Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

EDITORIAL >>State naming rights

Arkansas was rocked last week by the nasty controversy over someoneís removal of a plastic sign over the entrance to the banquet room at the Governorís Mansion that had said ďJanet M. Huckabee Grand Hall.Ē In the ancient tradition of editorial writers everywhere, we now march upon the field of battle to shoot the wounded.

It turned out that Gov. Mike Beebe himself directed that the letters be removed in the midst of a little painting and redecoration because he said the plastic sign was not aesthetic, not because he wanted to slight the previous first lady or first couple. A bronze plaque identifying the room as the Janet M. Huckabee Grand Hall still stands at the outside entrance.

When they entered the mansion in 1996, the Huckabees found the old official dwelling, built during the late tenure of Gov. Sid McMath 60 years ago, too small and down at the heels. They did not think it was suitable for entertaining in the grand manner expected of a governor, so they presided over elaborate renovations and expansions, ending with the construction of the high-ceilinged banquet room that extends into the landscaped grounds on the south side of the Mansion. Itís a popular place for dinners and galas.

The Huckabees weighed in on the matter, just a little huffily as they are wont to do. The former governor and presidential candidate said that he and Janet never tried to get rid of the small bust of Bill Clinton that was placed there after the 40th (and 42nd) governor went off to be president of the United States or the little plaque in the gardens outside erected by a womenís group dedicating a small grove of trees to Betty Tucker, wife of the 43d governor.

Then there was the controversy over what to call the room since the mansion administrator said the minutes of the Governorís Mansion Com-mission, a group of Huckabee friends, never noted the official naming of the room after Mrs. Huckabee. He said people tended to call it just ďthe grand hall.Ē Beebe said people could call it whatever they wanted.

Or we can ignore political sensibilities and call it nothing. Itís only a room in the governorís official dwelling.

The silly brouhaha reminds us ruefully of the former governorís most unseemly trait ó well, one of them. That was the hunger for heraldry. The ancient patriarchs used to erect monuments to themselves, but it is considered tacky for our rulers to name edifices for themselves. We can recall only one governor in our history doing so. In the last of his 12 years in office, 1966, Gov. Orval E. Faubusís state Mental Health Board (duly appointed by him) named the new mental hospital after him, the Orval E. Faubus Administrative and Intensive Treatment Center.

But Mike Huckabee thought he was deserving and any recognition that his administration could accord him to be quite appropriate. His friends on the state Game and Fish Commission alone named a lake and a nature center after him and another nature center after his wife. Perhaps it was deserved. He helped raise your taxes to pay for the projects.
On the other hand, how does the John Q. Taxpayer Nature Center sound?
óErnie Dumas