A Bathroom Battle At The Statehouse

Fosters Daily Democrat


April 13, 2009


Who drew up the specs for the "luxurious lavatory" at the Statehouse, the same people who gave the Pentagon a $640 toilet seat?

Republicans are cleaning up with their showering of Democrats with shots over the $72,000 cost of renovating a Statehouse bathroom.

Democrats are trying to fend off the blows in saying the project was to make the lav compliant with the American Disabilities Act. Did someone get word there was a federal bathroom inspector in the neighborhood when there was bipartisan support for the appropriation two years ago?

It will be pointed out that funding was approved before it was found the economy was being flushed into the political and social hopper. The answer to that has to be, "So what?"

Even in the best times, $72,000 for renovating a bathroom is a bit Kozlowski-esque. You remember Dennis Kozlowski — the Tyco tycoon who was convicted of misappropriating more than $400 million to support a lavish lifestyle that included decorating a luxurious company-owned apartment in Manhattan. Among the amenities of the redo was a $6,000 shower curtain for the bathroom.

Kozlowski was sentenced to eight to 25 years in prison for his excesses in misappropriating assets that belonged to Tyco's stockholders and is now mopping up in a way that is different from his days at Tyco.

And, of course, there were the Pentagon days of a $640 toilet seat and $7,600 coffee makers and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger trotting up Capitol Hill to defend his department's outrageous procurement practices.

But back to the minor league bathroom excess in Concord.

Was the bathroom in question in need of repair? Yes, it has needed a going-over for several years. But to the tune of $72,000?

Frankly, the facility was overdone when it was designed and outfitted more than 80 years ago. Marble walls? A bit ostentatious, don't you think? We are talking about a public building in New Hampshire in the 21st century, not a palace or castle in 18th century Europe.

There are some people in government who think putting their best face forward means showing off in as regal a manner as possible. There are some elected officials who have some waking up to do — some who have to understand the perception of waste can be as bad as waste itself.

Put the two together and you have the beginning of a breakdown in confidence. And when a breakdown in confidence occurs, a breakdown in the ability of those in office to govern should not be far behind.

Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter, was quoted in Foster's Daily Democrat Friday as saying, "This is a large public restroom, so $72,000 should be evaluated in that context."

Maybe it shouldn't be evaluated in the context of a restroom. After all, it is not a place where people go to rest.

Maybe we should redefine our thinking, come up with a better appellation while maintaining good taste in the naming.

Yes, there are more important considerations than the appropriate design and functionality of a Statehouse "loo." But credit some GOP members of the Legislature and the redesigned Republican State Committee, led by the sometimes sharp-tongued and always sharp-minded John H. Sununu, a three-term governor of New Hampshire in the 1980s, for converting a bathroom into an attention-grabber.

The bathroom issue will soon go away — as well it should. But it was something that allowed the GOP to run the Democrats around the Statehouse for several days — and it was the kind of thing that stirs the always changing imagination of writers and editors for a day or two or three.

Maybe someone will soon propose pay toilets in all state buildings.

The one thing certain is that all involved in the discussion will soon wash their hands of it.