This Editorial Cartoon Needs to Be Retracted

"The Pioneer Family" stands in front of the North Dakota State Capitol on July 14, 2016, in Bismarck. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Steve Stark’s most recent editorial cartoon, depicting state lawmakers as pulling funding from a poetry program, is so blatantly inaccurate it needs to be retracted:

Looking at that cartoon one would assume that lawmakers had initiated an effort to pull the funding.

Only, they didn’t.

As anyone not blinkered with a default animus towards the Republican-controlled legislature figured out from news stories published across the state, the request to cut funding for the program didn’t come from lawmakers. Rather it was a “request from the state Council on the Arts to transfer $10,000 in grant money for the poet laureate program to increase a temporary employee’s salaried hours.”

The request was made to state lawmakers on the interim Budget Section committee, and they roundly rejected it on a 34 – 1 vote with multiple lawmakers speaking out forcefully against the request:

The Budget Section in a 34-1 vote on Wednesday, June 26, rejected the request from the state Council on the Arts to transfer $10,000 in grant money for the poet laureate program to increase a temporary employee’s salaried hours. The request was “not something that should happen,” said Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, the chief House budget writer.

“We would be changing what the whole Legislature voted on about two months ago,” he said, referring to the 2019 session that adjourned in April. “If we did this, I think for two years we can look at almost every agency that did not like what they got from the Legislature coming in and trying to do this. This is wrong. It’s as wrong as you can get.”

Reps. Lisa Meier, R-Bismarck, and Gary Kreidt, R-New Salem, agreed, saying such requests should be made as part of the legislative process.

“I think this is a slippery slope, and I think that right now this is definitely something we shouldn’t be doing,” Meier said.

So not only did the Legislature not act on a request to pull funding from this program during their regular session, when another pitch to do so was made during the interim they rejected that as well.

Yet, per Stark’s cartoon, you’d get the idea that it was the Legislature and not the leadership at the Council on the Arts which had it out for the poetry program.

If Stark’s upset, he should be aiming his ire at the Council on the Arts, not lawmakers.

I understand that it’s fashionable among most of North Dakota’s media commentators to bash to the Legislature, mostly because they have the wrong partisan affiliation. And, trust me, the Legislature at times deserves some bashing, which I’m as happy to deliver as anyone.

But this sort of commentary is something more than partisan rancor or ideological pique. It’s an inaccurate representation of what actually happened.

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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