To combat the deterioration of presidential birthplaces and libraries, Reps. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.) have co-sponsored the Presidential Sites Improvement Act, which will give federal dollars to aid in the maintenance of the landmarks and make sure they serve as a source of national pride.
“I think most of them struggle from year to year to keep themselves in a presentable state,” said Ross, whose district contains the birth home of former President Bill Clinton.
“Presidential sites are instrumental to understanding our history and many are in desperate need of modifications,” Gillmor said. President Rutherford B. Hayes’ presidential library is located in Gillmor’s district.
Presidential sites include presidential libraries, places of birth, historical landmarks, museums and research centers dedicated to a U.S. president.
The legislation calls for the creation of a Presidential Site Grant Commission, which as part of the Interior Department would dole out grants to presidential sites for air conditioning, heating systems, security and construction to make sure they achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The bill authorizes the appropriation of $5 million for each of the next two fiscal years. Sixty-five percent of the funding would be given to presidential sites with a three-year average annual operating budget of less than $700,000, and 20 percent would go to sites with a budget of more than $700,000. Fifteen percent of the funds would be used for emergency projects.
“These landmarks are too important to just forget about, and our bill ensures that the federal government will see that they are held to a standard worthy of a presidential site,” Gillmor said.
Ross said that maintenance of presidential sites is an issue that should rise above partisanship. “I don’t care if it’s a Democratic presidential site or a Republican presidential site, it’s a piece of history.”
He added that the federal funding would have added economic effects by boosting tourism to sites that in the past may have scared away visitors with their shabby appearance.
Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.