Berg Column: What's That $mell? North Dakota's Money To Burn


Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks


Good evening, I’m Chris Berg, thanks for joining us. Do you smell that? For the past few days everywhere I go in North Dakota, there is this weird smell. I am curiouis if any of you at home have noticed it too? Do me a favor, right now, take a moment, and just take a deep breath through your nose, and you tell me if you smell something strange? It took me a couple of days, and I finally figured out what it is. It is the smell of burning money…because that is exactly what the state of North Dakota is doing by having you and I by the boyhood home of Lawrence Welk. That is tonight’s Point of View topic: How do you feel about the state of North Dakota spending a $100,000 of your money to buy Lawrence Welks boyhood home? Is that the role of Government?

In case you have not heard the news, this past legislative session, our legislators agreed to spend a $100,000 of our money to purchase the home of Lawrence Welk in Strasburg, ND, and just the other day the ND State Historical Society voted 6-5 to go ahead with the purchase.

Must be nice to have money to burn. The purchase will go through assuming Mr. Welk’s family makes certain repairs to the property. If that happens, then you and I, the citizens of North Dakota will be the proud owners of a historic site that attracted all of 500 people last year. I mean if you put it in context that is pretty impressive. Let’s see there are 6BN people on the planet, and a whole 500 people went to see his home. Yes, let’s spend a $100,000 on that.

I mean, I guarantee you more than 500 people go to President Reagan’s ranch every year near Santa Barbara, keep in mind we are talking about a former President, and the state of California never offered a penny to buy his ranch.

Now I understand, some of you may agree with Gary Satern from Bismarck who said this:

“It would be a shame and national embarrassment to let it fall down,”
Gary Satern of Bismarck

Hey Gary if you are so passionate about the property, I have an idea, go find people that will donate their own time and money and keep it from falling down.

And by the way, lets be honest. Do you really feel in your heart of hearts this is the best investment of the state’s money right now? Spending a $100,000 on a home that attracted 500 people to it last year? Remember during the legislative session, the conversation about the kids not having milk during milk break at school? I mean how many cartons of milk could you buy for $100,000? You may agree with me even more when you see this report that came out today. It graded all the state’s education systems around the country. You want to know what grade North Dakota got? What would you guess? According to the Student’s First report, North Dakota got:

I dont know, call me crazy, and it looks like there are a lot of smarter places to invest $100,000 right now. Now some of you may be saying, but Chris you are always talking about how much money the state of North Dakota has, a $100,000 is not that big of a deal. And you could have a point there, until you see the bait and switch the ND State Historical Society pulled. Now that they got the state to buy the house, they have put together a little wish list. Check this out, and the last item is my favorite.

The North Dakota Historical Society’s wish list for dressing up the birthplace of beloved bandleader Lawrence Welk into a top-rung tourist attraction contains more than $2.3 million in estimated expenses, led by a $1 million interpretive center.

Many of you may be asking, just like I did, what in the world is an interpretive center. Well, I found the answer for us:

An interpretive center would provide a central gathering place at the site and educate visitors about how the Welk family and other Germans from Russia homesteaded in North Dakota.
Merle Paaverud – Director of the State Historical Society

By the way, we asked Merle to join us tonight with our guest ND State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt. He declined our offer to debate her, so he will be joining us next Tuesday night.

Another item on this $2.3M wishlist is a brand new $25,000 security system, so it will be able to tie into the current system at the Heritage Center in Bismarck. I have an idea that will save us all time and money. How about we take that $25,000, hire a big huge truck, put the house on top of the truck and we drop the house off at the Heritage Center in Bismarck? That way we people can take in even more of state’s great history right there in Bismarck, and we all are not on the hook for a $2.3M tab. But that wouldn’t make any sense when you are spending other people’s money.

And that’s tonights Point of View…