I'm on the internet catching up on the news, and I come across an article from Reason Magazine titled "We're the Government. We'd Rather Pay for It," which reminds me of a local story that I'll share with you in a few moments.
Back in 2003, retired Glenwood Springs, CO resident John Haines wanted to DONATE a chunk of snow-white marble to the federal government to replace the cracked Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Not only was this a donation, but also a very special piece of marble.
Haines had it cut from the same Yule Marble Quarry that the gold-veined marble for the original was cut about 80 years ago. The marble on the outside of the Lincoln Memorial was mined from this same place. He spent almost 5 years searching the quarry for a perfect, unflawed piece that would look just like the original.
Haines then arranged donated delivery on a flag-decorated flatbed truck, and local sculptor Davidmark Trujillo, spearheaded the idea of having local sculptors replicate the cuttings and carvings. He said, "This renews my faith in America. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to come and be a part of this."
But wait ... your Federal government steps in!
This beautiful chunk of marble has been sitting outside the quarry since 2003. In a recent 34-page "study" by the Department of the Army presented to Congress (one of many they've done in the 18 years since it cracked), this donated piece of marble isn't even mentioned.
"It's not doable. A citizen can't just give us any piece of marble and say, 'This is what we'll use to replace the tomb,' " said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington.
The "report", you see ... "estimates the cost of replacing the tomb's marble at $2.2 million - $80,000 of that for seeking bids, $90,000 for buying and transporting the marble and the remainder for sculpting"
Why take a special piece of marble, free of charge, when you can spend $2.2 million taxpayer dollars?
And the story I was reminded of ...
The Detroit Public Schools (DPS):
Forbes Magazine recently rated Detroit as "America's Most Miserable City". Among the reasons were "the country's highest rate for violent crime and the second-highest unemployment rate. As an added kicker you need more Superfund dollars allocated to your city to clean up contaminated toxic waste sites than just about any other metro."
I live here. Forbes is being generous.
While the teachers in the DPS enjoy "the highest average public school teacher pay among metropolitan areas for which data are available, at $47.28 per hour," the district touts the lowest graduation rate out of the nation's 50 largest school districts. The DPS is also deeply in debt.
With all that in mind ... let's take a trip back to the year 1999 ... Michigan resident Bob Thompson sold his construction company for $442 million. Deciding that was than what he needed for retirement, he distributed $128 million to his employees. He then offered to donate $200 million to build 15 charter high schools in Detroit's inner city. The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) went nuts, and "Hip-hop Mayor" Kwame Kilpatrick(D) and Governor Jennifer Granholm(D) denied his generous donation. In fact, they took a school-day off to protest in Lansing!
Bob Thompson renewed his offer in 2005, but met again with hostility. As Janna Garrison, DFT president says, "We stand prepared to sue if they attempt to come into the city. We will fight them every step of the way."
Partnering with the government-friendly Skillman Foundation, Bob and his wife finally got to build one school. They spent $15 million building the 5-building campus, University Prep, near downtown Detroit. The school is run by Doug Ross, a former member of the Clinton administration.
And THAT, my friends ... is government bureaucracy in a nutshell!