Jun 6, 2016
When a House Is Not a (Permanent) Home
Is the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion the people’s house – or just the home of our state’s current Governor and his wife? If it is the people’s house, is it reasonable to administer routine maintenance and operation through an ongoing custodian such as the Mansion Commission, or should each Governor have sole control? Arkansas lawmakers passed...
If it is the people’s house, is it reasonable to administer routine maintenance and operation through an ongoing custodian such as the Mansion Commission, or should each Governor have sole control?
Arkansas lawmakers passed a so-called “government efficiency bill” during the recent special session that stripped the Mansion Commission of its historic role in operating the Mansion and gave that responsibility solely to the Governor.
The “efficiency bill” didn’t save any taxpayer money, and it’s true the Commission hadn’t done the greatest job in the past few years. However, this historic building benefits from a long-range view of ongoing maintenance that should be administered in a non-partisan manner and is not subject to the whims of temporary residents every 4 to 8 years. (What’s wrong with adding accountability and specific rules on Commission operations — as the Commission was in the process of doing when our Governor took it over instead?)
The ongoing “tension” over Mansion decorating laid out in Saturday’s Democrat-Gazette between First Lady Susan Hutchinson and the Mansion Commission makes it obvious why the Arkansas Legislature was so focused on the Mansion Commission’s “efficiency.” When asked about this legislation during the Session, the Governor’s office said it was an idea brought forward by Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Senator Missy Irvin, but since has justified the takeover with numerous reasons why they say the Commission was not performing its legally mandated oversight.
Unless the Hutchinsons plan to purchase the property in downtown Little Rock’s historic Quapaw Quarter, the Governor’s Mansion is still the people’s house. How will changing the Mansion Commission to be under the Governor’s sole control serve the people’s best interest?
A balance must be struck between public and private uses, and the Mansion should be as comfortable as possible for the (temporary) residents who live there. But temporary residents cannot adequately administer an ongoing maintenance/operations plan that will ensure the continued viability of this beautiful and historic structure.
Consolidating all control over maintenance and operation into the Governor’s office is a bad idea that circumvents the idea of the Mansion being the people’s house – especially if driven by disputes over drapery fabric, toilets, and certain pieces of antique furniture!
It sure looks like gutting the Mansion Commission and giving the Governor sole control was not to satisfy the residents’ obligation to the people’s house so much as it was the Governor’s desire to back up his wife (not the first time our Governor has made questionable, contrarian moves in support of a family member).