The “old” governor’s mansion, that was built in 1960 and served as home to nine of North Dakota’s governor’s, is set to be demolished Friday. In August of last year, I wrote an article asking, “What Kind of Message Should a Governor’s Mansion Send?” I questioned whether the state had gone a bit overboard by spending $5 million on the new 13,700 square foot home for the Governor and First Lady. Not only did I question it, but in my opinion it was most definitely overboard.
What might just frustrate me more than the new residence is the pending destruction of the old one. The 10,000 square foot ranch style home – built just 58 years years ago – was made out to be not worth salvaging. Arguments were made that it was “outdated”— together with reports of lack of handicap accessibility, security issues, lead paint, mold, and asbestos. Those arguments finally won out in 2015 after many years of the issue repeatedly being brought up to the legislature.
In last year’s article, I expressed the following:
“To me, there’s a more important question at hand here than whether we have ‘adequate’ facilities to entertain dignitaries. Does a structure such as this exacerbate and perpetuate an already existing disconnect that is perceived by many between ‘the people’ and their elected leaders– in this case the Governor?”
I’ve never been in the “old” governor’s mansion. From some of the descriptions I had heard, one would think it bordered on a run down shanty in a shady part of town. But I came across a 1 minute 36 second video that proves that wasn’t close to being the case at all. You can see that video here:
I suppose there’s a distinct possibility that your style of living has been far different than the one I’ve experienced. And without going into detail, I’ll tell you that never in my life have I lived in anything remotely close to what they’ll be demolishing tomorrow.
Now, I’m not suggesting that there wasn’t issues with the home. I’m sure there was. But can it honestly be said that it was cheaper to build a new $5 million mansion than to resolve the issues with the existing one? Forgive me, but I have a difficult time believing that.
To be fair, $4 million of the $5 million spent to build the new mansion came from the Capitol Grounds Building Fund. This fund originated from the inception of the state in 1889 as a means from the federal government of our maintaining the Capitol grounds in perpetuity. Yet, I don’t think that makes the situation any less wasteful.
Unfortunately, this situation is fairly typical of government itself. In it we find a reluctance to distinguish between needs and wants. In it we find the inability to be more frugal. In it we see a situation made out to be more dire than it really was, just to get what was wanted.
As I’ve said before, we should always remember this… the image of greatness in North Dakota should always be found in her people. $5 million Mansion or not, I hope no North Dakota Governor will ever forget that. In addition to living in “the people’s house”, they are also the people’s Governor– not a King or Queen to be crowned as some sort of royalty that entertains other royalty from around the globe.