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Published February 16 2013

Forum editorial: Build new governor’s residence

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple not only is a good governor, he’s also a savvy politician. It’s no surprise he’s taken a position on calls for a new governor’s house that pretty much puts him above the fray. In response to a bill to replace the aging and always-in-need-of-repair 53-year-old bungalow on the Capitol grounds, Dalrymple said he saw no need for a new house.

Smart move, Governor. After all, the dustup a few years ago over a president’s house at North Dakota State University is a caution to any official who stumbles into a debate about new houses.

That being the politics of the issue, the governor’s residence should be replaced. It might not be “old” by some measures, but age is the least of its problems. It’s remarkably unimpressive – so much so that renovations, remodeling and repairs over the past half-century have done little to make the residence anything but mediocre.

Its design might have been appropriate when it was conceived and constructed. Today, however, the house – leaky roof and all – hardly meets the standard of merely adequate for what should be the “people’s house” as much as it is the governor’s residence. After all, governors come and go. The house in which they live – in effect the front door of the state – should be more than a dowdy 1950s-style, cookie-cutter rambler. Those who insist on calling it the governor’s “mansion” are letting sarcasm get the best of them.

The proposal that was beaten back in the House last week was sensible and fiscally responsible. It would have used $3 million in funds reserved for improvements to Capitol grounds buildings, and raised another $3 million from private sources. The house needs at least $2.8 million in repairs and upgrades, which would be irresponsible expenditures when that money could be the state’s share to fund a new place.

North Dakota is the envy of the nation. By most indicators of economic success and social health, the state is a leader, if not the leader among the states. The governor’s residence is more than a house. It’s a symbol of a state’s history and heritage. It’s an architectural statement about the exciting present and a bright future. North Dakotans should be bold about all that, and not settle for the mediocrity enshrined in the old house.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.