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Robert L. Hale, Minot, N.D., Published April 16 2012

Editorial did not advance debate about Measure 2

We’d like to comment on a thought-provoking, delightfully insightful and fact-filled editorial by The Forum (April 10). The Forum, in keeping with journalistic goals of informing the public on important topics, addressed the measure aimed at abolishing property taxes.

In an effort to enlighten readers, The Forum expended 482 words, 76 of which were: “strange twists and turns,” “Illogic of proponents’ arguments,” “gone to court to muzzle opponents,” “living in ... bizarro world,” “recipe for tax chaos,” “willy-nilly eliminates property taxes,” “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding,” “led by anti-government types,” “those good folks who spend a lot of hot air savaging the federal government,” “manipulated ... by disinterested legislators or unelected bureaucrats,” “their position is as solid as Red River mud,” “as weighty as goose down,” “as clear as grass fire smoke.”

This reminded us of fourth-grade boys calling one another names on the playground, each boy attempting to one-up the other with senseless name-calling. We suspect none of these words or phrases served to inform the reader about anything other than the editorial’s lack of having anything meaningful to say, just like boys on the playground.

The editorial accused Measure 2 proponents of attempting to “muzzle” opponents by going to court and not wanting to talk about the measure. It then attacked the Legislature, sarcastically calling it “that repository of deep thought and high wisdom.” Finally, it said citizens seeking to use the tools given to us in the Constitution are “anti-government types.”

The lawsuit initiated by Empower the Taxpayer was not filed against opponents of Measure 2. The opponents can say anything they wish, and they do. The lawsuit was filed against government agencies and certain elected officials – the same officials who passed amendments to the state’s Corrupt Practices Act, which they are now violating. That act says government entities and officials may make factual statements regarding a ballot measure initiated by citizens. However, they may not take a position either for or against.

Sen. David Oehlke, R-Devils Lake, one of the defendants, stated, “They (proponents) can get the money from another source but don’t tell what source.” The senator has not read the measure. The measure clearly states exactly which state funds will be accessed to provide funding.

The State Association of Counties, another defendant, has been telling citizens that on Jan. 1, 2013, every city and county in North Dakota will go bankrupt and citizens will lose water and sewer service. These and other false statements are being made by these entities and officials. They are listed in the complaint.

The defendants argue their constitutional free speech rights allow them to not tell the truth and mislead the public. In fact, they are arguing to the court they have a constitutional right to do so, and thus the Corrupt Practices Act infringes on them. Many of those violating the act voted during the last session to make this the law of North Dakota. Now they complain.

When I was a young boy, my father told me those who don’t have reason, logic or a valid argument on their side resort to name-calling. My father was a very wise man.

Hale, Minot, N.D., is with Empower the Taxpayer, the group behind Measure 2. The organization’s lawsuit was dismissed last week. It has been appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court.