TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Elections Have Consequences, And I Have Concerns

Since I live in North Fargo, I have concerns about the upcoming city election.

I’m not a financial guru, nor have I ever claimed expertise in finances. Like most common folks, however, I can observe some things. I’ve got to ask, “What the hell is happening with the checkbook available to the city of Fargo?”

Let me make it clear that the buyout process for flood protection, as well as the way my city taxes property owners for street and utility improvement, seems to be deeply flawed. If I’m wrong, perhaps those who should know will clarify in what respect!

I do not fault the Don Kinzler family for accepting the bribe the city offered for their home on the north edge of the Rose Creek Golf Course. The city wanted to save money, so they spent a sum substantially more than the cost of eminent domain (for laymen, a foreclosure action seizing private property for public use).

Given their propensity to throw money away, as with the Oxbow buyouts and construction, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If the taxpayer is to pay for the “private” Oxbow Golf Course, the taxpayer should have access to it without buying a membership. Some lawyer will tackle that issue someday. My gut reaction is that the action would be successful.

As of this writing, the city is about to announce a purchase agreement with Mid America Steel. My guess is that they are going to offer a small fortune. One cannot blame the steel company for accepting it. Who wouldn’t accept an offer that’s much more than the property is worth?

Mid America has been a contributor to the Fargo economy forever, and I cannot say anything negative about it. It’ll be going from an old area of the city in which it’s isolated from other manufacturing concerns to a newer area where it can expand.

My main point is my building anger at how the regular citizens of Fargo are treated. Maybe somewhere there is a fiscal handbook that says to ignore the private citizen … unless that citizen is wealthy … and if they complain, ignore it — they will eventually go away.

My friends in Fargo, do not let this go away! The attempt to build apartments on the Ponyland property to house North Dakota State University sophomores (as has been announced), the failure of NDSU to comment on the project and the lack of information provided to North Side residents from the get-go … it all has a really bad political odor. In other words, it stinks.

While the deal is not yet done, those who follow Fargo politics believe that when the developer presents the revised plan to the commission, the majority will rubber-stamp it.

What I find interesting is that after north-side residents organized, and after an alleged compromise was reached, and after refusing to comment on the project, NDSU has just announced a new, majestic building right on campus for, I believe, its students.

The developer of the Ponyland property just happens to be on the NDSU board that approves these things. Ya think there might have been some inside information flying back and forth? I’m not suggesting anything unlawful, but I am suggesting a degree of informational dishonesty that jumps right out at me.

Since I’m now in the business of looking to the future, let me further address the burr under my saddle.

North Broadway and surrounding streets and driveways are being torn up for utility work. Work is under way all over the city, of course, but this project places an unfair burden on adjacent property owners. The owners in the neighborhood are paying for the entire project, including tearing up and replacing their street access, tearing up and replacing the streets and additional work with the project. Homeowners have been hit with unfair and unbelievable taxes that may force some to sell or, even worse, prevent a sale. Business owners in the Northport Shopping Center and the adjoining avenue are being hit so hard that one or more are contemplating shutting down and moving to West Fargo, where their contributions would be appreciated and welcomed.

If the streets were worn and needed replacing, that would be one thing. But when utility work is being done because it results in a benefit to the whole city, not just these residents and businesses, the tax burden should be citywide. The entire burden should not fall on those who just happen to live there.

Why couldn’t those in charge of city finances work out a jackpot fund that could cover the cost of a project like this? I’ll bet Doug Burgum could come up with some pretty fancy financing options to prevent this unfair assessment. But that would require departing from business as usual, using some independent judgment and looking for new financing options.

You can bet the farm that no Fargo commissioner or member of the finance department lives on Broadway, where this abhorrent assessment is taking place.

Fargo has to start thinking outside the finance box to better serve its citizens. Now would be the perfect time to start. Those people and businesses on Broadway need help, and it’s time they receive it.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Elections have consequences. Look at the candidates. You’ll see some original thinking with Brust, Strand and Anderson. It’s time to bust up the business interests that ignore Fargo’s citizens and elect thoughtful, energetic people who will bring new innovation and thought to the political mix. Forget whether they’re Republicans or Democrats! Vote for competence, originality and drive.

This is a good time for those who are elected to Fargo government to give thought to expanding the number of elected officials. As Fargo has grown, some areas have become over- or underrepresented. Whether this means the city should be divided into districts or some other formula, we’re big enough to do it. Now is the time, after this election, to seriously study the government format.

OK, that damned Trump is blathering on the television in the background. I have to stop now, or the folks who monitor polite language will be all over me again. Amen.

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