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Reeder: Don’t name anything after pols until they leave office

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:19AM



Do Illinois politicians suffer from an edifice complex?

I couldn’t help but wonder that when I was driving recently down Main Street in my hometown of Galesburg and found myself on the Donald L. Moffitt Overpass.

Usually you think of bridges, buildings, parks and other public facilities being named after someone once they are dead, or at least out of office. But state Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) is alive and well and still in office.

Illinois politicians have a habit of naming things after one another.

In case you think I’m picking on Moffitt, I’m not. He’s a nice fellow whom I genuinely like.

But come on, do we really need to be naming things after politicians while they’re still in office?

I object to this system in which the governing class believes it necessary to honor one another and feed their already large egos by naming things after each other.

Galesburg, of course, is not alone in this regard. Other communities have done it, too:

Jacobs Park in East Moline is named after state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) and his dad, Denny, who also was a state senator. City officials said Mike helped obtain $2 millionto refurbish and buy new park equipment.

The Sidney H. Mathias Transit Center in Buffalo Grove was named in 1999 after the village’s former mayor and current state Rep. Sid Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove).

Kankakee Community College officials named the school’s gym the George H. Ryan Activities Center, after one of our two imprisoned ex-governors. While the college’s students are sweating it out in the gym, Ryan’s job is cleaning gym equipment at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

The man who didn’t learn from Ryan’s errors after replacing him in the office, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, once suggested that the state could make money by selling naming rights for various state institutions.

The idea was dismissed, if not ridiculed, at the time, but it would seem a better alternative for a bankrupt state than naming them after politicians, especially those still on the job.

After all, incumbents already have considerable name recognition. Why bolster their re-election chances further by having their constituents see their names on public buildings?

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that these buildings and other public amenities are paid for with our money, not the politicians’.

Yes, I’m aware that Abraham Lincoln was a politician and that the state has more things named after him than you can shake a stick at. But the difference is that Honest Abe, as one of our greatest presidents and having died in an assassination, is much more deserving of such recognition than your ordinary pol.

Most Illinoisans have little, if any, objection to Lincoln’s name being on buildings, parks, bridges and roads as well as a national cemetery and a rather famous monument in our nation’s capital. After all, Illinois is the Land of Lincoln. (By the way, the town of Lincoln, Ill., had the foresight to name itself after Lincoln before he became president.)

Interesting enough, since Blagojevich’s impeachment and federal conviction, the state has been busy removing his name and that of his wife from just about everything. Even the wildflowers the state planted along highways no longer are identified as a Patty Blagojevich-inspired project.

And the Legislature balked at paying for a portrait of Blagojevich to hang in the Capitol (like other governors before him). Never mind that fellow gubernatorial felons Ryan, Otto Kerner Jr. and Daniel Walker didn’t lose that honor.

But with Blagojevich, they would just as soon wipe away the legacy with the ease of a turpentine-soaked rag on canvass.

It kind of reminds me of that scene in the movie the “The Ten Commandments” when the Egyptian Pharaoh confronts Moses and says: “Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet. Stricken from every pylon and obelisk of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of man, for all time.”

It just goes to show you, politicians have always loved to create monuments to themselves.

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist-in-residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group that supports the free market and limited government.



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