I can’t believe what I read in the clips this morning. The Senate doesn’t want to come up with $27 million to restore the 1856 Governor’s Mansion, one of the oldest surviving buildings west of the Mississippi. Have they lost their minds? What’s the alternative? Leave it as a charred hulk, a monument to DPS’s incompetence? Duncan, of all people, is quoted as saying, “It seems to me to be a hard sell back home. How do we defend that?” Don’t they teach history in the Lubbock Independent School District? Or is he just trying to protect more pork for Texas Tech? Nor did Rick Perry speak up for the restoration; a spokeswoman said he was concerned about the cost. This is from a Legislature that authorized $9 billion in bonds last year, even bonded something as ordinary as equipment, which should be paid for with cash. Is it too much to ask to authorize $27 million in bonds for one of the most historic buildings in the country? The Legislature didn’t hesitate to spend in the hundreds of millions to restore its own house in the nineties.
The real issue in determining the future of the Governor’s Mansion is not whether to restore it but what its function should be. Should it continue to be the living quarters for the governor? Or should it become a museum and events center, with the Legislature providing a housing allowance for the governor? I have my issues with Rick Perry, but I think the flap about the cost of his living quarters while the mansion is uninhabitable is silly. This isn’t Arkansas. We don’t expect the governor to live in a doublewide.
Much of the expense of restoration involves new expenses for living quarters: $3 million for security, a two-story addition for storage, a family kitchen, and a bedroom with bath, according to the Chronicle’s story. If the Mansion is turned into a museum, which can be rented for events, or used by the Governor to host gatherings or state functions, the cost of the restoration could be reduced. More Texans will get more out of a restored Governor’s Mansion than they will out of $27 million sprinkled throughout the budget.