by Max Brantley
ABC is supposedly going to be on hand for testimony in committee today on Rep. Dan Greenberg's bill to bar the naming (link fixed) of public buildings and facilities after people living at the time of completion of the facilities.
This is time-wasting trivia. I think the name game is out of hand. But there's a lot of bad taste out there. We don't begin to have time to legislate against all of it. I also think people who engage in, or allow, this particular bit of bad taste and sycophancy ultimately pay the price. The Huckabees have become something of a joke for allowing their political appointees and friends to slap their names on stuff all over Arkansas. (This bill would not be retroactive, by the way.)
Here's the really offensive thing about this legislation. It would prohibit the naming of structures for public officials who might have had a long, noble and meaningful role in the construction of a difficult public project. I might happen to personally think that public service is public service and a good deed's accomplishment is reward enough. But I suspect we could find a project somewhere in Arkansas where a public official overcame tough odds and opposition to get a good project completed. He or she may not be honored by a name on the structure if this legislation passes, at least not until after death or many years out of office.
But if you have a fat bank account and if you decide to order up a pet project at a public institution -- let's just say you are a discount store heiress who earned none of your billions, but decide you'd like to build a School of Estate Tax Avoidance in the business college of the state's land grant university, no problem. The heiress' name may be slapped on THAT building.
In short, the state is for sale: but only for cash, not honest toil.
UPDATE: The bill went nowhere today. Rep. Steve Harrelson moved to amend the bill to make it retroactive for five years. The amendment was tabled. He then moved to table the bill and that motion passed.