Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Let’s just honor everybody with statues on the Illinois capitol grounds

The “Christmas Tree bill.” It was a phrase I always particularly detested from my days back when I covered the Illinois Statehouse scene.

Do we really need Thompson ...
The term applies to a piece of legislation that gets so many people adding on their pet projects to the original idea (usually completely unrelated) – in hopes that all the other things give political support to something that might not gain political favor if it stood all on their own.

WHAT I AWAYS hated about the phrase was the cutesiness of it; as though people were trying to legitimize the idea of piling on so many unrelated items onto one bill so to force approval of something that many might detest.

But that is the reality of our government – the concept that some people feel they’re entitled to “get” something for themselves in exchange for their political votes.

If you think about it too much, it really is greedy. As well as legitimizing some fairly worthless legislation.

This was the thought that crossed my mind when I read a recent report in the State Journal-Register newspaper of Springfield – one that told of efforts to pass a bill calling for various statues to be erected on the Capitol grounds. Technically, Christmas Tree bills relate to the state budget, so this isn’t one. But it certainly shares the spirit.

... or Harold Washington along ...
THE MEASURE STARTED out with the desire by some to have a statue set up to honor the memory of one-time President Ronald Reagan. He may have lived the bulk of his life in California (and served as a governor there before moving up to the federal level).

But Reagan was born in Dixon, Ill., lived one year of his childhood in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and attended college in Eureka, Ill. – before leaving the Land of Lincoln for an adult life elsewhere. Let’s not forget his eventual wife, Nancy, was a Chicago native (and a student at the Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park).

That has the ideologues amongst us determined to shove his memory down the throat of everybody. To enhance the chance that people wouldn’t vote against it for partisan reasons, there also was a suggestion that another statue be erected to the memory of Barack Obama – the one-time state senator from Hyde Park who eventually rose to the presidency.

... to get a Statehouse tribute to Obama ...
But that’s where the piling on started.

FOR IT SEEMS that some people tried suggesting a third statue – one for James R. Thompson, the man who served as Illinois governor (14 years) longer than anybody else.

That begat thoughts of honoring one-time Illinois State Federation of Labor president Reuben Soderstrom. Others tried throwing into the mix a statue of Harold Washington – a one-time state representative who eventually became Chicago’s first black mayor.

Thus far, it seems that the weight of so much bronze and/or marble is such that it is killing off the entire concept. But the legislator sponsoring the original bill told the Springfield newspaper says it’s natural to include a few extra people in the honors if it means he can get his original intent – which is to make us think of “the Gipper” himself as an Illinois native.
... or Ronald Reagan?

Even though you could argue that Reagan left us Illinoisans behind – unlike Obama, the Hawaii native, who came to us in Illinois and Chicago to achieve his greatness. Similar to Abraham Lincoln – who came to Illinois for an adult life that achieved intense success, which is why his statue on Capitol grounds occupies a prominent place up front.

BUT YOU JUST know the idea of an Obama statue solo would offend some, while others are bothered by the idea of ANY KIND of Reagan tribute.

It reminds me of when the General Assembly some two decades ago renamed a portion of Interstate 88 in the northwestern suburbs for Ronald Reagan. To get others whose memories of Reagan are less than favorable to go along, we got the renaming of the one-time Calumet Expressway for Bishop L.H. Ford. – head of the Church of God in Christ and a man of significance in certain South Side neighborhoods.
FORD: His freeway a Reagan toll road trade

Although as I remember it, even then the Legislature passed separate bills – with all the Reagan backers expected to go along and vote for Bishop Ford as well. Our state government, hard at work!

The end result being all these years of radio traffic reports every morning talking of the latest congestion on the Bishop Ford Freeway. And at least a few wiseacres responding with, “Who?”


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