5 things to know today: Tax criticism, Voter ID, Advisory board, RSV cases, FM Opera
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. Measure to boost West Fargo sales tax meets criticism at town hall
Citing that city growth is outpacing public safety, West Fargo police and fire chiefs and Mayor Bernie Dardis on Thursday, Oct. 27, pushed for the benefits of two city measures that would boost sales tax during a town hall meeting
City Measure 1 and City Measure 2, if approved, would raise the sales tax rate to the highest in the metro area, and will be voted on Nov. 8 in the general election.
About 25 people came to the town hall meeting at Prairie Heights Church, 319 32nd Ave. E.
Some in the audience criticized the measures as inappropriate, with one person saying that the two chiefs were “sacrificial lambs.”
“We’re not advocating for or against this sales tax, that’s not our job, but we are here to answer questions so people can make their own decisions,” said Dan Fuller, West Fargo fire chief.
West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness said what the department has right now is not adequate, stressing his biggest concern of future staffing.
After the idea first came about in December of 2021, the West Fargo City Commission voted in August to place the half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot.
2. Poll workers can't legally ask voters to prove citizenship, North Dakota attorney general says
A day after the Cass County state’s attorney gave his interpretation of a controversial voting law, the North Dakota attorney general stepped in with a matching opinion late Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Election workers cannot legally ask voters to prove their citizenship status, said North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley in a statement, which agreed with the opinion of Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick.
Wrigley’s opinion came a day after Burdick gave his interpretation of the state law to a group of election workers and Cass County government officials during a training session on Tuesday in Fargo. Early in-person voting for the Nov. 8 general election starts Monday in Cass County.
Wrigley offered his interpretation more than three months after Burdick asked for an opinion from the attorney general, Burdick said. Wrigley told The Forum he regretted the delay.
“Your inquiry arose in the context of individuals seeking to vote and asserting their citizenship of the United States despite their identification indicating they were not a citizen at some point,” Wrigley wrote in his statement.
“North Dakota law has no statutory requirement or constitutionally permissible method by which to require proof of citizenship, so it is my opinion that current law does not permit an election official to require a voter to provide documentary proof in order to vote,” Wrigley wrote.
Current state law requires that a voter show a North Dakota driver’s license, or a non-driver’s license ID, a tribal ID, or a long-term care certificate provided by a North Dakota facility.
3. Fargo police board considers external investigation in officer shootings
The Fargo Police Advisory and Oversight Board met on Thursday, Oct. 27, to once again discuss the officer involved fatal shooting of Shane Netterville that occurred on July 8 in Fargo.
Board member David Hogenson on Thursday called for an independent investigation to help restore trust.
“Listening to members of the community, many now see a cloud over the police department,” Hogenson said, citing numerous community concerns and that people have lost trust in the Fargo Police Department.
Hogenson called for the independent investigation, "not necessarily to pursue another outcome, but to lift the cloud that hangs over you, right now… and to make (this) department and city better."
City Attorney Nancy Morris, however, told the board they could not make a motion for a vote Thursday, as it was not on the agenda.
If the vote was approved, it would have sent the board’s suggestion to the city commission.
“In my assessment, that should have been on the agenda,” said Dr. Terry Hogan, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director, who added that he made a recommendation to include it after he attended the Fargo Human Rights board meeting.
4. RSV cases among children, older adults on the rise in North Dakota, Minnesota
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is on the rise in North Dakota and Minnesota, with hospitals reporting an increase in hospitalizations especially among young children and older adults who have severe respiratory illnesses.
RSV spreads through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, or through direct contact with a contaminated surface, the North Dakota Health and Human Services reported in a press release.
The Department of Health and Human Services is recommending broader testing measures to help limit the spread of RSV.
The most common symptoms of RSV include runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing, but the virus can also cause severe infections such as bronchiolitis, inflammation of small airways of the lung, and infection of the lungs or pneumonia.
Infants, young children and older adults with chronic medical conditions are at risk of severe disease from RSV infection, according to North Dakota Health and Human Services.
RSV is the most common cause of these conditions in children under one year old in the U.S.
"Sanford Health Bismarck is seeing an earlier respiratory syncytial virus season in infants and young children," said Christina DaSilva, pediatrician with Sanford Health. "If your child has difficulty breathing or there are any parental concerns, please contact your medical provider immediately."
The Minnesota Department of Health reported on Oct. 22 that RSV cases among children in the Twin Cities nearly tripled over the last four weeks.
5. When performers dropped out, FM Opera turned to unexpected help
“The Marriage of Figaro” is one of those classic madcap comic operas with tales of mistaken identities that lead to chaos onstage.
So it only seems fitting that Fargo-Moorhead Opera’s performance of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart standard traveled a rocky road to the stage. The show opens Friday night at Reineke Concert Hall, North Dakota State University.
The story follows “Barber of Seville” years later with Figaro set to marry Susanna, though their boss, Count Almaviva, is lusting after the bride, his wife’s maid. Together, Susanna and Countess Almaviva plot to upend the Count’s scheming and expose him.
It’s a favorite of FM Opera’s Artistic Director David Hamilton and selected by him for his final season leading the company.
However, the best laid plans often go astray. Just before rehearsals began, the actor playing Count Almaviva bowed out due to an illness. Hamilton scrambled and feels fortunate to bring in Mark Diamond to sing the role.
Then, two weeks ago, the actor playing Don Basilio had to return home for a family emergency. Needing a tenor for the part on short notice, Hamilton turned to —himself.
An accomplished tenor, Hamilton said in September he would not be performing in his farewell season, despite the works -- “The Marriage of Figaro” and “La Bohème” being his favorites.
“No one wants to see a 60-something Rodolfo,” he told The Forum at the time, referring to the male lead in “La Bohème.” "You have to have a little self-awareness.”
“I don’t think anyone is more surprised than me to see me on stage in a role I’d never done,” Hamilton now says with a laugh.
Tackling an unfamiliar role on short notice has been a challenge, but proves he still has something to learn and something to give.