One of my biggest gripes about our government is the hubris that comes from spending years in public office. This manifests itself in many forms, but one of the worst is the practice of naming buildings or other public projects after sitting elected officials. Though it seems worse when the official tries to do it himself or herself, it is just as reprehensible when it is done through their network of cronies in their respective house or senate chambers.
A story in today’s Des Moines Register reports that the dreams of immortality of two of our senators were dashed today when the House voted down a Senate Bill that would name buildings after themselves. The story can be found here:
(If you have trouble linking, then combine the two lines in your browser. It should work.) Senator Harkin (D-IA) will be disappointed that a building at the CDC in Atlanta will not be named for him. Senator Specter (R-PA) will also be similarly disappointed. The senate approved this in a lopsided vote, but the House (the people’s chamber?) called them on their egomania and cut this out. (It should be noted that neither Senator proposed his own naming, that was done by someone else. I have not confirmed whether both voted in favor, but the story indicates Senator Harkin did.)
Our public servants sometimes need to remember that they are elected to be our representatives, not our kings. They are spending our money, not theirs. It is good to see some efforts to pare this down, though we already have too many examples. If we must name public structures after someone, let’s make sure they are dead and that they deserve mentioning for something praiseworthy besides bringing home pork. (Come to think of it, maybe the Pork Producer’s Council could consider … never mind.)