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Luther Stueland, Published May 06 2010

Moorhead residents require liberty, leadership, not roof

Six months ago I was elected to the Moorhead City Council after a 13-week campaign during which I was able to meet thousands of residents in the northern portion of the city. I listened to your concerns, your constructive criticisms of and hopes for our community.

While there was broad support for reduced taxes and improved essential services, the ideas for quality-of-life changes were beautifully diverse. It impressed upon me how citizens value individual choice.

Despite the good intentions behind the creation of citywide social policies, they squash diversity and limit the kinds of choices we can make by institutionalizing currently popular things. It puts your representatives in the position of trying to predict consumer demand, while anchoring taxpayers to ideas whose time may have passed. While we could mistakenly view elections as mandates to manipulate how citizens live, I think we do our best service when promoting freedom where possible.

Late in 2009, a spirited debate started in regard to questioning city ownership of a beautiful million-dollar property that the Rourke Art Gallery Museum occupies (not to be confused with the Rourke Art Gallery, housed in a privately owned building). Now the city has negotiated a new 30-year lease with the Rourke board that could likely be approved by the City Council on May 10.

In addition to reducing the Rourke’s responsibility for the immediate roof repairs that leaves taxpayers on the hook for up to 76 percent of the cost, it also ties up another city-owned real estate asset for at least another generation. I favor sale of the building and use of the proceeds to potentially reduce taxes, improve infrastructure or pay off debt.

Important to remember is that the sale of the building would neither mean its demolition (it is on the National Registry of Historic Places) nor the elimination of art in the city. In fact, I’d like to think that if there is broad community support, then forced subsidization isn’t necessary.

I use the term forced, not to be inflammatory, but to point out the fact that citizens do not have a choice in the matter. They are increasingly frustrated that tax dollars are used for non-essential programs and projects. I think Moorhead residents appreciate diversity. I believe they prefer greater choice. I know they embrace individuality and the opportunity to spend their earnings as they see fit.

So while stability in providing public safety and infrastructure is desirable, in matters of diverse quality-of-life issues, I would suggest people prefer more freedom, broader flexibility and the choices that liberty brings.

Stueland serves as Moorhead Ward 1 City Council member.