Governor not polling well in Bishop Hill

Mary Davidsaver
Signs in Bishop Hill like this one are announcing that state funding cutbacks aren’t closing businesses and other privately-owned sites in the village.

The recent announcement that state historic sites in Bishop Hill will be closed at the end of September has nearly everyone stirred up, active and ready to express their opinions. 

Sally Smith feels that Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who made the financial cuts prompting the closing of several state sites statewide, is “totally out-of-whack.”

“He’s not the governor of Illinois, but the governor of Chicago,” Smith said. “How can he spend $25 million on Buckingham Fountain in Chicago and not take care of the rest of the state? If we can’t keep places like Bishop Hill open, how can we afford to attract the Olympics? Where is he going to get the tax dollars?”

At the Bishop Hill Colony Store, where Smith is manager, she gets hundreds of out-of-state and out-of-country customers who are disappointed that they can’t sign  local petitions protesting the cuts because they are not registered Illinois voters.

According to Smith, some people are coming into her store and asking to sign petitions seeking impeachment of Blagojevich.

“The press is making it sound like all of Bishop Hill is closing, not just three buildings,” said Trisha Rux, owner of the Red Oak. “It’s a shame, but three buildings don’t make up all of Bishop Hill either.

“There’s a misunderstanding about what’s happening,” she added. “There are no gates at each end of town that are going to be closed.”

“I feel bad for all the people who lost their jobs,” said Crystal Dennis of the Filling Station. “Folks should not be forced to retire.”

Dennis also wants the press to “get it right; we’re all still open.”

“It makes me worried,” stated Ulla Voss, a frequent visitor from Sweden. “A lot of tourists from Sweden come for the history. If they can’t see the Krans paintings, the church, or the hotel, what will they do? It’s a sad situation.”

“It’s so short-sighted,” commented Marsha Carleson of the Outsider Gallery. “I feel like the governor is using us as a pawn to get something else later.”

“People are losing their jobs all over the country,” said Beth Magnuson of Windy Corner Farm. “In Bishop Hill the faces are well known -? it’s personal.”

“The state sites supply people of this region with a sense of their history,” Magnuson added.  “It’s more than just Lincoln.”

Some Bishop Hill residents have taken to wearing their sentiments. One t-shirt announced: “Politicians fade away, but Bishop Hill is here to stay ? going strong since 1846.” Another pointed out: “Who needs the governor? We have Lutefisk.”

Everywhere there are signs that the community is still in the fight to get funding restored for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.