Leave it Governor Clueless to compound the tragic shooting that occurred two weeks ago today on the campus of Northern Illinois University (NIU).
As you probably heard, a former NIU graduate student shot and killed five students and himself in a lecture hall, wounding many others, for reasons still unknown. Classes resumed at NIU earlier this week.
Yesterday, Governor Clueless (aka Blagojevich), who has no lack of other problems, announced a plan to demolish Cole Hall, where the killings took place, and replace it with a new classroom building and memorial, to the tune of $40 million. The money will come from an emergency appropriation he is proposing to the legislature. Cole Hall was not damaged in the assault, beyond some broken glass, nor was it scheduled to be replaced anytime soon. No, this is all about...here, I'll let NIU president John Peters explain it, as reported in today's Chicago Tribune.
"I talked to a lot of people, and very early on I made the decision that we had to raze that, we had to demolish that building and replace it with something fitting, something fitting our needs and as a memorial," Peters said. He said it was necessary to "consecrate" the site.
That's the going rate for consecration these days? $40 million?
Thankfully, the legislature is not falling all over itself to comply. Some lawmakers are even making sense.
Senator Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who coordinates budget matters for senate Republicans, suggested slowing down to "get a little distance from the tragedy."
"We need to make good public policy, and making decisions based solely on emotions is not going to create good public policy or good use of tax dollars," she said.
Amen to that.
President Peters can perhaps be excused because (A) Governor Clueless is his boss and (B) his campus will get a new, unbudgeted $40 million building.
Cole Hall was built in 1968. It is a centerpiece of the campus, consisting of two 500-seat lecture halls. Anticipating suggestions that it merely be remodeled, the Trib notes that it "likely cannot be used for other purposes." No, but it can be used for all the purposes for which it was used before February 14, and why shouldn't it be?
On February 2, five women were shot and killed in a Lane Bryant store in a shopping center in Tinley Park, another town in the Chicago area. That shooting was every bit as senseless and spectacular as the one at NIU a few days later. Nobody, yet, is talking about tearing that down and replacing it with a new, bigger and better Lane Bryant store. They probably would if they could get tax dollars to pay for it.
I certainly don't mean to diminish either tragedy, or any other of the thousands of tragic and senseless deaths that occur around the world every day. If the standard becomes that we have to spend $40 million every time there is a senseless killing, we're going to need a lot more money.
And please, fellow Illinois taxpayers, note that "we" and think about what other pressing priorities $40 million could address in our state.
Like just about everything that comes out of Rod Blagojevich's mouth, this is a bad idea. It sets a terrible precedent and is a grotesque grandstand play by a clueless governor who will do anything to distract attention from his administration's disastrous performance.