Politicians Shouldn’t Get to Govern People Who Can’t Vote for Them

MINOT, N.D. — In North Dakota, extraterritorial zoning is a policy that allows city governments to regulate people and property who aren’t actually in those cities.

This often irks the people living in those zones who get stuck paying fees and following policies set by people they can’t vote for. And why shouldn’t it irk them? The whole “consent of the governed” thing is a foundational principle of the American system of government.

Unfortunately, these people often find themselves in a twilight zone in state politics. Most of us don’t live in ET zones, so it’s hard to build a political movement around a problem most don’t have, and the city governments have a lot of lobbyists and staff who have been working to keep the status quo, as unfair as it is.

This issue got on the Legislature’s radar in 2019 thanks to an egregious example of abuse from the City of Minot, which had been doubling the price of building permits for people in the ET zone.

Nothing like sticking it to people who have no say in city elections, right? When the Legislature acted to end this practice, Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma — who, I must say, might be in the running for worst elected official in North Dakota — complained about this supposed affront to “local control.”

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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