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Strand proposes vote to expand Fargo City Commission from 5 to 7 members

Strand would like to see the question on the November ballot, while at least one commissioner said he's opposed with two others wanting to hear more.

John Strand
John Strand
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FARGO — City Commissioner John Strand will be asking his fellow members on Monday, July 25, to consider adding two members to the commission, a question that would be placed on the upcoming November ballot.

His request is on the agenda for the Fargo City Commission meeting.

Strand said in an interview that the growing and more diverse city needs "more voices" to be heard in making decisions.

Commissioners Arlette Preston and Denise Kolpack said they wanted to hear more about his proposal, while Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he would be opposed.

Mayor Tim Mahoney didn't immediately respond to a call.

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A ballot question must be submitted roughly 60 days before the general election on Nov. 8, Strand said, stressing the urgency to get the wording to the county election staff by the end of August.

If approved by voters, Strand said the new commissioners could be added in a special election, or at the next city election in June 2024.

If the city waits, however, it could be four years before the commission is eventually expanded, Strand said, noting it may also not happen at all.

Fargo City Commission has the authority to place the question on the ballot through the city charter, while enough signatures from residents could also get it placed on the ballot.

The recently re-elected Piepkorn was the only one to take a stand against the proposal. He told The Forum he is opposed due to the cost of adding commissioners and support staff, and that adding more politicians isn't going to solve any problems.

"If you look at our performance (as a five-member commission), I think we're doing pretty well," he added.

Preston said she wanted to hear more, but is more in favor of creating a City Council rather than the current City Commission form of government.

The newly elected Denise Kolpack said she wanted to see more "data" and hear more about the proposal before taking any position.

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Strand said what really got him thinking about this issue was after 15 people sought a seat on the City Commission last month, only for two seats to be filled.

"I think that shows more people want to be engaged," he said.

Strand said a previous election reform committee in 2016 didn't reach a consensus on many issues, but he believes the panel unanimously agreed more commissioners should be added.

Strand, who has been elected twice, said he sees how a commissioner may be opposed because it would "dilute their power," but that his time serving on the commission, "isn't about me."

"I think there's value in having more voices. My gut tells me it's inevitable in a growing city that we need to increase the number of seats," he said.

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