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Candace E. Kraft, Fargo, Published November 19 2012

Unethical petition treatment a lost opportunity for ND

With the election season quietly behind us, I cannot help but reminisce about things that should have been. This past summer, I sipped a delicious latte from the Red Raven Espresso Parlor, eying an athletic group of North Dakota State University Bison-clad young men discussing an initiative petition to alter North Dakota’s constitution that they were circulating.

When I inquired about the petition’s mission, I was informed it was to get the legalization of marijuana on the ballot. Dismissively, I replied, “The petition I just got notarized was a hell of a lot more important than that.” The direct constitutional initiative I was referring to would have implemented the Clean Water Land and Outdoor Heritage Fund, allocating only 5 percent of the existing North Dakota oil and gas production and extraction tax toward the wise stewardship of the state’s natural resources.

The set-up was perfect. A citizen committee, audited regularly to promote accountability, would’ve granted the money to individuals and organizations alike to improve the natural state of land and wetlands under their control. Small-scale farmers were even eligible to receive money to offset initial conservation costs and improve their agricultural yields in the long run.

Great care was taken to include various groups of stakeholders in working across the board to solve the state’s environmental problems using a common-sense approach. But, as North Dakota voters saw, there was no such measure on the ballot during this high-turnout voting period.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the same NDSU football players I met circulating the marijuana petition were the same ignorant greedheads who jeopardized the passage of a constitutional amendment that most residents supported since the pot measure didn’t get on the ballot for the same reason. Not only did these dishonest kids, who I’m assuming were not even born or raised here, ensure the casting out of this particularly important measure, they spit on the entire process of direct initiatives.

Not every state has the ability to bypass elected officials to commence changes in the political atmosphere and truly give power to the people. Since I donated numerous hours of my valuable time gathering more than 80 signatures and fully informing most of them about every aspect of the measure’s details, I am quite disgusted with the shameless, unethical way the NDSU football players treated a petition that many labored tirelessly to get on the ballot.

Oil and gas companies pay people all the time to lobby their causes, and things don’t seem to backfire in the same manner for them. I suppose they can afford to pay for brainy quality instead of brawny quantity. I suppose it’s even easier to do that when the public’s resources foot the bill. .