Tony Gehrig: Fargo's Riverside Master Plan Debate Stifled

The Forum’s editorial, “Do it big, do it right downtown” (05FEB15) expects us to accept there are two options for the city: Option 1 – Develop or Option 2 – Stand in the way of Fargo’s development and progress. This is a straw man argument. A false choice intended to shame residents into allowing ever expanding centralized spending, and the inevitable increase in taxes that will follow, necessary to support such spending. In the words of the Forum editorial board, “What a crock”.

As a lifelong FM-area resident, and a current candidate for Fargo City Commissioner, I offer option 3: Develop Fargo Responsibly.

After reviewing the master plan proposal, there are portions that I support. I agree there should be a plan, a template to guide the development process in Fargo, and along the river. However, there is a wide chasm between responsibly working within Fargo’s means to support development, and proposing development plans that would require even more tax increases to force “progress” as defined by the Fargo City Commissioners.

Attempting to stifle debate regarding such a massive proposal is a disservice to the residents of our great city. After reading the Forum’s editorial it is evident those who question the wisdom of these proposals are to be considered obstructionists, wishing to see growth cease; as if city government is the only way to see growth.

Should Fargo residents remain silent at the same time the cost of building Fargo’s new city hall has tripled? The newest estimate is now tipping the scales a $26+ million. It is simply common sense that a public debate occurs regarding the wisdom of spending an estimated $55 million on a city-owned convention center. A convention center that will require new and/or expanded taxes to be added, compete with our neighbors who own private businesses offering a similar service, and is expected to lose money once open.

Every proposal has an upside and a down side; public debate is the most useful tool to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs. It is the duty of our elected officials, and our local media to responsibly examine and consider all sides of the issues before asking Fargo’s citizens for more of their hard-earned money. I will not be merely another rubber stamp “yes”, like the other candidates. As a newly-elected Commissioner I will encourage and facilitate such discussions, especially when no one else has the courage.

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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