Star-Gazing Not Free In Chicago

Published October 9, 2008

Dear Editor:

The Washington Wire blog administered by Wall Street Journal writer Joe Barrett reported on Sen. McCain’s charge during the most recent presidential debate that Sen. Obama attempted to earmark $3 million for a nebulous “projector” project for the Chicago Adler Planetarium (“Planetarium Project: Pork or Imperative?” October 8).

Adler Planetarium President Paul Knappenberger says the earmark was part of a request for a $10 million technical equipment expansion project that was solicited from Obama and other members of the Illinois delegation.

Mr. Knappenberger contended that taxpayer funding was a worthy congressional earmark that “offers millions of students a chance to see something they normally can’t in Chicago–a dark, night sky–an inspiring opportunity to get students interested in science, interested in math.”

Earmarks of millions of taxpayer dollars routinely are expended on projects that on the surface appear educational and benign. That’s until you lift the veil on the high cost of government in Chicago, which results in admission tickets to the Adler Planetarium of $17 for an adult and $14 for a child. So a family of four has to fork over $62 for admission to see a tour of the stars. At that rate, the students and parents who could benefit most from taxpayers’ largesse are economically restricted from attending while their Members of Congress celebrate their own support for culture in Chicago.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager at The Heartland Institute.