McFeely: It’s time to strike while the iron's hotThe big-time politicians are coming out of the sandbags now to help, which is funny because for 12 years many of them pretty much ignored Fargo-Moorhead’s pleas for permanent flood protection. We should feel very fortunate our cities didn’t go underwater before these self-serving gasbags answered the wake-up call.
By: Mike McFeely, INFORUM
The big-time politicians are coming out of the sandbags now to help, which is funny because for 12 years many of them pretty much ignored Fargo-Moorhead’s pleas for permanent flood protection. We should feel very fortunate our cities didn’t go underwater before these self-serving gasbags answered the wake-up call.
Funny how that works. We nearly get washed away with a record flood, miraculously fight it with an inspiring effort from volunteers, become a national (and international) news story – and now the congressmen and governors have found religion.
Even Tim (He Who Wants to Be President) Pawlenty, who until last week couldn’t have found Moorhead with the guidance of Magellan himself, is speaking strongly about keeping us dry.
We could angrily ask where all these folks have had their heads buried since 1997 – we were almost submerged then, too, if you’ll recall – but we won’t. We’re too weary thinking about the re-crest and all those sandbags that eventually have to come down.
It’s all about the TV cameras and the votes; we get that. Politicians are opportunists, and this is their chance to put on flannel shirts and take advantage of a crisis. Get something substantive accomplished, and their chance of being re-elected increases.
And, hey, we’re not complaining. We’re in no position to do that. If the politicians weren’t so willing to fall all over themselves to help this time around, our only other option is to wait until the next flood (or the next one) and become Grand Forks-East Grand Forks circa 1997. We don’t want to go under to be saved.
There is clearly unprecedented momentum here. When the president includes Fargo-Moorhead’s flood fight as a substantial part of his weekly address, you know people are paying attention.
It’s up to us – the citizens and local politicians – to keep this wave moving forward. The iron is hot; we need to strike.
Hyperinterest and the intense feeling that something needs to be done quickly will begin draining away soon. The national notepads and cameras are already dwindling, and with that the politicians’ attention will be diverted, too. They’ll be on to the next cause, on to the next concentration of media.
There have been steps made since ’97. Locally, we’ve done a tremendous job – even if Fargo’s major southside project was stalled by homeowners worried about their river views. North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven had a pile of money appropriated in his budget for flood protection.
Beyond that, what’s been done in – and we repeat – the past 12 years? Minnesota’s ignored the issue, and both congressional delegations haven’t seen fit to put Fargo-Moorhead on the fast track. So we sat and waited for the worst and, surprise, it nearly happened. Still might.
Our chance is here. We can’t miss this opportunity for a comprehensive plan that will address everything from upstream drainage to floodwalls, levees and diversions. The politicians see the cameras and want to help. Let’s hold our noses and make sure it gets done.
Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely