Chronicle Editorial

Lamenting over a logo


     The Iowa Department of Transportation raised some eyebrows last week after officials unveiled a new logo that they claimed would cost just under $100,000 to fully implement statewide. The announcement was met with an air of criticism, as the DOT has called for more funding in recent years to fill budget deficits.

     The DOT was quick to refute any accusations of hypocrisy about the price of the switch. The new logo will be phased out over a period of five years to have as minimal an impact on the budget as possible. There won't be a rush to throw out office supplies like stationary or repaint the new logo on old vehicles – items will simply get replaced over time as they become depleted. No word was given on how long it would take to phase out the many signs throughout the state that bear the DOT's former emblem.

     The change seems simple enough. The old logo dates back to the mid-1970s, and its always nice to freshen things up every now and then. After all, it'd be hard to find a company with a 40-year old logo unless it's rooted firmly in its traditions. However, the DOT is not a company, and the money it uses is not its own. Most Iowans probably couldn't even remember what the old logo looked like after they saw the new one, but that really seems irrelevant. At the heart of the issue is a government agency wasting something they claim to have very little of – money.

     $100,000 is not a lot of cash in the grand scheme of things. The DOT is a large agency charged with maintaining more than 114,000 miles of roads throughout the state. The logo switch won't deplete money for highway improvements and it won't close bridges that were scheduled for repair. However, it's timing couldn't be worse. DOT officials have lamented for the past several years about underfunded budgets and revenue cuts, and this will certainly give state politicians some fodder to use when the agency cries foul again in 2014.

     According to a report by the Des Moines Register, the DOT claims funding for Iowa's road system has been falling short annually by a sum of around $215 million. While that number could be debated, it's hard to disagree that the state's roads and bridges are in need of some extra attention – a quick trip across even a few of Iowa's 99 counties would reveal some rather suspect parts of an ailing infrastructure. A 10-cent hike in the state's gas tax has been proposed to combat pitfalls and raise revenue for the DOT, but the idea has been met with hostility in recent years. Nobody wants to pay more at the pump when they're already getting pinched.

     If the cash-strapped DOT wants more money to improve Iowa's roadways and bridges, paying $100,000 for a new logo is certainly a roundabout way of showing good stewardship of the taxpayers' money. Admittedly, the new emblem does look sharp. Even so, the circumstances surrounding its inauguration are just bad PR. The agency faces an uphill battle in 2014 to secure more funding from state lawmakers already hesitant about spending money – more conservative factions in Des Moines might have a heyday about this minor expenditure, no matter how frivolous it may appear.

     Hopefully the switch won't have lasting implications on funding requests to improve Iowa's infrastructure. We use our roads everyday, and money invested into them aids economic growth and public livelihood. The fight for funding might be long, hard and drawn out in the years to come, but at least the DOT will look good doing it.