Cost of Damage to WI Capitol: Tiny; Effects of Lies about Clean Up Costs: Priceless

by Harry on March 21, 2011

JM informs me that St. Louis radio host Mark Reardon has been relaying the lies that the administration has been telling about Capitol clean-up after the protests. The original Dept of Administration estimate of $6.5-$7.5 million was met with incredulity by just about everyone including the rather honorable local TV news reporters (I was quite worried that one of the newsreaders was going to corpse when she read it out first, having apparently been given no warning). Of course, the very purpose of the nonsense was to give people like Reardon a figure to peddle, and that propaganda effect has been brilliant. The official figure was revised down, within a day, to $347,000. What’s that, 5% of the original? One might hope that the person who gave the first figure got a good dressing down, but I suspect such hopes would be in vain. This article in the Isthmus airs the beliefs of current and former DOA workers that DOA statistics are being developed in response to pressure from the administration. And, in fact, it may be that there was no damage at all (except, manifestly, to the lawns, which have to need reseeding, surely):

On March 3, the agency’s top lawyer claimed that protesters caused $7.5 million in damage to the Capitol, mostly to marble from the tape holding on signs and banners. Hastings notes that this claim was “flashed across the country” before being revised downward the next day to as little as $347,000.
On Monday, March 7, after the signs were all removed, DOA spokeswoman Carla Vigue said the agency was bringing in an “outside expert [to] determine the amount and nature of the work that will be needed to be done to bring the marble to its prior condition.” On March 9, she said “it may be several days” before this information is in hand.
Now, well more than several days later, no further information has been provided. “Still working on it,” said Vigue on Tuesday.

Jacob Arndt has a pretty good idea how much damage to the marble was actually caused: None at all. Arndt owns Northwestern Masonry and Stone, a Lake Mills-based company that he says “does consultation work and has contracts with the state of Wisconsin.” He toured the Capitol early this month with a DOA staffer, inspecting the various types of stone: Kasota-Mankato, Wausau red granite, Dakota red granite, verde jade. “I looked at each of these types of stones,” says Arndt. His conclusion: The painter’s tape used to affix signs left “little or no residue” anywhere. The worst problem he saw was some residue where media had taped cords to the floor, but even this was easily removed with simple cleaning agents. “There’s no damage to the stone,” says Arndt, who has been back in the building several times since, verifying this finding. He says the DOA official who showed him around agrees even the lower cost estimate is “completely ridiculous and politically inspired.”



RJB 03.21.11 at 10:50 pm

“I was quite worried that one of the newsreaders was going to corpse when she read it out first, having apparently been given no warning.”

“Corpse”? A new one to me. Calling Language Log!


Natilo Paennim 03.21.11 at 11:01 pm

I had just returned from Madison when I first saw that $7.5 million figure. It was obviously ridiculous. Give me 20 people, each with one bottle of 409 or Goo Gone and 3 hours, and I could get the Wisconsin state capitol looking better than it did on Dec. 31st. As the above points out, the vast majority of signs were affixed with some type of masking tape, which leaves almost no residue, and certainly nothing that would damage marble even 1% as much as the grease from people’s hands.


PHB 03.22.11 at 12:49 am

What is the cost of a perjury prosecution?

Would be money well spent.


Substance McGravitas 03.22.11 at 1:07 am

the vast majority of signs were affixed with some type of masking tape

I imagine the government building where no government workers affix anything to a wall with tape is a rare place anyway.


vivian 03.22.11 at 1:38 am

@RJB “Corpsing” is Brit-speak for breaking character and laughing onstage/on-air. “Cracking up” in US (which also has other meanings).


Helen 03.22.11 at 2:57 am

“Corpse”? A new one to me. Calling Language Log!

And I’m worried about those “DOA” workers, too.


Harry 03.22.11 at 3:15 am

It particularly applies to comics (who often enjoy trying to make one another corpse — one of the many joys of watching Morecambe and Wise is watching Eric working on getting Ernie to corpse and then, on the rare occasions he achieves it, leaping in to control the damage; which is his one departure from his otherwise Lucille Ball-like commitment to exactitude).


Doug K 03.22.11 at 5:41 pm

the first time I heard ‘corpsing’ was in a satirical revue, during a scene with a dead body. One of the actors went off on a long improvised very funny riff, at the end of which he stopped and said ‘why is that corpse corpsing ?’
I think it’s an actor’s locution rather than a British thing..

Regarding the journamalism being commited in Wisconsin, as Tim Bray observed in another context,
“wouldn’t it be cool if there were a profession which tells us the real human story of the news in a way that’s compatible with facts? “


Margaret 03.22.11 at 7:53 pm

The best indictment of the Department of Administration occurred in the Isthmus article linked to above: A DOA spokesperson explain that the cops reached a much higher tally of persons attending a rally than the figure released by the DOA because “the cops were counting people we weren’t.” No doubt.


Antti Nannimus 03.23.11 at 1:46 am


No damage done? How can that be? Everyone knows that rock breaks scissors, but also we know that paper covers rock. Paper wins! The costs are bound to be ENORMOUS!

Unless of course someone comes in with scissors which cuts paper.

Didn’t you learn all of this in kindergarten?

Have a nice day,

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