Op-ed: For Many Armenian Americans, 2017 is year 99

Friday, March 3, 2017

BURBANK - For many Armenian Americans, 2017 is year 99.

We often put a lot of emphasis on 100. It’s a centennial, a century, a perfect score, a magical round number. But 99 is an interesting number, too. It’s right before you get to the big number. If you are turning 99 years old, you know that the remaining year is a significant journey. It’s not an easy thing to complete that final year. The First Republic of Armenia was established in 1918, which means this is year 99, just one step left before we celebrate the 100th anniversary.

We are also on the home stretch in another way. We are nearing the establishment of the Armenian American Museum in Glendale. Glendale, where I was on the city council, is home to what is believed to be the largest Armenian community outside Armenia. Though planning is proceeding well, and environmental studies are getting going to place the museum in Central Park, we still have a long way to go, just like that last year from 99 to 100.

One of the things that may stand in our way is funding. The State Budget for 2016-17 was passed by the Assembly I am now privileged to be part of. It was also passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Jerry Brown. That budget set aside $1 million for the Armenian American Museum, money that will be vital to the completion of the project.

The museum will be something significant far beyond Glendale and even far beyond our region. As a repository for information, artifacts and study materials, the museum is expected to be a resource for Armenians and scholars around the world.  It is also symbolic of California’s diversity, and a monument against prejudice.

But that $1 million may be in jeopardy. Governor Brown’s budget proposal withdraws that money that was set aside, amid revenue projections that are widely thought to be on the low side.

The museum funding was set aside by the state and should still be used for that purpose. It isn’t the full cost of building the museum, but think of it like that last year between 99 and 100. It’s just a piece of the total, but it’s an important piece, without which you don’t get to the goal.

On the 4th floor of our Capitol is a beautiful rug hung on the wall in the hallway. It was a gift from the Assembly Speaker of Armenia to the then Assembly Speaker of California. It represents the ties between our state and that country, a connection that goes back more than 100 years.

California’s gift to Armenians everywhere should be this museum, but we need everyone’s support on this to make sure that funding is secured.