Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ain't No Justice Without Custom Carpets

You might be worried how Oneida County is going to afford the $66 million dollar cost of a new sewage treatment plant. Or you may be concerned about how much it's going to cost to fix the second highest rate of lead poisoning in the state. Luckily, our elected officials have their priorities in order.

On Monday, Julian and several other justices unveiled a renovated third-floor courtroom that they believe reflects the kind of tranquil grandeur most fitting for the county's judicial domain.

Gone is the crumbling wall plaster, tattered seat cushions, phony walls and electrical wires that dangled from holes in the hand-painted ceilings of the previous courtrooms. In their place are plush carpeting, hand-carved benches and a blanket of blue, gold and white paint.

"Day-to-day justice — the trial of lawsuits, the jury trial — is integral to the very intent of the framers of our Constitution," Julian said during the unveiling. "Jury trials will be conducted here, and this is a courtroom that properly reflects the importance and significance of that constitutional guarantee."

Rest assured my friends, Justice is being done in Oneida County. Because nothing projects the awesome might of the rule of law like an attractive interior decorating scheme and matching accessories.

The renovation is part of an ongoing project at the five-story courthouse that has totaled around $40 million over the past decade, according to the Oneida County Comptroller's Office. The cost of rehabilitations for this particular courtroom, however, has been within the $5.4 million spent since 2004, Deputy Comptroller Sheryl Brown said Monday.

As an identical courtroom renovation awaits completion across the hall, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente vowed a continuation of support for such historical preservations.

"The people assembled here come for justice, come for comfort, come to see their problems get solved," Picente said. "We in county government really need to take hold of buildings such as this and landmarks that we have."

State Supreme Court Justice Bernadette Romano credited Julian's "dogged diligence and demeanor and his just never-say-die attitude" for keeping the project on track. Julian noted Romano's role in choosing the courtroom's deep blue and gold-trim coloring.

"You should also know the architects allowed us to design the carpet," Romano said. "I mean, we literally picked every color, and every nuance in the carpet was designed from scratch."

You know what makes this even funnier? Julian and Romano literally have no idea how self-involved they are. Maybe they haven't noticed, but they preside over the courts in one of the state's poorest counties. A third of the people in this area live below the poverty line, a place where putting food on the table takes precedence over picking out the perfect shade of paint or designing a custom carpet.

I predict there's going to be a huge backlash over this story, particularly in light of Mr. Picente's insistence that the county needs a tax hike to pay for "needed expenses". Custom carpeting ain't cheap, don't ya know.

Update: Here's what the spin is going to be when the backlash hits- "We were saving a historical landmark". Except, of course, that the multi-million dollar redecorating of these courtrooms has no connection with the historic appearance of the rooms at all.