“This is a legislature that decided to add to its budget $38-milion to build a state office building for bureaucrats that I didn’t ask for.”
—–Governor Nixon May, 2013
We all know about bureaucrats, don’t we? They’re those worthless loafers that feed at the public trough, take a lot of coffee breaks, stand outside the entrances to state buildings laying down a cloud of tobacco smoke that taxpayers have to walk through, and shuffle papers until 4:30 sharp when they walk away from whatever they’re doing until the next morning.
And now, to listen to Governor Nixon tell it, the legislature wants to spend $38 million dollars for ANOTHER office building where bureaucrats can disappear into their cubicle farms each morning. And why do these legislators want to build another state office building? Because THEY want more space. These people who visit Jefferson City for three-and-a-half days a week four and-a-a-half months of the year want more room.
They have coveted the Highway and Transportation Department building half a block from the Capitol for years. The new building would open MODOT’s current headquarters for uses the legislature would determine. Plus the are rooting for the state to lease the top two floors of the Federal Building (most of us know it as the post office building across the street from the Capitol) now that the federal government has erected a big new federal courts building next to the old, vacant state pen. These lawmakers want to fill up those two floors too, renting space at a time when they propose building a big new building that will curtail rent payments to other landlords.
No, Governor Nixon didn’t ask for a new building to house bureaucrats. But the state has bureaucrats scattered all over the place in Jefferson City. And those who dream of that new building that would house the main office of MODOT and maybe some other agencies say the state will save enough in rents to make the new building cost-neutral in seven to ten years while providing the legislature with more office space that will be needed when the double-decker offices for state representatives can be eliminated—and it’s well past time they were eliminated. They’re not accessible for disabled people. And they put a structural strain on the building.
Framed copies of the original blueprints of the Capitol are on walls in the building’s basement, nearing hearing rooms, offices, and the cafeteria. A look at them tells us much about government before World War I and say something about the growth of Missouri government.
The blueprints for the ground floor show a lot of unassigned office space buyt they also show space for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dining room, the Insurance Department , the State Banking Department, The state mining office and the Fish and Game Department. The Public Utilities Commission and the Library Commission also were on that floor. The space where the Missourinet has its Capitol office and studio was designed as a storage room for the Department of Insurance. The second floor was offices for state elected officials. The third floor was for athe legislature. The Adjutant General was on the fourth floor along with the Board of Health, the Board of Pharmacy, the Hotel Inspector, and the state Building and Loan regulators. Office space was not really assigned, though, until the building could be occupied in 1917.
The same architect who designed the Capitol designed the Highway Department building in the 1920s—cars and highways had become such a big deal by then that the department needed more space. Several years later an addition was put on the building.
Other parts of state government grew and in the 1930s, the Broadway Office Building was opened. But government grew some more and in the 1950s, the Jefferson Office Building was constgructed. But government grew and in the 1970s, the Truman Office Building went up.
But government grew and the number of state office buildings increased throughout Jefferson City. And the bureaucrats multiplied to fill the new spaces as they were created. In the last few years of economic downturn, thousands cubicles have gone dark; bureaucrats have been fired or have retired before the axe could fall. But despite all of that, the legislature wants to “build an office building for bureaucrats.” And the legislature isn’t just messing with one building. It’s eyeing three.
Before we continue, however, let’s set the record a little straight about that faceless mass of people we disparagingly call “bureaucrats.” Some truth in advertising first, though. This reporter is married to a retired bureaucrat. He lives in a neighborhood of retired, or still active, bureaucrats. Cigarette smoking, coffee sucking, time-killing freeloaders? Not on your life.
The people who are disparagingly called “bureaucrats” work as hard as the people in the office of any profit-making company. They share the same commitments to service–and, yes, some share the same lack of commitment for anything other than the next paycheck that workers in for-profit companies have. The scorned bureaucrat is the person who answers the child hotline call, who tests the water in your city’s well to see if it’s full of contaminants, who designs the new bridge your school buses will cross, who chase down non-supportive spouses, who check on the conditions in dog kennels and nursing homes—all of the things we expect state government to do for us or to keep from behing done to us. And they deserve working conditions as good as those us us in the private sector have. Like it or not, we need them because they’re the real people who perform the duties of government that somebody wants government to do.
And most of them deserve to be thought of better than “bureaucrats” who will populate a building that Governor Nixon didn’t ask for.
All of this is a long way around to a couple of points—with a diversion to defend state employees (a more respectul description than “bureaucrat”–that this entry wants to make.
1. A Republican-dominated legislature that spends huge amounts of time and words bemoaning big government and proclaiming how it wants to shrink state government wants to expand government in Jefferson City by three buildings. The fact that it wants to do so–to a large degree–to improve its own working conditions is noted.
2. The first Governor this reporter interviewed was John Dalton An Official State Manual shows Dalton had fifteen people on his staff. The 2009-2010 state manual showed Governor Nixon with 34. The most recent one showed 27. The budget that Governor Nixon proposed in January listed 38.28 full-time equivalent employees in Fiscal Year 2012. For this fiscal year, and for the one that starts July first, he asked for an even thirty, double the gubernatorial bureaucracy that John Dalton had.
The people in his office are staff. The people who would work in the new state office building would be bureaucrats. I’m sure I saw some of each uptown during a recent weekday noon hour stroll. I tried to identify which was which. I failed. They all looked the same to me. I was unable to determine which ones might move into a $38 million dollar new building and which ones might move into an 85-year old former (someday) highways building and which ones would stay right where they are in the governor’s office complex.
Bureaucrats is bureaucrats. And all of us should respect the person in the cubicle deep in the heart of the Truman Building as much as we respect the sharply-dressed people who go in and out of the door marked “Governor.” Come to think of it, he’s just a bureaucrat too, isn’t he?
Pots and kettles are the same color at my house.