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McFeely: Piepkorn's outburst was politics, of course, and it was glorious

When Jim Roers complains that a rear-end chewing he received from the Fargo City Commission over a stalled development near North Dakota State University is politically motivated because his daughter is running for mayor, well, it's best to not be too sympathetic.

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Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn
Forum file photo
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FARGO — Jim Roers is accusing the Fargo City Commission of playing politics by calling him a liar.

He's right.

To which the public should respond: And your point is ...?

Roers is the head honcho of Roers Development, one of the top builders in Fargo-Moorhead. If you see a big building project around the metro, there is a good chance it has a "Roers" sign stuck in the ground somewhere on the property.

Roers is a wealthy and powerful player locally. He is also a Republican state senator representing south Fargo.

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Which is all fine and dandy, by the way. He's allowed those things. I've talked to Jim a couple of times over the years. Seems like a nice guy.

But Jim Roers knows how things work. He's not naive.

So when Roers complains that a rear-end chewing he received from the Fargo City Commission over a stalled development near North Dakota State University — and from commissioner Dave Piepkorn in particular — is politically motivated because his daughter is running for mayor, well, it's best to not be too sympathetic.

This is the way things work.

The daughter in question, Shannon Roers Jones, is her father's corporate lawyer and a Republican state representative. She, too, is well-connected. She, too, knows the score.

When Piepkorn went off at Monday's commission meeting, accusing Roers of purposely not building required townhomes near the ostentatious Newman Center project at the corner of 12th Avenue North and University Drive, Piepkorn called Roers a liar multiple times.

“And the scary thing is, his daughter is running for mayor," Piepkorn said. "Imagine if two months from now, we had a new mayor. Do you think we would have heard about any of this? I think it would have all gone away."

With the city election a little more than a month away, Piepkorn's performance was well-timed, theatrical and wonderful. He dealt a blow to the Roers Jones campaign as she tries to unseat longtime incumbent Tim Mahoney.

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Ain't nothing like local politics when it gets pointed and personal.

Maybe Piepkorn, a proud northsider, really wanted to take Roers to task for not completing his promised project. He might've been standing up for the good folks who live in the Roosevelt neighborhood. That's possible.

What is obvious is that Piepkorn was trying to deflate Shannon Roers Jones' balloon in the crowded mayoral race. The specter of rich-people nepotism might not play well in a little city like Fargo and the commissioner raised it loudly.

The question yet to be answered is why. What is Piepkorn's play in trying to damage Roers Jones? He certainly can't be a big fan of Mahoney or fellow commissioner Arlette Preston, who is also running for mayor.

Maybe Dave wants to be mayor someday and figures if she wins, it'll be eight years until the seat opens again. If Mahoney wins, he'll be term-limited out in four and Piepkorn can make his run.

Who knows? And, really, who cares? The drama was worth it.

Piepkorn publicly eviscerated Roers at least partially in the name of politics, and the latter should've expected nothing less. The public owes him no sympathy, despite his protestations.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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