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Published January 19 2013

Forum editorial: Pettiness won’t help Trollwood

On today’s Commentary page, Moorhead City Councilman Mike Hulett tries to make the case that a Jan. 16 Forum story on the Bluestem/Trollwood conflicts was misleading and incomplete. He says since neither the Fargo School Board nor the city of Moorhead intends to engage in legal tussles, the story’s emphasis was skewed.

He might want to read the story again. The reporting was about the threat of lawsuits, as documented by the city of Moorhead and Fargo schools. An honest reading of the record can come to no other conclusion than both local governments were making preparations to take legal action against the other should the situation deteriorate. That’s precisely what the story said. If both sides have found a way to avoid lawsuits, it’s good news.

That being said, Hulett and his faction on the Moorhead City Council (and it is a “faction,” not a council consensus) seem to be the grownups in the dispute thus far. In his commentary, Hulett cogently ticks off factors driving the conflict. He stresses the value of the arts center, not only to Moorhead and Fargo but also to the region. He also takes a fair shot at council members who “have their own personal agendas …,” noting that “not all of the members of the City Council have engaged in strong criticism of Fargo Public Schools regarding management of Trollwood.”

So, it is clear that Hulett and his allies have the responsible and realistic view of the situation, while some members of the Moorhead council are spoiling for a parochial fight that can only damage the arts center in south Moorhead.

Finally, the Fargo School Board gets the prize for a startlingly clumsy and arrogant stunt. Included in the school district’s legal papers is an attempt to muzzle Moorhead council members who have complained about how the school district has been running Bluestem/

Trollwood. It’s a not-so-subtle threat – an offensive interpretation of law that likely would not survive the First Amendment test. Moreover, it’s an outrageous insult, not only to Moorhead council members but to taxpayers and arts center benefactors. They expect and deserve a full, candid and transparent airing – from Moorhead and from Fargo schools – of the problems that face the publicly funded arts center.

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