The citizens of North Dakota lined up one by one behind the podium, hats in hand, to beg their legislators for money.

Each was allotted only 10 minutes to speak. The entire Tuesday night meeting was slotted for just 90 minutes total.

A representative from Healthcare Now got up and spoke about North Dakota’s 12% uninsured rate, and $7,000/person medical debt. He asked the legislators to consider a proposal to provide uninsured or underinsured North Dakotans with a public option health insurance program, so that we could see our doctors more often, and not have our lives destroyed by a sudden accident or unexpected diagnosis.

The room applauded. The legislators listened, impassively.

Jason Boynton, a math professor from North Dakota State University, got up and spoke on behalf of Lunch Aid Fargo about the inability of North Dakota cities and school districts to provide lunches to all their students, and how numerous kids and their parents are being referred to collections, or even child protective services, for the crime of being poor. He asked the committee to consider providing universal school lunch to all North Dakota K-12 public school students.

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The room applauded. The legislators listened, impassively. Rep. Keith Kempanick, R-Bowman, began interrogating Boynton about the cost. Members of the audience started shouting at him, “Just feed the kids!” Eventually he sensed the mood of the room and shut his mouth.

Cody Schuler of the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition To End Homelessness got up, and spoke about how cities and states have reduced, or even ended, chronic homelessness, either for veterans or even the public at large. He asked for funds to be allocated to fight homelessness in North Dakota.

The room applauded. The legislators listened, impassively.


Various other citizens got up, and spoke on similar needs of our state which have been neglected by Bismarck.

The room applauded. The legislators listened, impassively.

The meeting adjourned for the night.

On Wednesday morning, the second day of the meeting was called to order. This time, it was slotted for fully four hours. Just three speakers were given an entire hour of time each – the first two, taking up the whole first half of the meeting, advocating for all the legacy fund to be reinvested in the stock market to grow it faster, and zero given to the people, and the third a pair of speakers from dark money anti-tax lobbying group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

The two speakers—who were both from out-of-state, like the men who went before them—essentially stood up there for 50 minutes, while the citizens of North Dakota sat and watched, and petitioned our legislators for our entire Legacy Fund to be thrown away on tax breaks for the already rich.

Half the Legacy Fund committee members are already members of ALEC’s secret society—including chair House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington; vice chair Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, Rep. Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown; and Rep. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden. Every single member of that committee had already heard, or already knew, those two men’s entire spiel. And yet they stood up there, and wasted everybody’s time—wasted our time, as citizens—to make their case that the Legacy Fund should be used to build a legacy for the rich, instead of a legacy for everyone in this state.

I was proud to be part of the group from the Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America who disrupted and jeered at their presentation. Why should rich out-of-staters take up our time, and tell us how to use our own state’s resources?

Let us invest North Dakota’s money in North Dakota’s people. Let us invest in health care, education, and keeping people off the streets. Not tax breaks for billionaires.

Scott, Fargo, is a member of Red River Democratic Socialists of America.