Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, has squandered his credibility by vehemently opposing the Fargo-Moorhead diversion. His ham-handed refusal to recognize the benefit of permanent flood control for the entire F-M metro, including Dilworth, suggests he's more interested in making nice with Gov. Mark Dayton than in the welfare of the community he says he represents. His anti-diversion rhetoric has made it impossible for him to part of any rational discussion of how to tweak the project to accommodate legitimate objections. He should be turned out of office.
Admittedly, Marquart is one of the Minnesota Legislature's tax experts. But expertise does not necessarily translate into good tax policy. During his time as House District 4B representative, the tax burdens for small business and homeowners have not significantly lightened. But tax policy and other matters are secondary to his agreeing with the Department of Natural Resource's poorly justified denial of a diversion permit.
His challenger, Ben Grimsley, R-Detroit Lakes, said the DNR overstepped its authority regarding the diversion and did not "have a good answer for not permitting ..." He's right. Marquart, who seems more adept at playing politics in St. Paul than representing the home front, is wrong. Time for a change.
On the other side of the diversion debate, Rep. Ben Lien, DFL-Moorhead, has been a steady and moderate voice in the debate. Having studied the project, he has concluded "the diversion is the best way to provide the long-term 500-year flood projection Moorhead needs." In that assessment, he's in step with the Moorhead business community and the majority of the Moorhead City Council.
Lien's opponent in District 4A, Jordan Idso, R-Moorhead, supports the diversion, but is wrong about one of the most important provisions that benefits Moorhead, the Border Cities Enterprise Development Zone Program. Idso would scrap the program for a "ground-up" solution to cross-border business disparities. It won't work because the economic and regulatory playing field is tilted against Moorhead because of the tax and regulatory regimes in North Dakota. Lien would make the program permanent. He's right. Lien has earned re-election.
The same goes for District 4 Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, one of the more thoughtful and compassionate legislators in the state Senate. His low-key and informed approach to sometimes heat-generating issues is effective. His rational support for the diversion was recently expressed in a letter to The Forum, co-signed by Lien. He understands the need for the project, and wants to be part of solutions to problems upstream, without a Marquart-style wholesale rejection of the plan.
Eken's challenger is James Leiman, R-Ada. He says his campaign has been sidetracked by unfair emphasis on the fact he is a new resident of the district. That might be true, but it has been his focus on that circumstance that has caused the problem he decries. He charged Eken is more interested in imposing more regulation rather than in stimulating economic development. The record does not show that. Eken should be re-elected.
Editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.