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Let aquarium bond die

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The Living Planet Aquarium's long list of problems — rumors of bad management, a police investigation into the possible theft of funds, the resignation of nine board members over two months — ought to at long last put an end to any thought of using public money to build a large facility.

Financial and management problems certainly have sapped any confidence public leaders should have in this endeavor. Beyond that, however, a large inland aquarium — in an arid desert, no less — never did make much sense.

Supporters through the years have made optimistic claims in meetings with us. Among these were that a large aquarium would attract tourists to the Wasatch Front who otherwise had planned to drive through only the southern portion of the state. Convention planners would come here just so delegates could see the fish.

Aquariums make sense in seaside cities where people expect to see marine life. Visitors to the desert, however, more often want to see displays of local flora and fauna. Local organizations such as Tracy Aviary and Red Butte Garden understand this and provide valuable and interesting insights into this unique geographic region.

The aquarium's current facility, within an old grocery store in Sandy, does offer interesting displays. However, its relative value as a part of the area's culture suggests it isn't worthy of public funding.

Both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have been stringing the aquarium along for years, holding out the hope that voters might be given a chance to approve a large bond to help construct a state-of-the-art facility. But local taxpayers already are helping to support everything from a zoo to museums to performing arts groups and a soccer stadium. Many of these fit into the community's legitimate need to preserve and promote its culture and heritage. But lines have to be drawn.

With the Aquarium Board in disarray and the County Council losing interest, this seems as good a time as any to pull the plug on what might have been a $34.5 million bond on ballots in 2008.