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Facts are enough to defeat Measure #1

By Lloyd Omdahl - | Oct 10, 2020

For a variety of reasons, Measure #1 doubling the size of the Board of Higher Education is a bad idea. Four management organizations say that eight-member boards are more effective, more efficient than 15-member boards.

The North Dakota Board of Higher Education is presently the right size for the work it does.

Measure #1 is on the ballot because the legislature likes to fool around with the board because it is jealous of the constitutional independence of the board. The board is an itch the legislature can’t scratch.

Even though it is a bad proposal, Measure #1 warrants an honest discussion of the issues involved. However, one piece of campaign literature being circulated against Measure #1 is so dishonest that it is impossible to remain silent.

It reminds me of situations in political parties when they have some vocal loudmouths saying radical things that undermine the integrity of the organizations. The party main streamers know that the party would be better off if these loudmouths would just go over to the other party.

We have that situation in both parties today. There are people on the radical fringe that party regulars wish would go away. After my decades in party politics, I know that even if they went over to the other party replacements would soon show up. When the system has only two parties, everybody – including radicals – has to be someplace.

This 8-by-12-inch anti-Measure #1 piece uses arguments that appeal to old North Dakota biases rather than offering an intelligent comment on reasons for voting against Measure #1. I wish the designers were on the other side. All three of its allegations are not true.

1. Good for Bureaucrats.

“Gives power to more unelected government insiders.”

Not true

The measure doubles the size of the Board so that 15 people, not eight, would be exercising the powers of the board that are already in the state constitution. The card does not tell us who the imaginary “insiders” are since the measure simply calls for the appointment of outsiders to the existing board. There will be no new bureaucrats or government insiders.

2. Bad for Students

“Grows the bureaucracy and red tape around our universities.”

Not true

In the first place, there is no explanation of how Measure #1 will be bad for students. In fact, the students will be unaffected by the measure since it applies only to the top management of the University System. It does not grow the bureaucracy. The staff for the University System is already in place.

3. Horrible for taxpayers

“Takes tax dollars away from our local universities and colleges and gives it to government insiders.”

Not true

Measure #1 is not a money issue. In fact, the addition of seven members would cost the state only $157,000 per biennium. That is a negligible sum in a state budget of billions. ”

The measure does not take money from the institutions so there is none to give to “government insiders.” The only insiders involved would be the new appointees to the board.

On the reverse side of this oversized campaign piece is this allegation: “Don’t let government insiders add red tape to our universities.” The proposal did not come from dark closet of “government insiders” plotting to create a bigger government. Measure #1 came from a conservative legislature dedicated to smaller and smaller and smaller government.

Measure #1 has so many flaws that it shouldn’t be necessary to fabricate arguments to defeat it at the polls. If the campaign piece just outlined the real evils of the measure, that would be case enough to defeat it.

If we can win honestly, maybe we shouldn’t win at all.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

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