Remember those awful tales from last year’s massive protests in and around the beautiful Wisconsin Capitol Building, the ones indicating the deliberate trashing of the seat of state government?
Estimates from the Department of Administration during the height of the demonstrations — given in court as DOA argued to restrict access to the site — stated the cost to repair damage to the Capitol and clean up the mess would run taxpayers $7 million to $8 million. And it was getting worse every day, because of the wanton destructiveness of these people.
In relatively short order, it was revealed that estimate was grossly exaggerated and had, indeed, amounted to little more than a wild guess unsupported by any direct data.
Now we know just how exaggerated the claim was, because the DOA has released actual figures.
The number: About $200,000.
That figure still could rise, somewhat, to fix exterior damage to the lawn and landscaping outside, where demonstrators numbering up to 100,000 milled about. But the estimate suggests it won’t rise more than another $20,000.
To be sure, $220,000 or so is real money, and it’s unfortunate taxpayers must foot that bill. But in the larger scheme of state budgeting it doesn’t even qualify as a rounding error.
Freedom isn’t always free, and the demonstrators were exercising their constitutional right to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. It’s part of the price of liberty.
The real lesson in this numbers game is obvious: Facts count.
Despite this dose of reality, the myth still exists out there that rampaging protesters all but destroyed the Capitol. Such accusations turn up in our letters to the Public Forum and website comments regularly. We have little hope release of the true numbers will turn down the volume of the myth-makers.
But it ought to raise public expectations for responsible officials. Do not speak without knowing; do not twist the truth; do not exaggerate for political gain.
Give the people the unvarnished truth. Seriously, they can handle it.
— Beloit Daily News