Spending on Museum Fete
Angers Union Members
Like many states, Illinois is hurting for money. Tax revenue is down, so school funding has been cut. So has money for prisons and many social services.
But Illinois is still the Land of Lincoln, so there had to be hoopla over the dedication of the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, the state capital.
The ceremony included fireworks, videos of Gov. George H. Ryan reading the Gettysburg Address, a $1,000 ceremonial key and a performance by Miss America. The tab -- $287,000 -- was picked up by the state out of hotel and motel tax revenue.
Last week, hundreds of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees rallied, criticizing the ceremony as lavish when mental health centers and homes for the developmentally disabled are being closed. State officials said the ceremony was necessary to help maintain the tourism industry, which brings in about $20 billion a year.
"I think it shows a callous disregard for the needs of Illinois citizens when the governor expends money like this at the same time he is making cuts," said Henry Bayer, an international vice president of AFSCME.
-- Robert E. Pierre
N.H. Fundraiser Features Photos
Some Would Rather Not See
What was an eye-opening photo display and a food pantry fundraiser mushroomed into a small-town New Hampshire row.
It started when Wilton, N.H.-based artist Preston Heller offered to display at the town hall the black-and-white photographs of homeless people he had taken in nearby Manchester, Boston and Lowell, Mass. He offered to give prints of his work to those who donated to a nearby food pantry.
"People thought they were depressing," said Peggy Arn, the local select board's administrative assistant.
The board asked the exhibit organizers to replace the photographs at the town hall with a "typical New England holiday theme prior to the Christmas holiday season." Exhibit organizers accused them of censorship and said the space was committed to Heller's work through December. The board stressed it only was responding to residents.
"Art doesn't bother me one way or another," said board member Jerry Greene. "It's a small town. People react differently."
-- Christine Haughney
For Sale: Big Yellow Plane That
The Seller Doesn't Have Yet
Has Ana Margarita Martinez got a deal for you!
She doesn't actually have the merchandise yet -- it's under 24-hour armed guard at the Key West International Airport.
But Martinez and her attorney are just sure that she is the rightful owner of the goods: a creaky old Russian cargo plane that a Cuban pilot flew onto the island earlier this month with seven fellow defectors on board. Now a judge in Key West is mulling what to do with it.
Martinez says she should get the plane as partial payment on a $27 million judgment that she won in a Miami court against Fidel Castro's government. Martinez filed the lawsuit after learning her husband was a reputed Cuban spy and had married her, not out of love, but to help with his cover.
Martinez's attorney, Fernando Zulueta, figures they could sell the plane to a collector and raise a few thousand dollars. But this isn't really about money, anyway; it's more about Martinez's desire to be "a thorn in the side" of Castro.
Even so, Zulueta is refining his pitch.
"The fact that it's yellow," he said, "may mean it's one big lemon."
-- Manuel Roig-Franzia
Cockfighting Gains Traction
In New Court Challenge
Animal rights advocates are finding that the cock may be a tough bird to save in Oklahoma.
Two weeks after Oklahoma outlawed cockfighting and the owning of game birds, proponents of the blood sport have gotten traction in challenging the new law in court. Three judges last week put the statewide ban on hold in 13 counties.
"We all know that the state can regulate our activities. . . . What is the state's interest in regulating this activity?" Judge Willard Driesel said, after witnesses in Idabel, Okla., testified they would likely destroy their birds to avoid felony charges.
"This law would make extinct . . . the very birds we are trying to protect," the judge said. A spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he would appeal Driesel's ruling in the state Supreme Court, which likely would affect legal challenges statewide.
Today, only Louisiana and New Mexico permit cockfighting. Cockfighting proponents have argued that banning the sport in Oklahoma would cause irreparable harm to breeders and owners of commercial cockfighting pits.
Responds Janet Halliburton, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting: "I'm not concerned that the constitutionality of the law won't withstand the challenges, because it will. I'm concerned that we're wasting state money to have a pep rally for cockfighters."
-- Lois Romano