Bias and Misleading Statements
Ms. Poma, on behalf of the OnePULSE Foundation, has made misleading statements and the museum project has been shaped by significant bias.
We have a problem with some of the statements made by Ms. Poma to survivors and family members. We also have a problem with methodologies used to justify a museum.
The OnePULSE Foundation's "non-profit" 501(c)3 status has been used to deflect our criticisms of Barbara Poma's $150k salary and other ethical issues which we have identified. The insistence that the OnePULSE Foundation is a non-profit when confronted with our critiques makes the false suggestion that non-profits are automatically ethical and that their leaders are unable to earn a profit as individuals. We know that this is not the case (see here, here, and here). We also remind readers that the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is also a non-profit.
Furthermore, we have concerns over how Barbara Poma has presented information to survivors and family members since 2016.
A private letter sent by Ms. Poma to survivors and family members in the summer of 2019, represents one instance of presenting misleading and biased information. It also presents one instance where Ms. Poma has said one thing in public and another thing in private.
This is why we call for all private communications between Ms. Poma and those directly affected by the event to be released to the public and evaluated by a neutral third party. These communications are currently approved and sent through a third party, however, they have at least one member who is also affiliated with the OnePULSE Foundation. We have documented and archived these people and their relationships, but are not disclosing them here to protect the identities of these parties. We also do not know whether or not this third party has the resources to research and verify all statements made in Ms. Poma's communications.
For example, in this summer 2019 private letter, Ms. Poma stated the following:
"...memorials are placed at the site in which they happen, not just placed in random locations."
"All the memorials we have visited have shops."
"There have never been any requests to us to perform or produce an audit."
Each of these statements is either misleading or completely false. First, there are many public memorials that are not at the sites of death. For instance, the Lincoln Memorial is not in the Ford Theatre, nor is the more recent memorial commemorating the lives taken in the Aurora shooting. In fact, many public memorials, like Columbine and the forthcoming Sandy Hook memorial, are off-site, but hardly in "random locations." In fact, denigrating the call for a public memorial park in this way cuts against responses in the OnePULSE Foundation's own 2017 survey, wherein people appreciated the off-site locations like Lake Eola and the lawn in front of the Doctor Philips Performing Art Center for their role in allowing us to come together as a city.
Second, there are plenty of memorials that do not have shops. In addition to the memorial parks reference above, there are a number of memorials right here in Central Florida that do not have retail shops. These include:
The Orlando Veterans Memorial Park, located at 2380 Lake Baldwin Ln, Orlando, FL 32814.
Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park at Lake Nona. Please note, their website states “no member, director or officer associated with this memorial has ever taken any payments as compensation for their services in conjunction with the planning and implementation of the construction of this memorial. This project was the dream of a very special group of veterans that are not seeking any reward or compensation for this endeavor. All of the officers and board members personally donated to the Foundation for the construction of the Memorial.”
Veterans Memorial Park, located at 110 W Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 3277.
Third, there have been multiple public requests for the OnePULSE Foundation to perform an audit. So this is just a direct lie made by Ms. Poma to survivors and family members. See here, here, here, and here. As of August 12, 2019, no audit has been done for 2016 and 2017.
We were also outraged by another statement that Ms. Poma made in this private letter sent in the summer of 2019.
She wrote, "We also know that our memorial and museum is not just a LGBTQ project. Not everyone there that evening was LGBTQ+. It is also a Latin, African American, and people of all colors, faiths, and genders project."
Whether purposeful or not, such a statement IS an attempt to diminish the impact of the mass shooting on the LGBTQ+ community—an attempt that has already been made by Governor DeSantis. The Orlando mass shooting was the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ+ people in this nation's history.
Moreover, this statement is also an act that tries to divide our affected community and pits members of our community against one another. The Latinx and Black attendees at the Pulse nightclub the night of the shooting were overwhelmingly LGBTQ_ and those that were not were there as community allies. Words like these do not reflect the mindset or commitments of an LGBTQ+ ally and underscore Ms. Poma's lack of fitness for the task of leading an educational project surrounding an event that was by definition intersectional.
Furthermore, we have issues with the "amazing" survey that Ms. Poma and the OnePULSE Foundation are using in their efforts to prove demand for a museum. The survey does not demonstrate affected communities or the public-at-large would prefer a museum over a public memorial park. Nor does it show that people are more interested in fundraising for a museum and not the lifetime care of survivors. This survey and its results are available on the OnePULSE Foundation's website and it was briefly discussed in their annual report, showing below:
In terms of circulation and representation, out of the 2,212 respondents, only 41 family members of victims and 60 survivors participated. In terms of survivors, this sample represents only 20% of the more than 299 impacted. For further perspective, more first responders (86) participated in the survey than survivors. In today’s digital age, a public survey about an issue of such global prominence and that impacted so many stakeholders should have garnered a considerably larger number of respondents. This is especially so, considering that the survey was publicly available for anywhere between 4-to-8 weeks. By comparison, a Change.Org petition started by the mother of one of the victims challenging the OnePULSE Foundation’s proposed “memorial” museum has garnered over 38,000 signatures, and counting, within just 3 weeks.
This gaping discrepancy indicates a significant flaw in the survey’s data collection process and radically calls into question the credibility of the data reflected in this survey. Therefore, the OnePULSE Foundation cannot claim that its 2017 survey consolidated a consensus among the community or that it accurately reflects the current will of the people.
We also find that the questions asked of respondents in the OnePULSE Foundation’s survey already framed the project of a memorial in terms of a museum, without ever allowing respondents to opt for a 100% public park as an alternative. Instead, the questions asked were based largely on design considerations, covering single-question topics like “Design Features and Elements,” “Site Emotions,” and “Design Experience.” It did not ask questions that positioned a 100% public park as a viable alternative. Most fundamentally, this skewed survey ultimately reflects Ms. Poma’s decision not to sell the property to the City of Orlando, which unilaterally took a public memorial park off the table. In other words, it appears that the OnePULSE Foundation did not ask questions that it did not want to hear the answers to.
Ms. Poma has also consistently suggested that the proposed memorial museum, its gift shop, and anticipated admission prices are normal and reflect how things are typically done in response to a public tragedy. However, the models that she provides—the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum—were not constructed in response to mass shootings nor universally accepted. It is not surprising that representatives for these memorial museums are on the OnePulse Foundation's Chairman’s Ambassadors Council.
We do not only think what Ms. Poma has said is misleading, but we also think she has created a false narrative based on what she has left out of the conversation. For example, Barbara Poma and the OnePULSE Foundation have ignored the problems and controversies associated with the model museums and have not effectively presented these issues to the public. This includes an inability for memorial museums to generate the revenue needed to cover its operating costs and similar protests by families against for turning mass shootings into "pay to grieve" institutions. See below:
Ms. Poma and the OnePULSE Foundation has also not provided the same amount of information to survivors and families about the number of public memorial parks that have been built by volunteers and cities in response to mass shootings. These examples include the public parks built or in the process of being built in Las Vegas, Aurora, and Newtown.
We have spoken to some of the volunteers who have built these memorials for their loved ones and they have told us that their direct involvement in these projects has been an integral part of their healing process. We deserve the same opportunity here in Orlando. We have allowed Barbara Poma and the OnePULSE Foundation too much power in deciding the best way for the City of Orlando to memorialize its mass shooting. This should be a public endeavor, led by those directly affected—not the owner of the gay bar.