Sunday, May 08, 2011
Food for thought from the Post Star Editorial when getting water at the Joe Bruno Spring at Saratoga Spa State Park
Editorial: Time to end ‘monuments to me’
StoryDiscussionEditorial: Time to end ‘monuments to me’
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 7:52 pm | (1) Comments
Font Size:Default font sizeLarger font size.If the Charles R. Wood Foundation donates a million dollars to a hospital wing, they don't put the name of his bank on the building. They put Charles R. Wood's name on it.
So why is it when some politician directs taxpayer money to a building or an athletic field or an educational program, people feel it's appropriate to put the politician's name on it?
What's even worse is that when that politician is later disgraced through unethical or illegal actions, the name of the building in his honor remains.
Retired Sen. Joseph Bruno, a convicted felon who was forced out of office because of allegations he used his powerful Senate majority seat to direct state business to contractors in exchange for "consulting fees," has at least 16 buildings in Rensselear County named after him, one in each town and city in the county.
Among the many buildings bearing his name is Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats, a professional minor league baseball team. So did Mr. Bruno donate his personal fortune to help build the stadium, as the aforementioned Mr. Wood did in donating his own money to everything from hospital wings to theaters?
No, he didn't.
Was Mr. Bruno a famous baseball player or a beloved coach or Little League benefactor?
No he wasn't.
Mr. Bruno is so prominently honored because he used his job an elected official to guide $14 million of the taxpayers' money to the people who wanted to build the stadium. That $14 million works out to almost $1 for every man woman and child in the state. But are our names on the side of the building? No they aren't.
Mr. Bruno is the not the first, nor the last, politician to be honored with a facade. He's not the only unethical one. He's not even the most recent one.
Rep. Charles Rangel, a congressman from Harlem, last year was found guilty by a House ethics panel and censured by the full House of ethical violations for, among other things, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from companies doing business before Congress for an academic building at the City College of New York. That episode is just one in a long list of accusations made against Rangel for illegal or unethical conduct. By the way, the name of that academic building for which he was soliciting all that money: The Rangel Center for Public Service. Even after he was censured, the college said it had no plans to remove his name from the building. They're probably not giving the money back either.
There are numerous other examples of politicians being honored for helping direct our tax dollars to a project. In many cases, the politician isn't accused of being corrupt or doing anything wrong. But having a permanent campaign ad on a prominent building is a pretty strong incentive for an incumbent legislator to lobby for funds for a particular project.
In 2007, for example, state Sen. Michael Nozzolio directed $1.5 million of state taxpayer money to an athletic facility in Monroe County. He also secured a $25,000 state grant for a youth soccer program. Guess who the soccer complex is named after. You can't buy that kind of campaign advertising. Or maybe you can.
Not everyone is taking this practice lying down.
In several states, there are movements afoot to outlaw the practice of naming public buildings and other property after incumbent or retired politicians. In addition to buildings, highways and airports are popular places to attach a legislative benefactor's name. Joe Bruno once had a bronze bust prominently displayed in the Albany airport. It's since been relocated.
Ending so-called "monuments to me" has been an uphill battle for New Mexico state Sen. Mark Boitano, who objects on the basis that it's "free 24/7 advertising" for the incumbents. "It's not right," he said. He not only wants the naming practice stopped, he also wants the names of sitting politicians removed from existing buildings. But so far, he's not getting much enthusiastic support from his fellow lawmakers. His bill has been tabled in the New Mexico state Senate.
Congress has also toyed with the idea of banning "monuments to me." The late Sen. Richard Byrd of West Virginia had more than 30 public entities named after him during his tenure in Congress, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Our public officials must reject any practice that makes it appear as if they're trading their office for personal gain.
Rather than naming public buildings after the politicians who secure taxpayer funding, why not name the buildings after the people who actually provide the funding?
John Q. Taxpayer Stadium has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Tom Sullivan.
Copyright 2011 The Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
.Posted in Editorial on Friday, May 6, 2011 7:52 pm