LegitSlater: My Take on the Measures- 1 through 3

I have a short list of things I would like to write about in my rhapsodies on SayAnythingBlog. Since I generally only have time to do this weekly, I write ideas down in a notebook as they come to me, and cross them off once I do the post. It’s a good system; one I don’t follow religiously as occasionally a timely issue arises or an unjotted idea comes to mind once I fire up the computer. But overall it works pretty well, as I have not (yet) run out of ideas on things to write about. I have one gig a week generally speaking, and I remain pretty amazed at Rob’s ability to generate that many in an hour some days.

A while back, I jotted down that I would like to give my take on the seven (at that time; now eight) ballot measures we would have to decide on by November 4th, or forever hold our peace. And it looks like most the other cameo columnists and our blog’s host wanted to do the same thing, with many of those posts rolling out in the past few days. Oh well. But, I guess that’s the nice thing about the blogosphere. There is always plenty of room for one more opinion, including yours.

Since we now have eight measures to wrestle with, I will split the list in near thirds by addressing 1-3 this week, 4-6 next, and 7-8 in two weeks. Eight measures is a lot to unpack all at once.

This may also be a good time to rant a bit about the number of measures, but I am not going to do that. Eight is what we ended up with. Some elections it is one or none. It is your job as a free man or woman to do your research on the measures (and candidates for that matter) and decide for yourself how to cast your vote; regardless of how many were put in front of you. There is no such thing as too few measures or too many ones; there is only that number of measures which the legislature passed, or which satisfied the petition circulation requirements. This is the effort that accompanies the right to vote. Don’t complain about the work you have to do to play to your part in our democratic process. There are many people elsewhere who can only dream of what it must be like to vote, and who will die before they ever get to experience that feeling. To complain is to take this right for granted.

Lets get on with it shall we…

MEASURE 1

What it says: This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article I of the North Dakota Constitution stating, “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

My Take: I am pro life, and I have been since my own conception. Human life is precious and must be defended, and sucking it down a drain to avoid inconvenience (as is the motivation for the vast majority of abortions) is irresponsible, immoral, and unacceptable. Bloviate away, but I will never waiver from these viewpoints.

I have no concerns with this statement being placed in our Constitution; a statement which affirms the beliefs of most North Dakotans, and a statement which despite what many out of state groups would have you believe, doesn’t put any new laws on the books or outlaw any current practices.

I also acknowledge there are those on the other side of the issue who will never waiver in their views, and firmly believe otherwise when it comes to this measure. Respect for life is one of those issues where you are pretty much on one side or the other, and there isn’t a lot of shifting of alliances. We can talk calmly or scream at each other across the room or a table or in the comments section of a blog post, and the only certainty is we will probably not change each other’s minds.

Measure 1 reflects this standoff. You are either for it or against it at this point. There really isn’t much new to discuss on this one.

MEASURE 2

What it says: This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article X of the North Dakota Constitution stating, “The state and any county, township, city, or any other political subdivision of the state may not impose any mortgage taxes or any sales or transfer taxes on the mortgage or transfer of real property.”

My Take: It is pretty hard to oppose this one, and from the lack of any organized opposition, it appears no one can find a good reason to do just that. This really is the least controversial of the measures on the ballot. I am a yes.

If government really needs (or more accurately, thinks they need) the money, the one thing they are pretty good at is coming up new ways to take it from you. But, that doesn’t mean we as citizens have to make it easy for them; I have no concerns taking methods away. Based on the size of our surplus, we won’t really miss it (at least for a long time), and unlike the “other Measure 2” from 2012 it is pretty hard to say otherwise since the tax in question does not exist now anyways.

MEASURE 3

What it says: This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article VIII of the North Dakota Constitution creating a three-member commission of higher education, effective July 1, 2015, with full executive responsibility for the management and operation of the North Dakota university system. The measure would repeal Section 6 of Article VIII of the Constitution relating to the current eight-member state board of higher education. Members of the new commission would be appointed by the Governor to four year terms from a list of nominees provided by a special committee, and would be subject to confirmation by the Senate. One of the commissioners must possess leadership experience in a private sector business, industry, or service and one member, at the time of appointment, must hold a professional position within the higher education sector. The commissioners could be reappointed to three consecutive terms.

My Take: Based on the sheer magnitude of drama generated by those in or associated with the ND University “System” (NDUS) regarding Measure 3, I can only conclude that the Legislature must be on the right track here.

By spinning fear and spectacle regarding unfounded threats to accreditation should this measure pass, the NDUS and State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) are acknowledging they have nothing to offer to defend keeping the status quo despite the fiascos which have rocked the “system”. That is probably because the status quo is indefensible, and has turned our once proud “system” into a non-stop conveyor belt of scandal and embarrassment, not to mention a horrible return on the investment our state has made in it with our tax dollars.

Is this the “perfect” measure to cure the many ills of our Higher Ed “system”? No, but it is a step in the right direction. Our Legislature has allowed our “system” to grow too big for too long, and I think a primary reason for this is many of the members of that body have lost sight of the primary purpose of having higher education institutions. They exist to inform and educate the next generation and prepare them for the workforce of tomorrow, not to provide jobs and “economic development” in their legislative districts.

Because that “system” has grown so big and has become so complex, a part time board simply cannot provide the adult supervision that these institutions (as proven by scandals too numerous to mention; well covered here on SAB) so desperately need. They cannot because they simply have not been. Individually there may be some pretty talented people on the SBHE; people with a proven track record of success in their individual full time professional pursuits. Collectively, as a part time board they have not been able to manage this system, as is their mandate. That is a trend that has remained consistent despite membership makeup and leadership of the SBHE.

If people with this level of accomplishment cannot do it part time, then no one can. What remains is the full time option.

They also cannot because they will not properly empower and support the one person who is supposed to watch over these schools day to day, i.e. a Chancellor. They either select a Chancellor who is as much a part of the accountability problem as the presidents they are supposed to oversee (like Bill Goetz), or who is basically an over-promoted university president themselves (like Larry Skogen) and who thinks “everything is just fantastic” (my favorite SAB meme) when it most certainly is not. They will also eliminate those Chancellors who dare attempt to have the “system” function as, you know, an actual system and hold presidents accountable (like Ham Shirvani). That’s simply because those who need to be held accountable don’t like being held accountable, and the SBHE doesn’t have enough collective backbone to stand up to the presidents and back the Chancellor they hired in the first place.

I believe Ham is still laughing to the bank on that buyout… speaking of embarrassing.

I see Measure 3 as the Legislature’s attempt to start providing the NDUS the adult supervision it so desperately needs. On the surface it doesn’t look like much is changing, but the mere fact that these individuals will have no job other than to focus on a broken system day in and day out is a step in the right direction. It is the potential for this daily supervision (granted it still comes down to who is appointed, like ANY job) that likely has the current board and presidents so scared that they feel the need to facilitate fantasies about accreditation loss; fantasies that have not proven to have any foundation in reality. As I indicated, they have not been able to articulate any real reason why the current system of governance is really working and should be kept. If Measure 3 passes, I am sure we will begin to learn the truth about how badly it has not been working, and that truth more than anything is likely to be the foundation of their current fears.

See you in a week for 4-6!

 

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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