Preservation Law and Public Policy
Balancing Priorities and Building an Ethic
On July 13, 1995, Tim Hutchison (R.-Ark.) rose in the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce an amendment to the U.S. Department of the Interior's appropriations bill that would eliminate the remaining $3.5 million in federal funding for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In his speech, Hutchison was careful to say that the debate was not about historic preservation but was simply about eliminating a federal subsidy. The members of the House who stood up after him to speak for or against funding apparently had not listened to him, for they proceeded to debate the actual merits of the Trust's various activities from their points of view. Robert Goodlatte (R.-Va.), who followed Hutchison, argued that the National Trust should stick to acquiring individual historic sites like Montpelier, the home of James Madison; it should not become involved in “anti-free enterprise” activities such as opposing largescale sprawl developments. David McIntosh (R.-Ind.) stated that historic preservation was an appropriate activity so long as private property rights were protected. According to Tom Delay (R.-Tex.), the Trust merely served as a slush fund for the wealthy and elite to oppose developments that offended their aesthetic tastes. Several congressmen mentioned the Trust's litigation program and expressed the opinion that the National Trust should not sue the federal government.
Those who opposed the amendment emphasized a dramatically different role for historic preservation. They stressed the importance of the Main Street program in revitalizing small-town main streets and the economic benefits of the rehabilitation tax credits to their communities. Karen McCarthy (D.-Mo.) pointed out the number of new jobs and rehabilitation tax dollars generated by historic preservation, ending with the plea: Do not abandon downtowns, do not abandon local communities, preserve funding for historic preservation. Richard Neal (D.-Mass.) told his colleagues that, as the mayor of Springfield, he had been sued by preservationists, but that in the end, he had to support