Exposing Valhalla

Posted: Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 10:25 am
By: Doug Lund
Comment | Trackback Bookmark and Share

 Whew! Our long state nightmare is finally over. Valhalla has been returned to the people!

valhalla cabin

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 valhalla insidesuggesting 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.

valhalla peter norbeckSchmoozing 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.

The State Game Lodge served as Coolidge's summer White House 1927

The State Game Lodge served as Coolidge's summer White House 1927

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.

The Prez heading out for more Black Hills trout 1927

The Prez heading out for more Black Hills trout 1927

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.’”

32 Comments

  1. jaycee says:

    I agree with everything you wrote…100%!!!

  2. Gary says:

    Well said Doug.

  3. The problem I have is twofold: (1) True democracy cannot operate in secrecy, and (2) openness is like pregnancy: there’s no such thing as being “a little bit open” where government is concerned. As a taxpayer, I absolutely want to know where, how, and on whom my tax dollars are spent…especially when I am now told that there is such a huge shortage of them.

    I can’t say whose rage is “manufactured” and whose isn’t, but I can say that my nose is hypersensitive to those odors that are strongest in the shadowy places.

  4. Per Pål P says:

    William J…I agree…you are 100% “right on”…. Thanks for your post… I only wish I could have “said it so well” Per

  5. gr says:

    Good article Doug! I couldn’t agree with you more.

  6. Fosh says:

    I don’t know why there couldn’t have been some compromise. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can’t the cabin be open to the public during the week, and at the same time be open to the Gov on the weekends for his family to use for free? I agree with there being certain perks to the job, and having a nice get away for the governor is something i would see as being justified. As conservative as Daugaard is, now he wont ever use it.

  7. Bob B. says:

    Doug:
    I always enjoy what you write!!! You are absolutely 100% righy on this one GREAT JOB!!!!

  8. daniel Johnson says:

    Those wanting to know where every dollar goes I presume go over every item in our federal budget and travel to DC to argue over those items not to their liking.

  9. Steve says:

    Doug,

    Gotta disagree with you on this one. I, for one, don’t agree with the uppity attitude of some of the politicians (of which, in my opinion, our present and last governor fit the bill) and I do not think it is the taxpayers responsibility to provide a free vacation home for the governor!

  10. Milt says:

    I agree with Steve. Our last three governors all seem to have been cut from the same cloth. They seem to think they know everything and the average South Dakotan knows nothing. The only difference among the three is that Rounds and Daugaard try to act like nice guys and Janklow didn’t bother. I don’t really care about the cabin, but I don’t like it when the governor regards himself above everyone else and gets very defensive when challenged. It’s that aloof attitude that makes them not listen to the citizens of SD.

  11. Donn says:

    Good post Doug. To Steve and Milt, who’s to say your not the uppity ones.

  12. rdl says:

    Doug I have always heard that the carvings on Mt. Rushmore was NOT funded by any goverment funds. Only private funds were used.

  13. Steve says:

    Donn,

    Nobody! That’s why I put in “in my opinion.” However, the politician puts his attitude, behavior etc. out there for all to see. And I think that my opinion is correct. If you knew me you may not agree with me but you may also be in less of a rush to start pointing a finger at me. I think that you are wrong in your assessment of this blog and definitely about me. However, until you know me you don’t have a clue. Do you?:-)

  14. Milt says:

    Well, Donn, I don’t think I’m being uppity simply because I think our leaders should listen to their constituents. I just want our governors to remember that they were elected–not crowned!

  15. Doug Lund says:

    Rdl: The Federal Government first began paying for Mount Rushmore in 1927 by matching the funds collected though private donations..but in 1934, with the country deep in depression, the government picked up the whole tab which came to a grand total of about a million dollars. That’s one sixth the amount the Sioux Falls school distict plans to spend upgrading the press box and a few other improvements at Howard Wood Field.
    The Crazy Horse Memorial has always refused government funding by order of the late sculptor, Korczak Ziółkowski.

  16. Mike says:

    This is just the latest in Democrat manufactured problems, just like the pheasant hunt, the planes, etc. The people haven’t trusted them with the governorship since the 70′s, and they’re throwing mud in every direction hoping against hope that something, sometime will stick and resonate with voters. This one didn’t either. I think it’s really too bad that Daugaard caved into these people, as he apparently has no grasp on how few people care. What’s next? Are we renting out Camp David for weddings just to prove how equal we all are?

  17. Jerry says:

    OK I’m dumb. Where is valhalla???

