Several weeks ago I wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that Fargo should elect strong women to the Fargo City Commission on June 12th. Unfortunately, The Forum viewed it as a political endorsement letter and would only publish it for a fee. Even more unfortunate, I don’t think it would have made a difference had they published it. Nearly 85 percent of Fargoans chose to ignore this year’s city commission race and simply didn’t vote.
The meager turnout resulted in the re-election of two commissioners who don’t represent the majority of Fargo. No matter what system you think is best, it’s clear our current election process isn’t ideal.
With 17 percent of the vote, Piepkorn believes his intolerance for diversity and his views on refugees are vindicated.
Gehrig, with 18 percent of the vote, feels validated in his claim for being the “responsible choice.”
What both Piepkorn and Gehrig fail to recognize is that the majority of people who did vote, voted against them. They were up against a strong array of candidates that, unfortunately, split the vote. Boyd, Preston, Williams, Maddock-Johnson, and Flakoll together got well over 60 percent of the vote. These candidates are all individuals who see that for Fargo to reach its true potential and become a culturally rich community, Fargo needs leadership that is welcoming and accepting of everyone that calls Fargo home. They recognize that leaders are meant to build our community up and that to be an effective leader, they have to represent everyone. They understand that not only do refugees pay taxes and work hard, they bring to our community something that we all benefit from and are richer for – culture. If we want Fargo to be a place that young people want to call home, and a place where businesses want to invest, we need to keep fighting for leadership that embraces all cultures.
We’ve also re-elected a commissioner who’s earned the reputation for always voting “no.” That’s not responsible, it’s negligent. There are many needs that Fargo has; we’re no different from any other city. However, as Boyd, Preston, Williams, Maddock-Johnson and Flakoll are all able to recognize, there are myriad issues beyond basic needs that require thoughtful, strong leadership. Culture, the arts and quality of life are just as important as taxes and the infrastructure of our city. If we want to create an extraordinary, model community, we need to keep fighting for leadership that uses a balanced approach to reach Fargo’s true potential.
Unfortunately for Fargo, Fargoans didn’t show up on the 12th. For those that did, no matter whom you voted for, thank you. More than anything, that’s what Fargo needs – an engaged, informed community.
Fortunately for Fargo, our voices can still be heard. We can, and should, hold our elected leaders accountable for their words and actions. Someday we’re going to figure out our election process, elect strong women to city commission, and have strong voter turnout. Until then, get engaged, stand up, show up, speak out. Someday can start today.
Danz is the manager of Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo.