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Architect Defends Capitol Renovation
The Architect of the Capitol has been tight lipped ever since Governor Pat Quinn promised to halt the release of all funds for future Capitol Renovations, and stated that the architect needed to be reigned in by his board.
So on Friday we went to the board's meeting to see if the architect or the members were ready to defend their renovation of the West Wing.
"These projects are started by the Capital Development Board which is under the Executive branch," says Architect J. Richard Alsop III, "so the Office of the Architect under the legislature is a key player in this, and it's not directions made, or decisions made , just the sole responsibility of this office."
The Office of the Architect Board released a statement before its meeting today, noting that the capitol renovation was part of Governor Pat Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now program that was approved in 2009 by both the GOvernor and the General Assembly.
"We support the overall project which deals with life safety issues, and critical accessibility issues," says Dave Blanchette, spokesman for Governor Pat Quinn, "what we don't support, are the individual excessive flourishes that were put in as part of the project, yes, the overall project was necessary, but the $700,000 doors are not."
Allsop doesn't feel the criticism from Governor Quinn was warranted, especially comments that the architect needs to be reigned in by his board.
"It's completely unfair," says Alsop, "we were given a direction, the scope was completely agreed to, long before I got here, money was appropriated long before I got here, we did the best job we could with the resources we had."
But the governor's office stands by their criticism of items like the copper exterior doors, a few large chandeliers and even a couple statues that added together to cost well over a million dollars.
"Governor Quinn represents the taxpayers of Illinois," says Blanchette, "and taxpayers cannot condone excessive or extravagant spending on anything at this point, so the Governor was well within his rights to question this, and to question the judgement of those who spend this amount of money on these things."
But Alsop didn't agree with how he had personally been singled out and attacked.
"I, I don't know why he made the statements that he made," says Alsop, "but I think they were unwarranted and completely out of line."
The Office of the Architect Board is comprised of staffers from each of the leaders of both parties in both chambers of the General Assembly.
All 4members declined to comment after the meeting, and we would note they have declined to comment all week.
While we at on the Capitol grounds, we ran into Republican Senator Kirk Dillard.
He has an office in the newly renovated West Wing and was checking out the work for the first time.
He tells us he understands why many taxpayers were so upset at the costs of some of the items.
Dillard said he believes part of the problem is that the board is made up of staffers, not elected officials, and that rank and file General Assembly members didn't have any idea about many of the costs.
"Elected officials, for better or for worse, do have sometimes a better feel than staff members because we walk precincts, we're out there talking to people on a day to day basis," says Dillard, "and I think if there were more elected officials involved with the actual construction with the architect, somebody, an adult, might have said this does not look good at this time, when the state can't pay its own bills."