September 10, 2019

There are a lot of reasons the Birthplace Of Our Nation is looking a little beat up these days. (You can read more here.) So I'm trying to raise money to get some things done.

The federal funding is a mess -- basically, the money all gets thrown into the same Park Service chum pot, and every single park competes for it:

Federal funds are hard to come by largely because of the National Park Service’s byzantine regulatory structure. While Independence Park gets a $24 million annual operating budget — which hasn’t increased in 12 years — 80 percent of that is allocated to fixed costs like staffing and utilities, with maintenance upkeep getting short shrift. For intensive rehab projects like First Bank or the Declaration House’s HVAC system, Independence Park has to compete with 419 other units — ranging from enormous parks like Joshua Tree to monuments like the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in D.C. — under the NPS umbrella, creating a battle royale for funding. The end result is that parks with the most urgent needs get money before those with still-significant but non-life-threatening challenges. “It’s triage,” says MacLeod.

According to the most recent tally, Independence Park has a total of $51 million worth of “deferred maintenance,” meaning projects that should have been completed but for which funding hasn’t been provided. It’s hardly a crisis unique to Philadelphia — the total for deferred maintenance at all National Park Service properties is $11.9 billion. That figure has finally gotten the attention of Congress, which is currently considering a bill — a rare bipartisan piece of legislation with 37 different co-sponsors in the Senate and 228 in the House — that would provide up to $6.5 billion to alleviate some of that backlog.

Still, the $11.9 billion is a bit misleading, because many hundreds of millions of dollars are eaten up by projects like fixing shoddy roads in sprawling western parks like Yellowstone. That’s important, no doubt — you can’t get anywhere without roads — but seems less urgent than the situation at Independence Park, where more than 80 percent of deferred maintenance is for buildings, the single most important asset the park has.

This is the place where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were hammered out and signed -- but you wouldn't know that if you don't speak English, because we don't even have translations for audio tours.

There's chipped paint, dirty floors, rooms closed to the public. Five million people visit Independence Park every year, at no charge. But the Park isn't even allowed to ask for donations.

And I'm a teeny bit suspicious that the Republicans actually like it that way, because they'd rather privatize our national park system than maintain it.

In the Time of Trump, the Hall and what it stands for is more important to me than ever. Conservatives always try to latch onto our national symbols as if they belong only to them. But this is our democracy, too. As I said on the Go Fund Me page, greatness walked here. Our founding ideals were forged here.

If MAGAs can raise $25 million to help build a wall to keep people out, surely we can raise a million dollars to spruce up the Hall and unlike the Trumpers, open our doors and give a suitable welcome to visitors from all over the world.

Donate here. Even $2 matters!

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