Visitors to the governor's suite of offices in the Maryland State House had better stay alert in case a chunk of plaster is about to come crashing down. That's on top of peeling paint, water stains, a crumbling rug, nails sticking out of chairs, deteriorating window sills, large cracks in the walls and a soot-encrusted marble fireplace.
No wonder Gov. Parris Glendening called this state of disrepair a "disgrace." He had ample reason to give the suite -- including the public Reception Room -- a good repair and redecoration.
For $52,800, the governor is getting a real bargain. His office will have Chippendale-style furniture that is simple yet fits in with the Colonial tradition of the State House. The filthy drapes were sent to the cleaners; and the crumbling ceiling and cracking walls are being fixed up and repainted. Meanwhile, the ceremonial Reception Room is getting a thorough renovation, plus new paint on the walls and clean drapes.
It's time for a touch-up, anyway. Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer organized the last one, in 1987 after he took office, for $75,000. So Mr. Glendening's fix-up is more frugal.
Most of the damage was done by a leaky slate roof and a building that was erected in the 1770s. The governor should see that the slate gets better routine maintenance to prevent future leaks. Otherwise, the next governor will probably be complaining about the deplorable disrepair of his own office suite in the State House.
This work had to be done. The governor's offices were an unsafe place for state employees, and visitors were taking a chance, too. The Reception Room needed a once-over to make it more appealing for its thousands of guests and dozens of meetings during the year.
Just as the governor spent public money bringing his staff into the era of the personal computer, it was appropriate for Mr. Glendening to repair and spruce up his second-floor quarters. The State House is a public building, and has been for over 200 years. Any structure that old and that historic deserves tender, loving care.