For six Christmases, East End residents complained about the party tent next to the Governor's Mansion. Thanks to austerity, this Christmas will be tentless.
This year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has moved the official holiday parties to the Culture Center instead of erecting another tent.
At long last, our municipal nightmare is over.
The eyesore tenting of the Capitol Complex began innocently enough. Using funds leftover from his inauguration celebration, Gov. Joe Manchin financed a restoration of the Governor's Mansion, which was long overdue.
But gubernatorial duties include official fetes and fearing crowds would scuff up the floors, Manchin used leftover renovation funds to purchase a $125,000 party tent.
East End neighbors hated it, saying the tent next to the mansion was an eyesore. They had a point, but the Capitol Complex is rather large and the mansion is in a far corner of the beautiful Statehouse campus.
But the 4,000-square-foot tent did cost money to heat and light. To put that in perspective, the tent was as large as two average-sized homes.
Voters elected Manchin senator in 2010 and acting-Gov. Tomblin sold the tent — which had been privately purchased — for $40,000. He then rented a smaller tent for parties.
That still did not satisfy everyone and it meant he had to host five parties over the holidays to fit all the people.
This year, Tomblin decided to move the Christmas parties to the Culture Center, which is larger and more attractive. Instead of five parties, the governor and his wife will host only two, also saving money.
Without the tent, the governor can look the East End in the eye.
As lightweight as the controversy has been, there is a lesson for government at all levels and it is simply that the state can do more with less — and do it better.