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Benjamin Molstre, Moorhead, Published February 22 2013

Letter: Pay up or lose services

In response to the several articles about Moorhead’s snow removal:

I’ve lived in Moorhead for almost 23 years. I remember when I was a child living in south Moorhead during the winter of 1996-97. As I lay awake thinking about having the next day off from school, I would hear the snowplow drive by multiple times. Often, when I would wake up in the morning and look out our front yard, the street would already be plowed.

My dad would be hard at work trying to get the snowblower through the crusty mound of snow the plow left at the end of the driveway. I remember a city worker once told me that they prided themselves on being able to get the city streets competently cleared in eight hours.

Those days are gone. I don’t know the exact figures, but it now seems to take the city of Moorhead 24 or 48 hours to get the city cleared. People get mad and complain, and The Forum runs a story that shows how Moorhead lags the other cities in the metro area in getting rid of the snow. But you know what? I don’t blame the city or its leaders.

I don’t work for the city; I’m not an elected official. But if you take a step back and look at the big picture, it’s not hard to see what’s going on. Moorhead has been dealing with funding cuts from the state of Minnesota for the past few years. Local Government Aid has been a favorite way for the state to make cuts lately, and cities have had to try their best to make do. Moorhead is no exception. Moorhead has had a growing population, so as we’ve gotten more streets to plow, funding to take care of streets has been cut by the state.

What do people expect is going to happen? Leaders had two choices to deal with cuts to LGA: raise property taxes to avoid diminishing services, or make cuts to budgets and have the city workers do the best they can. City leaders choose to hold the line on taxes and ask the city staff to do more with less.

I agree with what city leadership decided to do. Streets may take longer to plow, and the grass might grow higher before it’s mowed, but property taxes have remained relatively stable. I remember that every time my back aches from shoveling or when my snowblower won’t start. I prefer taxes lower, so I need to do more to help myself as a resident of Moorhead. I can’t have it both ways.

People also need to realize that Fargo and West Fargo don’t have the same issues Moorhead has. While those cities have had tremendous growth, they haven’t had to deal with a bankrupt state. Quite the opposite is true.

We can’t have low property taxes and high levels of city services. Not with Minnesota in the condition that it is. You want low taxes? Grab a shovel or snowblower and get to work.

Yes, I know you can’t shovel your whole street by hand. You might have to wait bit longer for the plow to come by. That’s reality. Don’t want to shovel? Don’t want to wait for the city plow? You think the city government needs to do more than it is? That’s fine.

Speak with your vote. Call your City Council member and ask him or her to raise property taxes and get services back where you want them. But please, don’t whine about government spending, then turn around and whine that the plow is taking forever to get to your street.

You can’t have it both ways.