November 19, 2013. Springfield. Illinois politicians and government officials have once again shown that their arrogance and millionaire lifestyles are rivaled only by their stupidity. Those three sets of ‘golden doors’ Illinois taxpayers shelled out over $670,000 for on the Capitol building were just shown to be a security threat, on top of the biggest insult to Illinois residents in a long time.
The new $670,000 copper-plated Illinois Capitol building doors. Image courtesy of AllenSkillicorn.com.
Illinois is unanimously considered the worst state in the nation when it comes to fiscal shape and the availability of funds. That’s why so many Illinois residents were outraged to learn that government bureaucrats just spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars on six copper-plated doors for the Capitol building in Springfield. Now, we find out that those doors aren’t just an insult to taxpayers, their massive copper cladding blocks the Capitol security guards’ view of everyone approaching them until, as they put it, “it’s too late.”
The $50 million dollar insult
Not a single day goes by that Illinois residents aren’t reminded that $100 billion is literally missing from the state’s pension system. The resulting repeat-downgrades of Illinois’ credit rating has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary interest payments. And it would take an entire book to list all the services, healthcare, education, public transportation, libraries and jobs that have been eliminated to keep the state afloat for one more year.
So when Illinois taxpayers found out that their Capitol Architect J. Richard Alsop III had spent $50 million of their desperately needed money on expensive copper-plated doors and similarly expensive antique crystal chandeliers and high priced sculptures, they were outraged. In his defense, Alsop has argued that his artistic vision called for a transformation of today’s Illinois Capitol building into a replica of the building back in the 19th century. To Illinois taxpayers, it’s simply a waste and an insult.
A danger to themselves
The cat was out of the bag last week when State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) filed a Resolution calling on Secretary of State Jesse White to address the serious new security problems those glamorous copper-plated doors now create. Bost tells the state’s media outlets that his action is motivated by a discussion he had with the Capitol building’s security guards as he was entering for work.
“I walked through those doors and was just talking to the guards about something else,” the State Rep told the Chicago Sun Times, “Then they said, ‘Representative, do you see a problem?’ I said, ‘Yep, I see a problem.’ Someone could carry a weapon low, and you couldn’t tell it until they open the door.” The doors Bost and the security guards are talking about are the copper-plated doors only seven feet from their security checkpoint just inside the building.
The House Resolution is aimed specifically at longtime Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. He handles security at the State Capitol. As is typical, White wasn’t available for comment. Instead, the Sun Times quoted his spokesman Henry Haupt arguing, “The Secretary of State Police is comfortable with the current security measures that are in place.” Even with a House Resolution, statewide newspaper articles and outrage by the men and women who have to put themselves in danger now, Secretary of State White and his staff still insist they don’t know what anyone’s talking about.
In a case of the blind leading the blind, the Sun Times next went to the taxpayer funded Capitol Architect J. Richard Alsop III, who chose the outrageously expensive doors in the first place. Alsop was just as oblivious to the security concerns voiced on the floor of the House and in the Sun Times as Secretary White’s office. “We have not been notified of concerns from security personnel,” he told the publication, “We will consult with the Secretary of State’s office if changes are needed.” Of course, Henry Haupt and the Secretary of State’s office just reaffirmed that security is fine the way it is.
The problem with the doors
The problem with the doors, as explained by the unarmed security guards that have to man them everyday, is that for the most part, they are solid and opaque. With the exception of a tiny pane of chest-high glass, the doors are completely covered in shiny new copper. State Rep. Bost indicated that at this point, he’s not even trying to distract from the security concern by discussing the doors’ appearance or outrageous cost.
The former US Marine and current Republican State Representative is more interested in helping the security guards whose lives are now in danger than in talking about the cost of the doors. “I’m not asking for a whole revamping of it,” he said, “I’m saying let’s look at the possibility of a safety, an exterior camera, with a screen that’s above. I know it takes away from the beauty. But we live in a society where unfortunately we have people who lose it now and again.”
State Rep. Mike Bost knows what he’s talking about. In 2004, a mentally ill man with a 12 gauge shotgun burst through the doors of the very same Capitol building. He shot and killed one of those unarmed Statehouse guards, 51-year-old Bill Wozniak. “I remember what happened to Bill,” Bost said, illustrating that his Resolution about the copper-plated doors isn’t about politics. It’s about regular people, their safety and common sense.
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