TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Transparency Is Not A Brick Wall

Free advice is worth the price you pay for it. I have some advice for the city of West Fargo:  Contact American Crystal Sugar in Moorhead to ascertain the process they used to eliminate most of the odor from their settling ponds. Years ago, Crystal’s ponds caused a neighborhood revolution in North Fargo and North Moorhead. Crystal addressed the concerns like a good neighbor, and the problem was diminished if not eliminated.

Free advice to the citizens of Buffalo, N.D.: Stand your ground. Your situation is not unlike the political process that has faced residents of North and South Fargo. It seems politicians and the process they attempt to utilize forgets that we the people elect them. They work for us, not vice versa.

The ambush of the residents of Buffalo is not unlike other political maneuvers that have been allowed far too long. This 9,000-hog farm proposal should have been brought to public attention before, not after, negotiations between the developer (hog farmer) and the State Health Department regulators.

Doug Goehring, North Dakota’s commissioner of agriculture, sent an emissary to the meeting where the community learned of the plan. Given the fact that his department had worked behind the scenes with the developer for a year beforehand, he might have been hard-pressed to explain to the audience why he didn’t involve the citizens (his bosses) who would be impacted.

Too damned often, those who have been elected forget that the people are their employers. Too often the people themselves forget that, too.

Concerns about air and water pollution by hog gas and manure were brushed off, along with the health concerns of the neighboring residents. A physician raised serious concerns in a letter read at the meeting. But if politics-as-usual continues, his concerns will be ignored ― as there’s apparently no point in considering information from someone learned in health issues.

It’s same old same old: If a lawyer is for it, the chances of passing legislation are slim. If law enforcement express concern, it is too often ignored. If physicians air concerns about a proposal, too often they are also ignored.

There is a hog farm near Upper Cormorant Lake in Minnesota. It is far enough away that it can’t be seen visually from the road. But when the wind blows from the wrong direction, I can tell you ― even the flies look for cover.

The odor from 9,000 hogs can’t be masked, no matter how you spin it. The people of Buffalo are right ― “not in our neighborhood.” So far, the state doesn’t seem to be listening. But that might change.

Does this flawed procedure sound familiar to any North Fargo residents. Does it seem to resemble the ambush used in the Ponyland zoning issue???

The right procedure with proposals like these is to notify those who might be affected by them. Then the people would be involved from the beginning … not told about them after the groundwork has been laid. The procedure that’s been used in both of these situations was about as transparent as a brick wall.

Free advice to the citizens of Fargo and to the largest newspaper in North Dakota: Young people are constantly urged to get involved in politics. In this instance, I’m limiting my comments to the Fargo City Commission election. Some qualified newcomers have announced their candidacies, as well as some seasoned veterans. Through March 18, The Forum reported each announcement in a brief news story. But on March 19, it threw the argument for youth and new blood right out the window.

The newspaper not only glorified one new candidate with a long, bold, well-placed story including a large photograph that also listed his supporters … all of whom happen to be active in the Republican Party. The Forum knew the City Commission race is supposedly “nonpartisan.” It just happened that another active Republican was given space next to the big story and identified as such, but more like an afterthought.

I guess the best way to elect officials on a nonpartisan basis now is to publicize their party affiliation ― not! In local politics, being a D or and R should make no difference. But The Forum apparently can’t endorse candidates until they let everyone know who the R’s are. This reflects not on the candidates, but on the stacked deck some other candidates face.

I’m not a prophet, but I will make one prediction here: If The Forum’s fair-haired selection is elected, given his experience, in two years he will run for mayor. Oh, how shocking ― the current mayor is a D and the newbie would be an R.

Free advice to the Fargo City Commission: In the last city race, with so many candidates’ names on the ballot, the winner was elected by a very slim margin. That minute share of the total vote should not be the sole factor in filling these extremely important seats.

It’s time to rethink this. It’s my thought that the city should come up with a run-off formula for races involving more than a couple of candidates. Fargo voters have eight to choose from in the upcoming election, and more may still join the race for just two seats. Far be it from me to suggest the appropriate formula … but a new formula there should be.

No advice needed: Somehow, Moorhead seems to have avoided the political bloodshed that surrounds the issue of flood protection in Fargo. I know the issues are less complicated in Moorhead because of its higher elevation. But like Grand Forks before them, Moorhead got the job done.

Moorhead has achieved complete flood protection, while Fargo is still at war. Instead of engaging the politicians in the flood war, why not let someone like Mark Bittner (the architect of the Fargo flood protection) be the chief negotiator? Certain politicians had no trouble taking credit for his work when push came to shove. Now, put that flood jacket on him ― he’s the one who deserves it. The downstream folks do have a concern, and reaching an agreement shouldn’t take five years. Amen.

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