Fargo city leaders will give $10,000 of taxpayer money to help those devastated by last week's deadly tsunami, and Mayor Bruce Furness hopes citizens will follow the lead.
"As I think back to the flood of 1997 and the amount of assistance we received from so many people and communities, I feel compelled to reciprocate," Furness wrote in a letter to commissioners.
At his urging Monday, Fargo city commissioners unanimously agreed to allocate $10,000 from the city's social services budget to the International Red Cross for tsunami aid.
Furness said he discussed the idea first with city department heads Monday morning before bringing it to commissioners.
"We felt we should do something," he said.
The issue was a late addition to the meeting agenda, and the allocation was approved with no additional discussion.
Commissioner Linda Coates said she learned about the mayor's proposal Monday afternoon and was somewhat surprised at first.
But once he put the situation into context, noting that Fargo has been on the receiving end during a disaster, Coates said she thought this was the right thing to do.
The $10,000 will be taken from a contingency fund in the city's $270,000 social services budget. The city uses money from the social services budget to help area agencies that assist people in need, said City Finance Director Kent Costin.
The contingency fund was established for emergency situations, Costin said.
Monday's $10,000 allocation will "eat up" the 2005 social services contingency fund, but "that's what it's there for," Furness said.
If something terrible were to happen locally, Coates said the city would still find a way to help people here. Allocating the money doesn't put Fargo's needs at risk, she said.
Fargo's general fund budget for 2005 is $49 million.
Furness said the city is in the process of organizing a program that would encourage citizens to also donate on a volunteer basis.
Those details haven't all been worked out yet, he said.
This all comes on the heels of President Bush's announcement Monday of a massive private fund-raising campaign to be organized by former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush.
The United States has already pledged $350 million to help areas hard hit by the tsunami disaster.
According to the Associated Press, that money will come mostly from a U.S. Agency for International Development account for world disaster assistance, and possibly the Defense Department.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531