We have all experienced the same feeling when our family or friends sing and it becomes painful to listen. It’s called “tone deafness,” and there is a major case of it at the Illinois State Capitol.
Legislators or their staffs who become “politically tone deaf,” lose touch with their constituents. The latest Springfield tone deafness came in the form of six copper doors that were recently installed at the Capitol as part of the West Wing renovations. The project is part of an on-going rehabilitation of the 140-year-old building.
The Chicago Sun-Times and a columnist for the Springfield Journal-Register were the first to expose the obscene $670,000 spent on three sets of doors. Since the initial reports, it was noted that an additional $481,000 was spent on four chandeliers and two sculptures. These projects are part of a noble effort to restore our Capitol and make it the finest one in the nation.
I can agree with the intent, but is $1.05 million spent on doors, chandeliers and sculptures the best usage of precious taxpayer-funded capital construction monies? I believe the response is “NO,” especially in light of the state’s dire fiscal situation. While the Illinois State Capitol is the “people’s building,” we must be more sensitive to the “people’s money.” These monies spent on the Capitol improvements are part of the 2009 Illinois Jobs Now! plan which is a separate funding source from the General Revenue Fund, but those monies are not always that easy to spot.
Right now, too many state service vendors are running 6 – 9 months behind on their reimbursements for daycare, medical services or other contractual obligations. Our local units of government are only receiving partial payments are part of long-standing revenue sharing agreements. Now the citizen reads about copper doors which are blinding to the average Capitol Complex worker. How many teachers have been laid off as a result of shrinking state funds or how many private sector jobs lost because an employer is owed millions of dollars from the deadbeat Land of Lincoln?
The public is certainly more sympathetic to spending on roads, bridges, schools or other critical infrastructure upgrades, but their tolerance for copper doors – is lacking. It is apparent that these projects have several years of planning behind them and come at great costs, but a delicate balance must be struck – if at a minimum for the public’s perception. This “devil” was certainly in the details and more effort must be spent on the implementation of the state’s capital-spending plan.
It is easy to support fixing a crumbling bridge, but polishing those copper doors will come at a cost for future generations. Let us just hope that future capital plans are executed with a little less “tone deafness.”