Saturday, November 22, 2003

Springfield Trip
I visited Springfield Tuesday to meet with various legislators in an effort to get something done with the Old Slave House. And let me say first, those stories you may have read this week about friction between the General Assembly and the Governor's office are true. If anything, those stories understate the situation.

Other than briefly speaking with state Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro as he was exiting the Capital while I was entering, my conversations were solely with Democrats in the House and Senate. There's a definite friction. Friction between the executive and legislative branches of government, friction between the House and Senate and friction even within the various caucuses. Since school children use this site for history assignments I can't even repeat some of the comments I heard while passing through the offices made about the governor and fellow lawmakers.

Some of the reasons are petty, some large, but mostly it's getting personal and nasty. There are as many reasons, if not more, than there are lawmakers, but it mostly centers around trust, and the general lack thereof.

The Old Slave House was not an issue during this past veto session. Some lawmakers told me it was a done deal, based on their conversations with the governor's office a month ago. What they didn't know was that the governor's office undid the deal just before he announced his economic plan for Southern Illinois a little over a week ago. Some of the explosive comments came after I told them that.

As I reported last week, the governor's office balked at what I've been told was a $3 million upfront price tag on restoring the site in order to reopen it. Also, as I reported, I don't blame them for balking at the price tag. But still, is it too much to ask for the governor's office to take action on a proposal that doesn't require the state to spend anything this year? Turning the site over to a non-profit group to operate is viable.

I felt like the only person in Springfield who didn't want any money from the state. I probably was.

So what's next? Nobody knowns, but the Black Caucus is ready to "take it to the next level." I hope to have some more meetings in the next few weeks to see what can be done. When there's news I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, please keep up the pressure. Tell your lawmakers and the governor's office the site needs to be open now, next spring, not three to five years from now.