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Reeder: Ill. politicians creating monuments for themselves?

Published: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD – Do Illinois politicians suffer from an edifice complex?

I couldn’t help but wonder that when I was driving 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 each another.

In case you think I’m picking on Moffitt, I’m not. He’s a nice fellow who I genuinely like. But come on, do we really need to be naming things after politicians while they are still in office?

I object to this system in which the governing class honors one another by naming things after each other.

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 was also a state senator. City officials said Sen. Mike Jacobs helped obtain $2 million, which was used to refurbish and buy new park equipment.

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

• Kankakee Community College officials named the school’s gym the George H. Ryan Activities Center. Ironically while college students are sweating it out in the gym, the convicted former governor’s prison job is wiping sweat off gym equipment in the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Another corrupt former governor, Rod Blagojevich, once suggested the state could make money by selling naming rights of various state institutions. The idea was pooh-poohed at the time, but it would seem a better alternative than naming state facilities after politicians still in office.

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 forget that these buildings and other public amenities are paid for with our money – not the politicians’.

Yes, I’m aware Abraham Lincoln was a politician and the state has more things named after him than you can shake a stick at. But the difference is that he was out of office and buried before folks began hanging his moniker on parks, bridges and roads. (The exception of course is the town of Lincoln, Ill., which had the foresight to name itself after Lincoln before he became president.)

Interestingly enough, since Blagojevich’s impeachment, 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.

The Legislature even prohibited paying for a portrait of Blagojevich to hang in the Capitol (like other governors before him).

Never mind that fellow gubernatorial felons Otto Kerner, Jr., Daniel Walker and George Ryan didn’t lose that honor.

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. He can be reached at: sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.

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