  18. Thor says:

    First things first. The name needs to be changed as “Valhalla” is inappropriate for a place that looks more remote than my Uncle Odin’s cabin up near the Canadian border. It’s a shame it doesn’t have a name of Dakota heritage. Maybe I’ll just call it as I see it. “Overrated” has a good ring to it.

  19. Brian says:

    Doug when you say political grandstanding in Pierre, for some reason the name Bernie Hunhoff comes to mind concerning this issue. hmmm

  20. Becky says:

    “The problem I have is twofold: (1) True democracy cannot operate in secrecy, and (2) openness is like pregnancy: there’s no such thing as being “a little bit open” where government is concerned.”

    ROCK ON WILLIAM J REYNOLDS! I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU.

  21. RT says:

    Cheers to Becky!!! Might I add that Doug’s comment about the governor’s skills which a majority of people voted for etc. is pretty ironic. His campaign was all about denying a fiscal budget crisis in Pierre. Things changed in a big hurry. How sad that we were so naive.

  22. brian says:

    Too bad we were so naive to have elected a President Obama who backed states like ours into a corner with all the new Medicaid spending that helped but our state into a fiscal budget crisis in the first place.

  23. Michael says:

    $200 a night? Seriously? Sheez, a tiny little one room sleeper cabin at Legion Lake or the State Game Lodge is $130 a night. At Sylvan Lake expect to pay $170 a night for a tiny cabin. Anything in the Hills even close to the size of “Valhalla” runs around $500 a night. They apparently didn’t do much research before they decided on a rental price.

  24. Michael says:

    “Too bad we were so naive to have elected a President Obama who backed states like ours into a corner with all the new Medicaid spending that helped but our state into a fiscal budget crisis in the first place.”

    Blah, blah, blah. Everything is Obama’s fault if you’re a wingnut. He probably thinks toothaches, rainy days, and flat tires are Obama’s fault, too.

  25. Brian says:

    I’m not a “wingnut”. Michael, that is the facts about what happened to the SD budget this year. Get your head out.

  26. Brian says:

    I was just responding to RT. Is he a wingnut? I don’t call names.

  27. Michael says:

    Sorry I hurt your feelings. Grab a tissue and dry your little tears.

  28. Squibby says:

    Brian, get real. It’s the loss of revenue (mainly through housing collapse) that hit the nation and SD so hard, and if the blow-hard Repub’s are serious about getting our fiscal house in order, then cut the 70 billion in defense waste, 20 billion in farm subsidies, and 15 bill in oil & ethanol subsidies.

  29. My Daddy's Daughter says:

    I’m curious how many of the folks who comment on state expenditures have any real clue about how the money is spent and where some of the waste occurs? You all want to blame the “overpaid” “worthless” state employee but try getting by without them. First there’d be an uprising by all the entitlement folks. The Medicaid people might have to schedule doctor appointments for colds rather than show up at the ER, quadrupling the cost of their care. Some of you would have to figure out how to care for your indigent elderly relatives if the Home Health gals weren’t available or nursing home care provided. You want all the state roads to be ice and snow free so you can attend you kids’ ballgames or go to concerts regardless of the weather, you want state parks to be neatly maintained so you can take your kids camping or fishing, etc., etc., etc. There’s far more that goes on than I have time or space for but most of you really don’t have a clue – no matter how well informed you think you are.

  30. Michael says:

    “I’m curious how many of the folks who comment on state expenditures have any real clue about how the money is spent and where some of the waste occurs? You all want to blame the “overpaid” “worthless” state employee but try getting by without them. First there’d be an uprising by all the entitlement folks. The Medicaid people might have to schedule doctor appointments for colds rather than show up at the ER, quadrupling the cost of their care. Some of you would have to figure out how to care for your indigent elderly relatives if the Home Health gals weren’t available or nursing home care provided. You want all the state roads to be ice and snow free so you can attend you kids’ ballgames or go to concerts regardless of the weather, you want state parks to be neatly maintained so you can take your kids camping or fishing, etc., etc., etc. There’s far more that goes on than I have time or space for but most of you really don’t have a clue – no matter how well informed you think you are.”

    So you are saying what, exactly? We should all live in caves and make fire by banging rocks together? Maybe you would settle for just throwing the elderly into the street to die. I’m not really sure which side of the argument you are on–or if you’re being ironic or not.

  31. Holly says:

    Doug, If you had paid attention to Senator Katus during the election, his problem with Valhalla wasn’t that the governor allowed unknown people to stay there, it was in the fact that the state paid $250,000 to refurbish it, without approval of the funds from the legislature. He also had a problem with the state owning 10 airplanes for the governor’s and others use. Does a state the size of South Dakota really need 10 state owned airplanes?

  32. RT says:

    Three cheers to Holly!

Leave a Reply