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Chapman: Gotta sell them newspapers

By Staff | Aug 10, 2014

I snapped back to reality after momentarily bristling at a comment made by a former city politician this week. (I use “former” lightly because politicians don’t cease to politic when a title is dropped).

Annoyed by my prodding about a housing project partially funded by taxpayer dollars, the man asserted that I was “just trying to sell newspapers.” Nevermind that I’m bombarded with questions on a weekly basis from Rugby and Pierce County citizens, who justifiably feel disenfranchised and intimated by a core of decision makers.

But no, the easy response when asked uncomfortable questions is to blame the press and cry, “yellow journalism!” How dare the Fourth Estate perform its duty as watchdog?! The Tribune must be simply trying to increase its sales! As an entity of a corporation based in West Virginia, we can’t wait to reap the benefits of an extra hundred dollars or so from non-subscription sales at a handful of newstands! Maybe we’ll add the dough to our massive stockpiles of cash and replace the 20-year-old carpeting and wallpaper!

The fact of the matter is people in our community are frustrated with the way they are spoken to by city and county officials. Frustrations range from the ever-increasing costs of the Chalmers Addition to the childish bickering and backstabbing between the city and county about the law enforcement center to the constant battle of citizens tired of having their properties flooded.

The tide may be changing as more people are attending city council meetings and demanding answers, but the answers seldom satisfy.

It’s time our elected officials on the council – past and present – and members of the Job Development Authority release individual letters answering concerns about the project.

Why was the city attorney’s legal opinion on the project not followed? Why have costs risen and who is being held accountable? Have conflicts of interests of officials and contractors been vetted to assure the public of no wrongdoings?

The city owes concerned citizens better responses than, “Well, that area’s had a flooding problem for 40 years.” Fix it. Citizens who come to a public meeting and question why their street is being neglected don’t deserve a response from the public works supervisor saying, “You want to do it?” Where is the accountability?

I nearly gouged my eyes and tore out my eardrums at last week’s LEC committee meeting. Luckily, State’s Attorney Galen Mack provided reason as commissioners and council members argued about past beefs instead looking forward for solutions to funding the dispatch department. Unfortunately for Mack, he had to play the role of a father and essentially tell the children to grow up.

The public is owed a coherent budget with figures showing what portion of city and county tax dollars are going to what segments of the LEC. A reasonable discussion can then be held regarding how these costs should be shared.

Public officials should be commended for taking their time to serve and we should thank them when they perform in our best interests. Please do that. But don’t forget that all citizens have the right to contact and question these paid officials without fear of repercussions.

People like Jackie Albrecht are owed legitimate answers and action. Her yard and gardens have flooded for six consecutive summers. Each summer she requests action and nothing is done. Why were concerns and opinions prior to the last changes to 1st Street NE and 2nd Avenue not heeded? Why is it taking six years to fix this problem?

Part of the problem lies in every human’s great folly: ego. There appears to be too many of the same people on too many boards, and that includes banks, the hospital, churches. Why are so few women in these leadership roles? Should city ordinances refer to the mayor only as he?

Rugby reportedly has more female-owned businesses per capita than any other city in North Dakota. Ladies, your voices need to be more prominent in this community. Decisions can’t only be made by the good ol’ boys. Your futures as business people and families are valuable. Are they being heard enough?

This isn’t coming from one council member or a few members of the community. Questions are being raised by a wide variety of citizens, some with legitimate fears of speaking out. The favoritism and intimidation needs to stop.

Officials are encouraged to write letters in response.

Closing thought: Why hold elected office if one never voices an opinion or idea?

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