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Published April 16, 2012, 08:30 AM

Keep local issues local

WEST FARGO, N.D. — The rhetoric on both sides of the Measure 2 issue, will likely only get less civil as the voting day draws closer. In response to Dennis Stillings’ March 26 letter in Agweek, I encourage readers to look beyond the tone of the debate and look at the intent of the language of Measure 2.

By: Blake Crosby, Agweek

WEST FARGO, N.D. — The rhetoric on both sides of the Measure 2 issue, will likely only get less civil as the voting day draws closer. In response to Dennis Stillings’ March 26 letter in Agweek, I encourage readers to look beyond the tone of the debate and look at the intent of the language of Measure 2.

I intend to vote no because I see Measure 2 as voiding local control. And it is that local control that has stood the test of time and helped build the North Dakota I call home.

A local voice

As an example, if my hometown of Rolla, N.D., would need to add on to or build a new school, I want my mother, her friends, my relatives and the community to have a say in the process. My mother can’t be running to Bismarck, N.D., to voice her opinion, but she can easily talk face-to-face with a school board member or city councilman — probably at the grocery store or at the restaurant on Sunday after church.

This is the type of local communication and local control I see Measure 2 eliminating. And why should a need in Rolla be pitted against a need in Bowman, Langdon, Williston or any other North Dakota community? If you don’t live there, how can you possibly understand the need? Why should a legislator listen to a resident of a community that she or he does not represent? We don’t get to vote in that district so we can’t vote them out if we disagree with a decision. I don’t want to lose the access and representation I now enjoy.

As far as charges being leveled back and forth about what elected officials can or cannot do: I would think that elected people have more than just a basic understanding of what they can or cannot say. Experience is a hard teacher. I don’t recall in any oath that an elected official gives up First Amendment rights and frankly, I elect them to provide leadership on public policy. And leadership takes opinions. If they do not have or are not allowed to have any opinions; why vote for them in the first place?

The Legislature meets for 80 days every other year. I have seen in print there are about 2,100 local subdivisions in North Dakota. As every bill gets a hearing, it follows that every budget gets a hearing.

More hearings

I can’t begin to imagine cramming 1,000 or 1,500 or 2,000 extra hearings into 80 days. Does anyone really want a decision on something such as building a new school, or police and fire protection or funding for senior community centers to be approved or not approved with five to 10 minutes of debate in front of two or three committees and the House and Senate? If you don’t like the way sausage is made now, I’m afraid you really won’t like it if Measure 2 passes.

We all know that right now the state is enjoying an economic boom and has money in the bank. However, we also know the oil won’t last forever, and neither will commodity prices stay this high.

Rather than tying local services to such volatility, wouldn’t we be better off with a plan about spending some of the surplus to diversify our North Dakota economy to hedge against the economic swings we know are coming? I am talking about building for the future instead of painting ourselves into a corner.

For or against, it does not strengthen your case to tear your neighbor down. If I want to see adults acting like children, I need only to tune into talk radio or cable TV. We can agree to disagree with civility.

North Dakota was built and is sustained on local pride and local control. This is called a community. I want to keep that. I want my voice, and my mother’s voice, to strengthen our respective communities. I will vote no on Measure 2.

Editor’s Note: Crosby is from West Fargo, N.D.

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