Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Digs, Deaf Ears, and an Occasional Swear Word

cross posted at Right Michigan

I know a guy. He is a post commander for the Michigan State Police.

During his last visit our conversation turned toward the construction of the new state police headquarters in Lansing. He was adamant that a majority of the policemen, as well as himself, were strongly opposed to the new building. He seemed to swear more often the longer we talked about it.

The new building would be too small, too expensive, was driven by politics and not need, and was embarrassing for many of the officers because they feared they might be perceived as being in support of it. I think he swore again at that point. As far as he was concerned, it was a project being ramrodded through by a governor that had no idea what the needs of the MSP were.

That was perhaps a year ago when the final disposition of the building was still slightly in doubt.

Today that disposition is no longer in question as over one hundred administrative personnel this morning began unpacking boxes in a first salvo of relocations that will land over 500 employees in the modern building by tax day.

In the past two budget years, the new building was not the only line item in the MSP budget that was uncertain. Trooper levels in the state have fluctuated with shrinking tax receipts. There have been layoffs and recalls and a good dose of controversy over them.

While the new building is now officially in use, some of the laid off troopers have still not been called back to work, a situation that irritates many taxpayers, troopers, taxpayers needing troopers, and an occasional swearing post commander.

A 70 year old building is far from modern. Yet, if the private sector abandoned every 70 year old building our cities would be much larger than they currently are with every third building standing vacant. My house was built in 1934 making it older than the soon to be abandoned police headquarters. (It was apparently built before the average carpenter knew how to use a square or a level.) I would love a new house; one with a new roof and better windows. Staying in my current house makes financial sense to me even though it has an occasional handsome repair bill.

I have discovered that there are times when our most fervent desires should not be pursued. Those of us who live on a personal budget, those that cannot issue bonds, and those that cannot simply legislate money into our wallets from one year to the next, recognize this.

Despite evidence that it is unnecessary and over the objections of many who have noted the evidence, today we have administrators moving into a gleaming new government building in downtown Lansing. This is because our resident politicians are willing to plop down millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars in the pursuit of the impractical. It sure isn't the first time and I know it won't be the last.

If I took the time to listen very closely, I'm certain I could today hear the faint sound of distant expletives being carried on the breeze. That is, if it isn't drowned out by the glee of people who today are enjoying the smell of freshly painted walls.

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