In 2007 Arkansas state Rep. Dan Greenberg got so fed up with people in his state naming things after former Governor Mike Huckabee and other politicians that he introduced what he called the “Edifice Complex Prevention Bill.”
“I discovered a local park had been named after me and other legislators without my knowledge,” Greenberg told John Stossel in 2008. “But that wasn’t enough for one legislator who complained that the sign with her name on it wasn’t in her campaign colors.”
Greenberg’s bill wasn’t successful on that attempt – it was killed in committee on an 11-3 vote, I have no idea if it has passed since then – but I was thinking of his legislation, and Stossel’s column mentioning it, tonight when I heard that the Minot Public School District was going to name a school after former Governor and current U.S. Senator John Hoeven.
“He is from Minot. Minot’s his hometown and Minot has not produced a governor or senator for almost a century so I think it’s appropriate we do name it after him,” school board president Jim Rostad said before the vote to approve John Hoeven Elementary School.
All of the board members but one – Laura Mihalick – voted for the name. Mihalick said she had nothing against Hoeven, but that there were better options available.
I can’t help but agree.
We can’t blame Hoeven for this. There’s no indication at all that he was involved in any way with the choice to name a school after him. There’s not a whiff of vanity around this for the Senator. This seems to have been a local choice all the way. So Stossel’s arguments about vain politicians building edifices with other people’s money and then slapping their own names on the side really don’t apply here.
But it’s still not appropriate.
One day Hoeven will have his place in history as one of the state’s longest-serving and most popular governors, not to mention a presumably long career in the Senate to boot. Perhaps one day it will be appropriate to name a school after him.
But that time is not today.
If I were king for a day I would make a law prohibiting the naming of any public structure after a politician until that politician is dead. Or maybe use baseball’s hall of fame rules and require that the politician in question be retired for at least five years before being honored that way.
However it would be done, we certainly shouldn’t be naming buildings after politicians who are in the prime of their careers.
For what it’s worth, I wasn’t a fan of naming the Grand Forks airport terminal after Byron Dorgan either.