This November North Dakota voters will have a chance to vote for two spots on the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission (PSC) may appear to many voters to be one of the down ballot positions that many electors may view as unimportant. However, as North Dakota continues to grow it is time to learn more about the Commission and is the time for all voters to take a very long look at who they elect to serve the “Public” on the Commission.
The PSC has been in existence in North Dakota since statehood. It has had many different regulatory responsibilities over the years. Currently the Commission has oversight in coal mining, electric and gas, some telecommunications, railroads, grain elevators, pipeline safety and even auctioneers. These are all issues that matter too most of us and are all issues that are very important for our economy, for our environment, and for our general livelihood.
However, for at least a decade, the Public Service Commission has been less about being a voice for the public in these important regulatory areas, and more about being a resting ground for Republican politicians who really want another job. It is well established that former PSC member and current Congressman Kevin Cramer viewed the PSC only as a consolation prize while he built his resume. The same can be said for Current PSC member Brian Kalk. If Kalk could be elected to any other office in the state, he would be. With the PSC a resting spot for candidates who want a better job, it is very hard for these PSC members to really be advocates for the people, especially if it means even a hint of being anti-business. So the PSC becomes more of a rubber stamp for big business rather than a regulatory organization.
In this election cycle, North Dakotan’s will have a chance to change this. If Dem-NPL candidates Todd Reisenauer and Tyler Axness, as well as first time candidate Republican Julie Fedorchak want to be elected, let’s make sure that they are really interested in serving the public, and not just using the extremely important PSC as a consolation job or resume builder.
While we are at it, perhaps it is time that we help Brian Kalk by giving him a little more time to focus on finding a job he really wants, perhaps one that does not come at the taxpayers expense.