Preservationists have grown increasingly concerned about the nationwide trend to balance national and state budgets on the backs of our heritage.
This isn’t a new issue but the impact is now being felt nationwide, not only in national programs but in state after state. A large number of legislatures this past winter went for disproportionate cuts to historic preservation, historic parks, and incentives for reusing and revitalizing our communities.
It is such a short-sighted approach to governing. But perhaps – just perhaps – the national media and the public are finally beginning to see the issue.
Just yesterday, two stories came out that spoke to this folly.
The first, a column by NY Times writer Timothy Egan, speaks to the misguided approach by the State of California. Egan is a favorite of mine, who writes from outside the New York-to-Washington echo chamber and has two great histories out in his Dust Bowl-related The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn, which chronicles the founding of the Forest Service. Yesterday’s Fall of the Wild column in the Times included the following observation:
Along with 69 other sites, Jack London State Historic Park will be shuttered, gates locked, and left to meth labs, garbage outlaws and assorted feral predators. Nearly 50 percent of all of California’s historic parks are on the closure list. This is not a scare tactic from the state. Parks go dark starting in September.
Even during the Great Depression, when this state had 30 million fewer people, California somehow found a way to keep its parks and heritage sites open.
The nuclear option is being executed to reach a budget cut of $22 million mandated by a failed state that is forcing lethal whacks for all, even with an improved budget forecast. That’s right, $22 million — one-fifth the price of a recent sale of a single private mansion in Los Altos. It’s a broken California, sadder by the day…
That type of action is being taken in more states than California. Our land – our parks and historic sites – are being closed to us because our governments can’t do the basic tasks of governance.
Which brings me to the second article that hit yesterday’s media. Regular readers know that I don’t typically spend time on the likes of politics when there’s so much more of interest to discuss. However, I’ll break that rule today to share a link from Alyssa Rosenberg in Think Progress. Her description of Sarah Palin’s Federal Employee-Assisted Vacation reminds us all that these places that we all love and cherish aren’t saved for future generations by chance. Federal employees, advocates, volunteers – and taxpayers – keep these places open for everyone, so we can learn from history instead of repeating its mistakes.
If we don’t start focusing less on politics and more on governance, then we can expect more and more of our heritage to be at risk. What a shame.
More to come…