Senate President Cullerton says historic sites need to be reopened
Springfield’s Dana-Thomas House and other shuttered state historic sites deserve to reopen, says Senate President John Cullerton, who pledged Monday to restore their funding in the state budget that lawmakers pass later this year.
In an interview with The State Journal-Register editorial board, Cullerton said he was surprised that Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t call for reopening the sites in the proposed budget he unveiled last Wednesday.
“The (Dana-Thomas) House – I can’t believe that he didn’t put that in,” said Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat. “We’re going to correct that.”
“Springfield has become, because of the (Abraham Lincoln Presidential) Museum, a place where people can’t do it all in one day, so they’re spending an extra night, which is great.”
As a result, tourists to Springfield often spend the second day of their visit doing “the stuff you couldn’t fit in the first day, which would include the Dana House,” he said.
About a dozen historic sites – including the Carl Sandburg birthplace in Galesburg and Bishop Hill in Henry County – closed at the end of November, after then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the state’s budget deficit was forcing him to cut $2.8 million from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Quinn spokeswoman Libby White said reopening the historic sites remains a priority for her boss, who is looking for the needed funding.
“I know that he would like to do it soon, but there’s no specific timeline just yet,” White said.
Cullerton also said he is puzzled by Quinn’s plan to consolidate the IHPA, which runs historic sites, into the Department of Natural Resources, which runs state parks. Quinn has touted the merger as a cost-saving measure.
“Other than the fact the DNR building is about half-empty … I don’t get it,” Cullerton said.
The idea is reminiscent of Blagojevich’s misplaced emphasis on consolidating state government entities, he added.
“It became an obsession with numbers, rather than with bringing about efficient services,” he said.
Spokesmen for DNR and IHPA said the two agency directors, Marc Miller and Jan Grimes, respectively, have begun meeting to work out details of the consolidation.
“One thing that is clear is the two agencies have similar missions,” said IHPA spokesman David Blanchette. “We’re both about preserving the state’s resources.”
Blanchette added that most of what is now known as the IHPA had been housed within the Department of Conservation – a predecessor of DNR – until 1985.
“Essentially it’s going back to where the agency came from,” he said.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 email@example.com.