Portrait

Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

I can understand why members of the House of Delegates are so interested in commissioning a portrait of now-former interim House Speaker Lacey Putney, I-Bedford.

You know, so that they can then hang it on up on the wall.

Right there in the Capitol.

Because Putney …

Um …

Hmmm.

Why are they commissioning this portrait again?

The question begs.

Because it’s going to cost us right about $6,000, for one thing.

Which means, among other things, that this isn’t anything like the kinds of portraits that you get made at the Olan Mills.

(Or … hey … remember those Sears portrait studios? Top of the line there ran a couple hundred, tops. And they were … really nice. Really, really nice. So, you know … er … six large? Now, that’s going to be some portrait.)

They’re also going to commission and eventually hang a portrait of former House Speaker Vance Wilkins in the Capitol, for those keeping score at home.

Which comes to, well, to be sure, at least another $6,000 out of our pockets – and this one here for a guy who resigned his position and seat in disgrace last summer after admitting that he had paid a former employee $100,000 on the eve of the 2001 state elections to settle a sexual-harassment claim.

(It’s good to see that they can be so forgiving down there in Richmond.)

I’m all for the portraits – and I can accept the costs (though I might want to recommend that the legislative types open up the process a little, maybe solicit some bids; I’m sure we can knock a couple grand off apiece if we allow market forces to do their thing).

What I can’t figure is how we can waste $8,000 or $10,000 or $12,000 (or whatever it would end up being) in a time when we’re talking so much about the need for fiscal austerity.

I mean, it might not seem like much in the context of the big numbers we’re hearing talked about in terms of the budget shortfall that the state is facing.

A billion dollars.

Two billion dollars.

Eight K (or 10K or 12K) is a literal drop in the bucket when you’re talking numbers that start with a b.

But whatever happened to the idea that every little bit helps?

I believe that it does.

You don’t see me throwing around a dollar here, a 20-spot there – throwing caution to the wind, acting all willy-nilly …

(Sorry. I just got this new book of cliches. It was on sale at the book fair. Ninety percent off. A great deal, all things considered.)

If we’re having to tighten our belts out here in the hinterlands, I say that what’s fair is fair for the folks down in Richmond.

You want your portraits?

Fine.

Schedule an appointment for Messrs. Putney and Wilkins at Olan Mills.

(And if you refer a couple more folks there after, I think you get some kind of discount. But you can ask about that.)

 

(Published 01-08-03)

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