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Published February 20 2012

Forum editorial: Measure No. 2 gang calls for a muzzle

The folks who believe their rights are being taken from them because they are obligated to pay property taxes apparently have no qualms about yanking from others a legitimately protected right, specifically, freedom of speech.

Backers of Measure 2 on the June North Dakota ballot raised hypocrisy to a clumsy art form last week when they filed a complaint in district court in Bismarck alleging opponents of No. 2 are lying and spreading fear. They said certain state officials are violating the Corrupt Practices Act by speaking out against the measure, which, if passed, would eliminate all property taxes in the state and compel the Legislature to replace lost local tax revenues with state funding. It’s a really dumb idea, and responsible and reasonable North Dakotans know it’s a dumb idea. Apparently the pushers of the measure are unhappy with local and state officials, businesspeople and others who are making a cogent and compelling argument that Measure 2 is not only dumb but potentially quite destructive.

And what’s their response? Shut ’em up. The measure’s supporters don’t have a sound argument for the measure. They seem unable to answer simple and direct questions, except to regurgitate the pablum: The Legislature will take care of it.

Meanwhile, opponents of the measure, including state and local officials who realize the potential negative impacts of the measure, have been making a strong, factual case for the measure’s defeat. Who better to assess the measure than the people who really understand the complexities and value of local property taxes?

Can’t have that, say the opponents, so let’s try some sort of legal stunt to shut off legitimate debate. Not so, they say. In what has to be an irony of ironies, one of the leaders of the measure accused those officials who “benefit from a corrupt property tax system” of doing everything they can do to stop a full, fair, robust and responsible debate …” Now that’s to laugh.

It is, in fact, the measure’s proponents who are losing the debate, don’t like it, and are mounting a legal effort to stop “a full, fair, robust and responsible debate.” Their corruption of the Corrupt Practices Act ought to embarrass them. Any official – city, county, township, school district or state – can speak out if public resources are not being used. First Amendment rights apply, and officials who have spoken out have done their homework before speaking out.

“We want a completely free (our emphasis), open, honest debate,” said a measure leader. How’s that? Did pigs fly last week? Did hell freeze over? Must have, because that’s the only way reasonable people might believe such discordant, contradictory tripe.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.