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Statehouse must not be closed

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Several months ago, when Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced his plans to save money by closing several state parks and historic sites, we felt certain that the move was a political ploy to gain leverage for other projects he wanted to advance.

Now, as we approach the Nov. 30 date for those closures, it’s time to take off the gloves. We cannot allow those sites – including the Vandalia Statehouse – to be shuttered. With tourism accounting for more revenues than any other industry in the state except agriculture, it makes absolutely no sense to close the sites that visitors come here to see. Each year, more than 30,000 guests tour the Vandalia Statehouse, where Abraham Lincoln launched his political career.

This governor, who has a penchant for grandstanding to make a point, and who has a hard time working cooperatively with others, still appears committed to the plan to close these sites.

In September, the Illinois Senate approved a supplemental spending bill that would restore a portion of the funds ordered slashed by Blagojevich. But there’s no guarantee that the governor will release those funds for the historic sites and parks. Thus, unless the governor suddenly comes to his senses, his misguided plan to close the sites will go into effect in 11 days.

With 2009 being the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the heightened interest in our 16th president will undoubtedly bring more tourists than normal to our community. Imagine their disappointment and disgust when they find that the doors to the Statehouse have been locked.

We must not allow that to happen.

Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman traveled to Springfield on Wednesday to lobby legislative leaders on the planned closure. We’re hoping his efforts produce some movement on the issue. You, too, can play a part in the effort to keep the Vandalia Statehouse open by calling the legislative leaders listed below to register your concerns.

Gov. Rob Blagojevich (217-782-6830), Rep. Michael Madigan (217-782-5350), Rep. Tom Cross (217-782-1331), Sen. Emil Jones Jr. (217-782-2728) and Sen. Frank Watson (618-664-9108).

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