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Rep. Jerry Kelsh, Published August 03 2012

ND’s ‘Tower of Shame’ needs top-to-bottom housecleaning

In the 1980s, the Republicans had almost total control of constitutional offices in North Dakota. With the vast majority they enjoyed, they soon became less effective for the people, and the office portion of the North Dakota Capitol became known as the “Tower of Shame.”

We are very close to the same situation now.

We went through the “Sioux” name fiasco with the governor and the attorney general knowing very well that what the Legislature was doing was unconstitutional. We have experienced an explosion in oil development that has stretched the infrastructure in every oil-producing county, and no one on the state level has had the foresight to even try to get ahead of what is happening.

The property tax explosion across the state was ignored and not dealt with until it became of such proportion that an initiated measure was put forth and was defeated with the promise that if something is not done soon by the Legislature, many more people will vote for it next time.

Farmland value has increased drastically with both the agriculture commissioner and the tax commissioner admitting “they were asleep at the switch.”

The treasurer, Kelly Schmidt, has never had a clean audit and has not reconciled the cash in the state for many months, if not years. The auditor has admitted this and yet has done nothing to make sure this mess is resolved. While the auditor will tell you his office has no power of enforcement, it absolutely has the power to recommend that action needs to be taken, as this cannot be tolerated.

The Public Service Commission is another large problem, with the commissioners taking campaign funds from the people they are supposed to regulate. Now, even if you are the strongest Republican, you have to ask yourself: How can that be justified?

As you all know, the Secretary of State’s Office is in such a disarray that Al Jaeger closed his office doors to the people of North Dakota because the excess paperwork had taken over him and his staff. His mismanagement forced the people of North Dakota to be greeted with closed doors. It’s just another example of how North Dakota government has gone awry under Republican leadership.

It’s time to do what happened in the 1980s – clean out the deadwood in the “Tower of Shame” and for the good of North Dakota and its people, restore a balance of power as well as the checks and balances it brings for good government.

Kelsh, D-Rutland, N.D., is minority leader of the North Dakota

House of Representatives.