This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Government always finds ways to spend taxpayer dollars, ways that can be spendthrifty, misguided, self-serving - make your own list, until you run out of paper. So what's to be said about our own state government lavishing $227 million to restore and refurbish a house on a hill?
Because the house is The People's House of Utah, and the hill is Capitol Hill, we say bravo!
Yes, there are many pressing demands in Utah for that kind of cash (get more paper, make another list). Yes, in the narrowest sense, it is just a building, or complex of buildings.
But in Utah, which began its white immigrant history as the theocratic State of Deseret and still struggles at times to fathom the constitutional boundaries of church and state, the Utah State Capitol is far more than a mere house on what used to known as Arsenal Hill. The soaring structure represents - stunningly, today - the fruits of a bitter journey to statehood and a requisite acknowledgement by the LDS Church of the primacy of government in a representative democracy.
In the Beehive State, that is symbolism that matters. It mattered when the State Capitol, designed by architect Richard Kletting, was first dedicated in 1916, and is no less important as the seat of Utah's government is rededicated today in its most brilliant, fully realized incarnation.
State capitols, besides housing the legislative and executive branches of government, serve an added purpose. Through their architecture, paintings, murals, statuary and - on good days - political debate, they inspire and enliven the body politic. Utah's Capitol, among the 37 statehouses that feature external domes similar to that of the U.S. Capitol, contains a wealth of artistic treasures that are the more striking for their new setting.
Were Kletting on hand for today's rededication he would marvel that significant elements of his original design - never included for lack of money - have finally been incorporated by architect David H. Hart and the Capitol Preservation Board. The original Capitol cost just over $2.7 million, the state Office Building was added in 1961 and major renovations to the Capitol and grounds came in 1969.
Closed in 2004 for this meticulous restoration, construction of an underground parking structure and a seismic upgrade, the Capitol re-opens Saturday with an open house extending through Jan. 11.
Now Utah taxpayers can begin discovering for themselves where their $227 million went and whether it was money well spent. Go, it belongs to you.