Washington politics dominates media headlines. I think it’s safe to say that for many Americans – including North Dakotans – they’re more familiar with what is going on in The Swamp than they are with what’s going on in Bismarck. The same can probably be said in relation to what’s going on right under our noses in our city and county governments.
I came to the conclusion long ago that our country would be far better served if more Americans realized that true change starts with the governments closest to us. When was the last time you attended a city meeting? Are you familiar with who your elected city officials are? How about your county commissioners? Have you checked your local budgets? Where are your tax dollars going? Have you paid attention to how much city employees are making? The list of questions goes on.
We recently published an article on Fargo and how they’ve once again exceeded their original budget for a new City Hall. We even mentioned the fact that their City Administrator makes nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually in salary and benefits. How many in Fargo would know that if they were asked on the street? Earlier this week, I wrote about the 18.5% increase in property tax that Minot is facing, together with a $37 million increase in the budget— which has increased by 396.1% over the course of the last ten years. Do the people of Bismarck know that at an August 7th budget meeting their City Commission approved a pay increase for city employees, though revenues are down? These are just a few examples.There are many others.
In the weeks and months to come, we will be submitting open records requests across the state in an effort to reveal some of the facts related to our local communities. If you have questions or are in possession of information that you believe will be helpful in the effort, feel free to submit them to us. We’ll take them into consideration. And who knows, maybe you’ll be responsible for blowing the lid off of something important to your community.