Last week North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer introduced a bill in Congress – HR2154 – which would rename the USDA’s Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center after former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer.
“The Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo, North Dakota, shall hereafter be known and designated as the ‘Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center’,” the legislation states.
“Any reference in any law, map, regulation, map, document, paper, or other record of the United States to the facility referred to in subsection (a) shall be considered to be a reference to the Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center,” it continues.
On paper it makes sense. Not only was Schafer a very successful, very popular two-term governor of North Dakota but he also presided over the USDA as the Secretary of Agriculture under former President George W. Bush.
I also like Schafer personally a great deal. He’s written guest posts for SAB over the years. He’s been a guest host for my radio show as well. I think he’s one of the best leaders our state has ever seen, and a pretty darn good human being to boot.
All that said, I really don’t like the idea of naming public buildings after politicians.
Not living politicians, anyway, which sounds morbid, I know, but I feel like we should put some distance between a given political figure’s career and literally embedding their names in stone around government buildings. Schafer hasn’t held elected office in going on two decades, but he’s not all that far removed from public service. He was just the president of the University of North Dakota not that long ago, though that was an interim position, and he may yet have more public service ahead of him.
Plus, politicians naming buildings after one another smacks of the sort of insider politics everybody claims to dislike.
Years ago John Stossel called this the “edifice complex.”
“I understand why politicians like having their names on buildings,” he wrote. “It’s an ego boost.”
“But you shouldn’t have to pay for their monuments to themselves,” he continued.
I’m all for honoring Schafer, but I’m not sure this it the right way to do it.
Congressman Cramer will be on my show on 970 WDAY tomorrow for his weekly open phones segment (podcast). I’m sure this will come up.