Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
The Sacramento Bee has a story about the capital city's statue commemorating and honoring Mexican American soldiers. It's not in terrible shape but it could use some sprucing up. More than 44,000 people have donated $200,000 toward this cause.
But there's no way to spend the money. Disbursal would have to be approved by a commission charged by the state with overseeing the statue and that commission is moribund. It hasn't met since 2003, and even then failed to attract a quorum.
No one knows who is supposed to serve on the commission, which today has no paper or Web trail at all. A California legislator is promoting a bill that would set up a new committee under the state Department of Veterans Affairs for managing the statue and its orphaned funds.
The story reminds me of a piece I did several years ago for Washington City Paper. This city saw a high per capita ratio of its citizens serve and die in World War I and commemorated them with trees and plaques along 16th Street NW, leading from Maryland toward the White House, and with a traditional granite memorial on the National Mall. Both memorials suffer from neglect.
In particular, the trees and plaques have nearly all vanished over the years. At one time, their upkeep was paid for by slot machines, but once these were banned from public buildings, there was no source of funds. Worse, it seemed that no one was in charge of their upkeep or had any clear authority. I wrote about the plaques just as the last remaining few appeared to be in danger due to a road maintenance project. The workers and their agency had had no idea what they were there for.
It seems clear that if one generation cares enough about an event or citizens who have sacrificed, it should think through the best long-term strategy for ensuring that any memorial will be cared for long after its initial promoters have passed on.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.