It's not really a Halloween party, it's a birthday potluck," said Toni Balzano, explaining the department does this every month for employees who were born that month.

Sometimes the potluck is held at the main EDD offices and sometimes at the Film Museum, where the state Film Office is located, Balzano said. In one of those weird twists of state bureaucracy, the Film Office is part of EDD, while the Film Museum is part of the Cultural Affairs Department.

The party is scheduled from 3 until 5 p.m. Most employees show up for about 45 minutes, Balzano said. They are expected to count that time as their lunch break, she said. A locally made movie will be shown in the background, Balzano said.

Usually when there's a party at a museum, guests have to be reminded to be careful around the exhibits. But that won't be necessary at this shindig — because there aren't any exhibits. You won't find Billy Jack's hat, or robot parts from Transformers, or even a wax figure of my friend actor/musician/lawyer George Adelo getting killed in a motel bathroom in that scene from No Country for Old Men.

As my newspaper colleague Robert Nott has noted in his Pasatiempo column, the museum has no budget for exhibits. Its biggest expense is the $88,000 a year salary for Director Sharon Maloof.

Longtime Santa Fe residents remember that before it was the Jean Cocteau, the theater where the museum is located was called The Collective Fantasy. As a name, that might be more appropriate now than "the New Mexico Film Museum."

Return to sender: Just a day after Gov. Bill Richardson spent most of his afternoon hearing from agencies and organizations likely to be affected by budget cuts, some state employees who sent budget-saving suggestions to the Governor's Office (at an e-mail address listed in a news release) got an automatic response saying their e-mails were "deleted without being read."

Does this represent a cruel and insensitive attitude toward state workers? Or is it the dawn of a new era of honesty in state government?

Neither, says a spokeswoman for Richardson. It was just a computer glitch — a "junk mail filter and read receipt setting error" to be exact.

Shortly after being alerted to the problem, spokeswoman Caitlin Kelleher said the problem was corrected.

"The governor wants to hear from New Mexicans. We will be holding additional office hours next week," she said in an e-mail. The e-mail for budget suggestions: