Ralph Kingsbury Column: Democrat Criticism Of Contractor Was Unfair


There is a professional firm headquartered in North Dakota. They call themselves KLJ. They do engineering work, but also write economic analysis on proposed projects. A legislative interim committee hired them to do an analysis to try and separate the wheat from the chaff on the demands that even more of the state’s current share of oil taxes go back to local government units.

My readers know that I have said what is happening in developing the oil patch demonstrates one of the weaknesses of the property tax system. They also know that I have said the oil business should pay for the development cost.

That is easy to say, but much harder to define. For instance, public roads have never been considered a cost to the industry, rather they have been public cost. So, once an oil industry truck drives on a public road should the oil industry pay for more than any other business or private industry as is done in the rest of the state because they create so much more wear and tear on roads?

Another question deals with social costs. How much should the oil industry pay for the local school system, the fire department, city, county, and township government costs? The legislature is trying to do the right thing and one thing in hiring professionals to study the issue.

Good for them. Well, good for some. I have to say that this is another example of where the Democrats are taking the opposite stance of the Republicans only for political reasons. The majority of the committee voted to hire a North Dakota firm to conduct the study, KLJ. The Democrats proposed a New York firm I think only to continue their political policy of au contraire. Because this is such a huge and significant change for North Dakota it is as much cultural as it is economic. Who do you suppose best understands our culture?

The Democrats seem to think they can’t convince the voters of North Dakota of the rightness of their philosophy and policies and so they simply vote the opposite on every issue and hope someday the political god’s will smile on them.

At a meeting of the interim committee KLJ gave a progress report on the study. At least one legislator insisted that the firm give the committee a copy of the study that day. KLJ said they were not ready to do so. Among other reasons they were asking the businesses that were being studied to “vet” KLJ’s presumptions and facts. Understand, and this is important, they were not asking for the oil industries approval of anything they had written, but they were asking if their statement of facts were correct and possibly if their analysis of the industry, especially and specifically the Bakken shale play which is something new and different than any before was correctly analyzed.

That doesn’t mean they would change something, anything, simply because the oil firms disagreed with their analysis. On the other hand, if it were some error of fact, or KLJ misunderstood what their analysis was concluding they should make a change.

Often when I have written a study, or even a commentary I do similar things. How can I expect to convince the reader of the correctness of my writing if it has a fundamental error? This is standard study policy as any professional knows.

KLJ also knows that if there is any incorrect data or analysis released no matter what they would do the errors will become part of the lore of the study. The mistake would never go away. How many of you would write a public letter to the editor without “editorializing” it?

How many of you wished you could take it back? Something you wrote, but didn’t reread for its’ correctness.

If you don’t believe this is an issue just look at the establishment presses editorials calling for KLJ to release the study in its preliminary form? Of all the organizations that should know better it is the press. What would they say if the public asked for the first run of every one of their editorials?

I wonder if these members of the press ever go back and think that was a really dumb editorial. “Sure hope readers don’t remember I wrote that”, it seems they should be asking. At least I ask it.