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In My Opinion

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To please taxpayers, can we unload the Executive Mansion?

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

This does not surprise anyone: After word got out about the plans, Gov. Pat McCrory backed off from ordering a $230,000 remodel of upstairs bathrooms at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.

Here’s what is gobsmacking: There are six bathrooms upstairs at the governor’s mansion.

In my house and yours, you’d need to have bathrooms off closets to reach six. I couldn’t afford to keep six bathrooms supplied with toothbrushes.

We can’t afford pay raises for teachers and have whacked benefits for the unemployed, but we can afford a house with as many potties as Bank of America Stadium?

I don’t blame our governor for this largess. It comes with the job. Furthermore, he was well within his rights to pick out modern vanities and marble sink tops because when you live in public housing, you expect the taxpayers to keep the property up.

Raleigh’s Executive Mansion was built by prison labor and finished in 1891. Gov. Daniel Fowle was the first occupant. He dropped dead three months after moving in, possibly after opening the water bill.

If you’ve never seen the mansion, it’s a peculiar pile of lumber in an iffy neighborhood. Those in the know about such things have proclaimed it one of the most splendid architectural triumphs of the capital city, where the legislative building was inspired by a Howard Johnson’s along the turnpike and the rest of the government district strictly adheres to the style known as post-war Soviet.

In this era of downsizing government, I can think of no more symbolic achievement than unloading this drafty, Queen Anne-style palace to the first sucker who drifts by. With six bathrooms upstairs, it should be a turn-key bed-and-breakfast, or an orphanage, or a plumbing hall of fame.

Do we need to provide hearth and home to our governors? No. If you took a job in Raleigh, you’d arrange your own room and board.

Our governor is an important person, but he’s no Bruton Smith. We need to get busy shrinking this housing budget.

If you’re unsure, just ask the teachers or the unemployed.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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