More on the Preservation Budget

There are debates all around about the Save America’s Treasures program and whether it’s a good or a bad thing for it to be cut from the budget. From what I can gather, the majority feel it’s a bad move on the part of Congress. Even if you’re not a fan of the Save America’s Treasures program, the fact of the matter is that Congress feels it appropriate and permissible to slash the historic preservation budget (that includes park funding!) It’s not as if an alternate program has been proposed in place of one that supposedly does not work. It is simply an attack on historic preservation, a field that only wants to improve the quality of life in this country and has proven again and again that historic preservation works.

Because this is such an important issue, I’m sharing links from Donovan Rypkema’s blog, both of which he encouraged others to link. So here you go, the links and select quotes, but go ahead and read the entire posts:

Preservationists Outraged as Obama Cancels Building Restoration Programs by Lloyd Alter

We have noted before that the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, and that renovation and restoration are labor-intensive, giving twice as much stimulus bang for the buck than new construction. They are green jobs, creating more efficient buildings and saving energy at a lot less cost than covering the roofs with solar panels.

But that didn’t stop President Obama from cancelling two programs, Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, that cost $220 million over ten years. The White House says “Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.”

Except that isn’t true, there are performance metrics, that prove that the programs created jobs at 1/18th the cost of last year’s stimulus programs.

What’s Obama got Against Historic Preservation? by Knute Berger

The Save America’s Treasures program, created by Bill Clinton in 1998, is the only federal bricks-and-mortar grant program for preservation and is designed to leverage matching private sector and non-profit funding for projects. It is run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in conjunction with the National Park Service. It has been slated for elimination…

On top of those cuts, Obama has proposed slashing National Heritage Area funding in half, bad news for Washington state which is in the process of creating a National Maritime Heritage Area to boost cultural tourism in coastal areas, from the Pacific to Puget Sound.

So what are we supposed to do? Keep talking, keep sharing, keep caring about the fate of historic preservation. This is a field that faces uphill battles day after day, something we acknowledge when we “sign up” for a life of historic preservation work, and at some point, we all have to convince others of the worth of preservation. It looks like it’s that time again. Let’s keep historic preservation in the game.

4 thoughts on “More on the Preservation Budget

  1. Nicholas says:

    Being politically correct and sensitive to the Obama administration’s feelings will do no benefit to America or its identity during this current preservation crisis. I, for one, had a gut feeling from the beginning of his presidency that preservation would have no priority. Rypkema seems to be having a loud voice in the debate…

    “the people in the White House are way too smart for this to be accidental.” – Rypkema

    for someone so vividly upset about the issue, he still manages to refer to them as “way too smart.” Rypkema and a large population of Obama approvers gently scold and simultaneously defend. The reality is that the White House has no INTEREST in preservation. It’s not an overlooking, or accidental.

    “I can no longer give Obama a pass. Of course there has to be cuts, and it isn’t the fact that [Save America’s Treasures] and Preserve America were cut that angers me. It is that those were two programs listed in the White House blog as poster child[ren] for bad expenditures. They certainly never did any analysis of that. This was the crassest of political demagoguery….” – Rypkema

    I would call for anyone to give any evidence of Obama’s stance on historic preservation or American heritage interest prior to their voting/not voting for him. This sort of attack is much broader than historic preservation. It represents the current administration’s inconsideration for our heritage and where we have come from. It appears an attack on our culture.

    I hope I’m not in a minority of the preservation pool, but such an insensitive and incompetent budget cut proves who we’re dealing with. And if this is who we’re dealing with, then, we will just have to figure out a solution independent of them.

  2. D Burgess says:

    Look closely at the language used to justify the cuts – “Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.” That statement is generic boilerplate just mindlessly echoing back what Obama’s staff has been told to do. It does not reflect any official administration policy about historic preservation. Obama’s staff has been told they must use “performance metrics to evaluate program performance.” Whatever staff made the “recommendation” for the cuts did not find any performance metrics or evaluation efforts, because they simply did not look … there are many that exist. Obama needs to ditch staff who cannot do simple homework. The could have called up the National Park Service and could have gotten as much info as they wanted.

    Or Obama’s staff could have simply asked the First Lady Michelle Obama who said on December 9, 2009 – “Save America’s Treasures invests in our nation’s irreplaceable legacy of buildings, documents, collections and artistic works. These awards empower communities all over the country to rescue and restore this priceless heritage, and ensure that future generations continue to learn from the voices, ideas, events and people represented by these projects.”

    Again, I may be wrong, but I dont think this was a conscious act by the administration. Just sloppiness by some staffers. (off with their heads)

  3. D Burgess says:

    Somone should ask Jeffrey Zients, who is Obama’s newly appointed Chief Performance Officer at OMB, how well he thinks OMB staff “performed” when they “evaluated the benefits” of Save America Treasures and Preserve America programs. (maybe they will get a standing ovation for their performance).

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