Shortly thereafter Mitch, in one of his rare photo-ops, announced another of his publicprivate*** sector coups: the Governor's manse would be the 2006 Home Decorators Showcase House, and--again at no cost to taxpayers, excepting this time it mostly wasn't--the interior decor and landscaping would be handled gratis. This is a 45-year-old event run by the St. Margaret's Hospital Guild to benefit Wishard Hospital. It's one of those Social Register charity scams† where rich people network goods and services out of businesses that cater to the carriage trade and everybody writes it off their taxes. I've seen enough of this to wonder how many wealthy people will starve to death once their taxes are reduced to zero.
But anyway, it's for a good cause. Somebody with a big house agrees to vacate the place and various decorators each do a room in exchange for getting their names in front of the public. And the governor signed on, only he didn't have to move out 'cause he'd never moved in.
But this week the deal fell through. The Governor's Residence Commission objected to some of the design plans, and the deadline for getting work orders going passed with the two sides still at loggerheads.
The public story from the guv's side has it that some of the designs were too outrageous for "the People's House". The particular little example given was baboon wallpaper in a jungle-themed room.
But Barry Lantz, who was to do the master bedroom, told the local news there never was any baboon wallpaper, and he pointed out that decorators are in the business of dealing with customer requirements. Still, the fifty or so decorators who were involved weren't doing it from purely altruistic motives, something our Entrepreneur†† Governor just wasn't familiar with coming from the business community.
Mitch did say he understood that decorators traditionally show their individuality at such show houses, but "this one year it was supposed to be about the home and not about the decorators." Sorta like he insists the five-fold increase in logging state forests is all about disease control. The Residence Commission spokesman didn't bring up the jungle motif on teevee, but said that the rooms didn't "flow". Of course, they understood it would be fifty different decorators doing the rooms in the first place, but apparently they thought this was the one business sector they could run roughshod over.
A lot of people here see the hand of First Lady Cheri "Talcum Powder By Mail"††† Daniels in all this, just as they whispered that she was the one who wasn't moving to the big city where they let minorities run free. And I'll admit, I've upped my standing offer for a genuine picture of her walking the dog in her new neighborhood, after dark and exclusive of photo-ops, to twenty-five bucks. But I have to admit a touch of genuine concern as she and the guv move into the new place without any furniture. So I'm willing to offer my suggestion as to what they can both sit on. Gratis.
* The story of Geist Reservoir is Indianapolis' Chinatown, on a smaller but no less venal scale.
** Okay, he's always surly.
*** "Public" and "private" are no longer separate words where Indiana government is concerned.
† I don't mean to imply that the charity operation is anything but that, just that there is a permanent network which feeds and fêtes the wealthy who are so inclined to a degree that would probably astonish most people. As an example, I was once given a firsthand account of a local banquet for a national charity where, after the needy beneficiaries were fed and dismissed, the benefactors retired for a raffle where first prize was $10,000 in cash. Nobody bought raffle tickets; this was a kick-back of the year's take.
†† Mitch Daniels' private-sector experience consists of three years at the Hudson Institute (if you call that private) and seven years as Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Policy at Eli Lilly. He's lived off the government the rest of the time.
††† Cheri, you might recall, did not (some say refused to) move to Washington when Mitch became OMB director. At the height of the anthrax attacks she called the Hamilton County sheriff after receiving an envelope in the mail which was leaking a white powder. Turned out to be talcum. The culprit has never been caught, nor has he mailed any hoax letters to any other basically obscure Bush administration officials wives at their home state addresses. Thank God.