As we get closer to Election Day, it is obvious that the discussion about Fargo's use of special assessments is a hot topic. It should be. The special assessment process affects all of us. It is completely appropriate for citizens to question candidates about their views on specials. For those who have been greatly impacted financially, I understand their anger and distrust. However, my hope is that fellow voters won't let this become the single framing issue of the upcoming election.
I was elected to the Fargo City Commission 18 years ago. Back then, we tackled many controversial issues like westward growth, flood control, downtown reinvestment, an arena expansion, indoor smoking, liquor licenses, and yes...even an ordinance to deal with public dancing. Along with other important topics, some were proven to enhance our quality of life and others may have been wasted opportunities. While many meetings were highly publicized by the media, much of the day-to-day activity of the decision-making process went unnoticed. The final vote was always the big headline, but the grind to get there was the important policy work. It is great to see so many candidates who are fighting to do this job. Serving Fargo as a commissioner is something that I will always treasure.
As Fargo continues to grow and evolve, we will confront many more issues than special assessments. While definitely important, we should not forget public safety, emergency management, transportation infrastructure, safe drinking water, an aging population, property valuations, the local economy and our changing business climate. These are just a few of the issues our new commission will face. When you grill the candidates about specials, don't forget the myriad of other pressing issues that are at hand.
I believe it is about balance. Our elected officials need to balance their views with the broader vision of what is best for the entire city they serve. As candidates, it is easy to send out a press release or post on social media a cemented stance on a burning issue. However, once elected, commissioners should have the determination to learn more about the topic, listen to their constituents, collaborate with their fellow board members, add in a little common sense, reason out a position, allow robust public input, and in the end, make the best decision they can. In my opinion, that is the recipe for good public policy.
Good luck to all of the candidates! Let's support our city by making informed and balanced choices on Election Day.
Lynch, of Fargo, is a former Fargo City Commissioner and Forum Readers Board member.