Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Huckabee monuments

By ERNIE DUMAS
Editorial writer for the Leader

You have an invitation to attend the grand opening and dedication of the Janet Huckabee Nature Center on the Arkansas River at Fort Smith on Thursday. We understand that it is quite an impressive place.

Not long ago, the state Game and Fish Commission sponsored a similar grand opening at Pine Bluff for the Gov. Mike Huckabee Nature Center on the same river. You cannot have two nature museums named after the same person without causing some confusion, so the name of the governorís wife will adorn the Fort Smith center.

Your sales taxes paid for both of them.

Some of those taxes also were used to pay for the Gov. Mike and Janet Huckabee Lake at Hope, a small artificial impoundment in the governorís hometown that the Game and Fish Commission and locals decided to use to memorialize the governor and his first lady. Highway signs will direct you to the Huckabee monuments.

Huckabee unquestionably has been a supporter of expanded fish and wildlife programs, and he backed the sales tax increase that paid for lakes and nature centers. More to the point, he appointed every member of the state Game and Fish Commission, one of the three most cherished honorary positions in government. The commissioners decide what to name facilities that the taxpayers bought.

Before he leaves office or before his vast patronage gives way to appointees of Mike Beebe or Asa Hutchinson, there will be more buildings, highways or other government facilities named after Huckabee. His friends on the board of the state School for the Blind named a building there for him. Until now, it was considered poor form for governors, or presidents, or mayors to write their names across the horizons with the taxpayersí money simply because they controlled the patronage for an extended period. Bill Clinton was in office 12 years and didnít do it.

Dale Bumpers presided over a massive construction program at state institutions but he allowed none of the buildings, schools or parks to be named for him.

Yes, there was the Orval E. Faubus Administrative and Intensive Treatment Center at the State Hospital, dedicated in the final months of his long reign in 1966, but Faubus was not treated kindly for the arrogance.

He allowed it, he explained, because he was particularly proud of the modernization of the mental health facilities. We hope, by the way, that County Judge Buddy Villines resists the temptation to have the new $12 million bicycle bridge over the Arkansas River, now nicknamed The Big Dam Bridge, named for him.

Good manners and good taste change, we guess, but we liked it when statesmen exercised modesty and diffidence and let the judgment of history pass on their worthiness for memorials and monuments.