Governor Burgum and the Grand Forks Herald Are Feuding Over the Wrong Thing


Tom Kenville, right, of ISIGHT RPV services, discusses with Gov. Burgum some of the work the Grand Forks business is doing in the UAV industry. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Governor Doug Burgum sure cheesed off the folks at the Grand Forks Herald.

Ahead of a recent visit to Grand Forks to meet with city leaders, said city leaders told the Herald that it was Burgum’s first “official” visit to the city since taking office.

Burgum took offense and made some comments during his visit pushing back on the idea that it was his first visit. He pointed out that he’d visited other events in the city.

Herald reporter described that as ridicule in an article today detailing (based on open records) that Burgum has visited Fargo 41 times since taking office while visiting Grand Forks just 6 times.

For the purposes of this slap fight Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown is defining an “official visit” as one in which the Governor meets with local officials. Burgum is apparently defining it as just a visit to the community for whatever reason.

The Herald also has an editorial today seeking to justify their pique, and points out that even using Burgum’s definition he’s visited Fargo a lot more than Grand Forks:

Perhaps we’re thin-skinned. Maybe the governor — new to politics after a life of business leadership, where true criticism is rare — is thin-skinned as well.

If he wants to call his visits to Grand Forks “official,” we’ll go with it. But by that standard, he therefore has made official visits to Fargo six or seven times more than Grand Forks.

This whole thing is a little silly.

Burgum didn’t need to take offense at what were pretty innocuous comments. The Herald probably didn’t need to go nuclear in response. That doesn’t seem very productive on either front.

They’re also fighting over the wrong thing. It’s not about Burgum’s visits. It’s about access. Has there been some issue in Grand Forks in need of the Governor’s attention which he has neglected? Have local officials been rebuffed by the Governor’s office while attempting to meet or communicate? Other than not being physically present in Grand Forks as often as Fargo, has Burgum been derelict in his duties to Grand Forks in any way?

Absent evidence of that sort of thing, this seems like a competition of egos. It’s not the Governor’s job to govern Grand Forks. At least not directly. That’s local government’s job. And if local government leaders have something the Governor needs to be aware of, it’s their job to bring it to his attention.

By the way, if we’re going to talk about geographic equity, there are plenty of communities across North Dakota – particularly in the western part of the state, I might argue – which would love to get the sort of attention Grand Forks and Fargo get. Not only from statewide elected officials but from the press as well.