Whew! Our long state nightmare is finally over. Valhalla has been returned to the people!
To be honest, I didn’t know this governor’s getaway in the Black Hills even existed until about three years ago when democrats tried to have a political meeting at the cabin and were turned down flat by Republican Governor Mike Rounds who said that Valhalla..built by former governor and U.S. Senator, Peter Norbeck in the 1920’s, was not to be used for political events. Well, that ticked off former Republican turned Democrat, Scott Heidepriem and then State Senator, Tom Katus. Pretty soon they had other Democrats and several bloggers all riled up suggesting that Rounds was hogging the place for himself and his Republican cronies at taxpayer’s expense and, by god, that just ain’t right. Before long, reporters were demanding to see lists of guests who’d stayed there and when those requests were denied, they screamed their objections in editorials as if to suggest that Rounds was hosting orgies at the place. Come on..really?
Katus, who made an unsuccessful bid for South Dakota Treasurer last year, seemed absolutely giddy when he learned that Governor Dennis Daugaard had given in to pressure and decided to open up Valhalla for public tours as well as business meetings and retreats for 200 dollars a day. Daugaard will have priority use of the cabin but will also pay for its use out of his own pocket. “He’s one of us again,” Katus told Keloland’s Austin Hoffman. “I think South Dakotans really like that when he’s no better than the rest of us.”
Well, THIS South Dakotan wants a governor that IS NOT like the rest of us. I want him (or her) to represent my state much better than I ever could; to use the skills revealed in his (or her) campaign, that most of us voted for, and apply them to the job. The position has always come with power and a certain amount of privileges; from a mansion in Pierre to a house in the Hills where he (or she) can get away from it all on occasion. If he(or she) invites some big wigs out there to wine and dine in hopes of bringing future investments and jobs to South Dakota ..what’s wrong with that? When a Democrat gets elected he (or she) can invite anybody THEY want.
I’m not saying this actually happened but what if Bill Janklow had used Valhalla when he was governor to schmooze Citibank and other credit card execs into moving their operations to South Dakota? Would anyone have dared to tell HIM that the public needs to see a list of his guests and to justify the expense of keeping the place up? Nah, Mike Rounds and Denny Daugaard are easier targets.
The fact is that after the legislature adjourns; much of the governor’s time is spent doing pubic relations stuff which is fine by me. I want him to leave his office in Pierre and get out there amongst the people listening their ideas, needs and concerns first hand offering suggestions, solutions, and comfort when he can. I also want my governor to be a respected ambassador for South Dakota using every tool at his disposal to attract out of state businesses and tourists to come here. To do all that traveling, I want him to have access to the best and safest airplane and other forms of transportation. Some would have our chief executive driving an old pick-up or flying commercially because that would make him more like the rest of us.
I also don’t give a rip who the governor invites along on his annual pheasant hunt and can’t really understand why, in the last few years, it has become such a major “people’s right to know” issue. If some deals can be done between the corn rows on the condition of anonymity, I’ve got no problem with that. I have a hunch that those yelling loudest about seeing the list of invitees are torqued because their name isn’t on it.
Schmoozing big wigs on the Q.T. is nothing new in South Dakota. Former governor, Peter Norbeck, was a U.S. Senator in 1927 and looking for ways to promote tourism in the state. He, and a few other enterprising fellows, managed to convince then President Calvin Coolidge to escape the stifling heat of Washington D.C. and bring along the misses to spend the summer in South Dakota’s beautiful, cool, bug free Black Hills. Norbeck made sure Silent Cal had all the creature comforts and took him around to see all the sites.
While he had the President’s ear, Norbeck also asked for his help in securing federal dollars to pay for a huge sculpture to be carved out of a nearby granite mountain called Rushmore. It worked because Coolidge was instrumental in convincing congress to pay for the monument. The President loved everything about that South Dakota summer especially the fishing. What wasn’t known for years is that Norbeck and his cronies had sweetened the pot by stringing chicken wire across both ends of the pond Mr. Coolidge fished from and stocked it with big trout from the hatchery in Spearfish guaranteeing plentiful catches.
Hey Lund, I thought as a former reporter, you’d be in favor of open government and keeping the public informed on how politicians spend our tax dollars. I am. But I can also spot manufactured rage and political grandstanding when I smell it. I suspect those taking deep bows for exposing such “dirty little secrets” as Valhalla, Pheasant Hunts and alleged State Airplane joy rides are more interested in a headline than actually giving a damn about issues that are really important.
Oh well..at least I can now get a group together for a meeting or little retreat at Valhalla for a couple hundred bucks a day. Cheaper than the Super 8. I just hope someone’s keeping an eye on Governor Daugaard to make sure he forks over the cash whenever he wants to check-in to the place…”just like the rest of us.’”