Categories
Historic Preservation Illinois

Blagojevich Cuts Historic Sites Out of Restored Funding

by Michael R. Allen

Rod Blagojevich, America’s least popular governor with approval ratings consistently lower than President George W. Bush, has again taken aim at Illinois’ state historic sites. Yesterday, Blagojevich signed part of a $230 million state budget passed by the legislature that restored funding cuts made to state parks and historic sites. The part that Blagojevich vetoed, however, included all of the funding needed to prevent closure of 13 state historic sites. The governor claimed that the funds that the legislature allocated for historic sites is federally prohibited from being used that way — and he may be right. Still, there are other sources of funding, including revenues the governor approved being used to spare the 11 state parks that had been slated for closure.

Blagojevich’s move seems extraordinarily petty and intended to marginalize the struggle to keep the state historic sites open. By removing that struggle from the struggle to reopen the state parks, the governor is trying to divide the army of advocates fighting both sites of closures.

Once again, though, Blagojevich has made a huge mistake. Citizens across the state — and, really, the nation — will not back down in efforts to keep the sites open. From the Dana Thomas House in Springfield (pictured above), an internationally-revered work of Frank Lloyd Wright, to Fort de Chartres in Prairie du Rocher, the oldest building in the state, the historic sites are the lifeblood of historians and towns whose economies benefit from the tourist economy. Expect an outcry that will grow as strong as the importance of the 13 sites — one that will not be silenced by reactionary politicking in Springfield.

A Randolph County where the Fort and the Pierre Menard Home are closed is a frightening prospect to area residents. The Vandalia Statehouse, Carl Sandburg birthplace and Dana Thomas House are as ingrained in the hearts of Illinoisans as the Sears Tower and the capitol, and people are not going to let them meet uncertain fates. This matter will be brought back to the budget or to the ballot box. The legislature is now on board. The governor may be the only person in the state on the other side.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *