The word Kaleideum is a combination of kaleidoscope and museum. The name is still growing on me. The Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and SciWorks, merged in 2016 to form Kaleideum. Since that time they have been working with Forsyth County to build a new, combined facility in Downtown Winston. The public-private partnership is getting more public and less private with each passing month. A $30.5 million Kaleideum bond is on this Thursday’s Forsyth County Commissioners’ agenda.
I don’t mind saying “hello to Kaleideum,” but I don’t want to pay for the whole bloated project either. As a kaleidoscope changes with each viewing, Kaleideum has changed its budget requests each time it’s gone before the County Commissioners. First Kaleideum wanted over $17 million; now it’s over $30 million.
The amount of taxpayer dollars that Kaleideum is seeking is nothing to toy with. Forsyth County has limited resources. $30 million could fund a couple of new libraries in East Winston, upgrade old recreation centers, and still have enough left over to give teachers more supplemental pay.
Giving Kaleideum prime downtown property (the old Sheriff’s Office building at 120 W. Third St.) was more than generous. But Kaleideum keeps coming back to the Commissioners for more.
At the February 7 meeting of the Forsyth County Commissioners, the team behind Kaleideum made a presentation to the County. Representatives from Stitch design, Blum construction, and Elizabeth Dampier, Executive Director of Kaleideum spoke about their vision for Kaleideum, and it’s benefits for our community. They argued that Kaleideum Downtown would complement the adjacent downtown projects, such as Merschel Plaza.
A new Kaleideum Downtown would be “transformational project for Downtown Winston,” but at what cost? Kaleideum’s initial request of over $17 million was outrageous; now the County is going to double the amount they initially pledged to over $30 million?
Why is it that the City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County keep teaming up to subsidize another Downtown Winston development. Hasn’t Downtown Winston already been transformed at taxpayer expense?
The City and County should be working together in East Winston, the community with the greatest need, the community that has for generations been underserved and misserved by the City and County. Instead, they are giving our tax dollars to Kaleideum, who should be raising the money themselves.
Given the shameful rates of child poverty and food insecurity in Forsyth County, how can the County give over $30 million to a downtown museum? Kaleideum won’t feed hungry kids, and it’s too far from the urban core to help the children of East Winston.
I thought taxpayers learned their lesson when the taxpayer price tag for BB&T Ballpark doubled a decade ago. Kaleideum Downtown is Billy Prim’s BB&T Ballpark 2.0. At this point, Downtown Winston developers should pay for their own projects. Kaleideum isn’t entitled to anything more than a modest subsidy from Forsyth County.
But Don Martin, a member of Kaleideum’s board is improperly spearheading an effort to give Kaleideum a lump sum gift larger than any non-profit has ever received from the City of Winston-Salem or Forsyth County.
Martin, a trained physicist, discussed a complicated financial formula at the February 7 meeting of the County Commissioners to fund a new facility for Kaleideum. Paul Fulton, the County’s Cheif Financial Officer, clearly had reservations about giving so much to Kaleideum. But Martin zealously pushed the matter forward, caution be damned!
Where is the indignation? Where is the outrage from The Chronicle? Why aren’t they questioning over $30 million going to essentially aid children in Downtown Winston, when kids in East Winston have far greater needs? Why isn’t The Journal’s Scott Sexton questioning this latest fleecing of local taxpayers?
Commissioner Don Martin is too close to Kaleideum. It’s improper for him to sit on the board of Kaleideum and then push his fellow Forsyth County Commissioners to give $30 them. He should have recused himself from all votes before the County involving Kaleideum. Instead, Martin has belligerently pressured the Commissioners to mortgage the County’s future, so that Kaleideum can have a new downtown facility, while the children of East Winston get short-changed.
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