The Fargo Media Has Done The Flood Diversion Debate A Real Disservice

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There are a lot of excellent reasons to be skeptical of building the Fargo flood diversion project. The fact that it’s not quite the “magic bullet” to prevent flooding some make it out to be is one good reason. That the motivation for building seems to be at least as much about Fargo-area developers being able to build into Fargo’s flood plains as flood relief is another good reason.

And perhaps the most compelling reasons is the fiscal mess our nation is in. The state making a big funding commitment to flood diversion the federal government may not be able to pick up the tab for is a crap shoot, at best. Our elected leaders owe it to the taxpayers to be good stewards of our money, even for something like flood diversion.

But these can’t be the only reasons. Our present crop of state leaders are nothing if not spendthrifts. Given how indiscriminately they spend our tax dollars in other areas, it’s hard to imagine that cost alone is the reason they’re balking at funding for Fargo’s flood diversion.

Maybe the issue is political.

For better or worse, the view most North Dakotans have of Fargo is heavily tinted by the daily dose of bombast and intemperance we get from the Forum editorial page and to a lesser degree certain radio broadcasts originating in Fargo that, until recently, reached western North Dakota. The Fargo media establishment is keen on berating western North Dakota over all manner of issues.

The tone of most of the reporting and commentary originating out of Fargo is one of a group of people who wish they were part of western Minnesota instead of eastern North Dakota. Western elected leaders, in particular, routinely draw the ire of these commentators who launch petulant, insulting attacks on them with incessant regularity. They carry on as though western North Dakota were some dark backwater peopled with ignorant rubes,

Anyone who has ever been called stupid or fat or some other pejorative on the editorial page of the Fargo Forum knows exactly what I’m talking about. Does anyone think that sort of behavior doesn’t have an impact on the decisions made by those targeted?

It would be inexcusable for the state’s elected leaders to hold all of Fargo and surrounding communities responsible for what a few braying jackholes in the media get up to. But when you’re talking about an expensive and already controversial public works project, the arrogant and bullying behavior of the local media makes it a whole lot easier to dig in, I think.

Every time the Fargo media launches into yet another unfair assault on the legislature, they’re greasing the skids for diversion opposition.

Like former House Majority Leader John Dorso, I agree that parochial politics and east-versus-west rivalries shouldn’t get in the way of sound policy to address flooding problems. The Fargo flood diversion should be considered on its merits, not ill feelings toward a few reporters and newspaper editors.

But let’s be clear that the Fargo media isn’t doing their community any favors with their collective behavior. They’ve done the flood diversion debate, among others, a major disservice both in being dismissive toward critics of the diversion and openly hostile at times to the rest of the state Fargo is a part of.

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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