It's Time For Jack Dalrymple To Be A Leader


My column is up in the Grand Forks Herald this morning, and I vent some criticism with Governor Jack Dalrymple for not being more outspoken in the defense of North Dakota’s approach to oil and gas regulation in the face of criticism from the New York Times. Even though the Times piece was biased, and inaccurate in certain key areas, Dalrymple still should have granted an interview with the Times instead of hiding behind a written statement.

An excerpt:

The New York Times is a powerful platform, and if you leave the newspaper a vacuum into which it can spew its narrative, its perception of North Dakota’s oil and gas situation will become reality.

Subtlety is the watchword for Dalrymple’s brand of politics, but now is the time to stand and fight. Dalrymple needs to speak out, not hide behind press releases.

I would expand that criticism of Dalrymple to other areas. Such as higher education.

There’s no question that the state’s university system has major problems, from a near total lack of trust between the system a lawmakers to rampant violations of open meetings laws. Now, while it’s true that Governor Dalrymple has no direct oversight over the university system, he does appoint the State Board of Higher Education. He could speak out about the job performance of his appointees.

The law which creates the much-touted “independence” of the universities – Dalrymple appoints the SBHE but cannot remove members and cannot have anything to do with the administration of the universities – also absolves elected leaders like Dalrymple of taking responsibility.

So Dalrymple has an excuse, I suppose, but good leaders don’t shirk responsibility even when they have an excuse.

With an oil boom driving a booming economy, and a river of tax revenues into state coffers, North Dakota hasn’t exactly required a firm hand on the tiller over the last several years. Governing in this era of plenty has been relatively easy.

But it’s time now for Dalrymple to step up and speak out. He must defend the state’s approach to the oil boom, which is the signature issue of his time in office, and he also can no longer look away from problems such as those in the university system.