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Ryan M. Taylor, Published August 17 2013

Letter: ND future: the west, the rest

It’s a different view to watch the North Dakota Legislature from the stands as a spectator, but that’s what I did in 2013 after serving 10 years in the state Senate. Now, reading western summaries of the session from former colleagues and friends from across the aisle like Sen. John Andrist, R-Crosby, and Rep. Skip Drovdal, R-Arnegard, in the Williston Herald and the Dickinson Press, makes me shake my head and scratch it, too, with disbelief and sadness.

In my years in the Senate, and as a candidate for governor, I spent a lot of time advocating for the needs of the west in this time of explosive growth and oil development. For a long-time respected Republican senator, Andrist, to basically give up on state government’s ability to effectively take care of the problems in oil country, and for the former Republican Speaker of the House (and still member of the House) Drovdal, to say the House and Senate need new leaders to take care of the west, is telling.

In a sense, they’re both right. State government, with supermajorities of Republican members and all Republicans in statewide offices, is unwilling to proactively prevent problems or chart a vision for the future in oil country. And they do need new leaders in the supermajority Republican Legislature to take care of the needs in the west.

I agree with Williston resident Steve Slocum who wrote in a letter to the editor during last winter’s legislative fiasco that what the west needs is more Democrats fighting for them in Bismarck – people who will listen and lead when it comes to this time of unprecedented growth.

There were candidates in the last election and a too small group of legislators in the last legislative session who put forward plans to leave more oil tax dollars in local communities to take care of impacts immediately, not a year or two years later in classic “too little, too late” fashion. They put forth plans to properly fund increased law enforcement at levels that would prevent crime. The same with supporting educational needs, as well as roads, housing and emergency services. They were Democratic-NPL ideas from their candidates, leaders and legislators.

It is about leadership at this moment in time. Leaders don’t give up on the ability of elected government to help people with problems. Leaders don’t scapegoat and blame others, pitting east against west or rural against urban. They do more than just take credit for the good; they take responsibility for the challenges. They advocate, they innovate, they put ideas forward, and they don’t stop until problems are solved.

For the sake of the west, and our entire state, the Legislature and state need more real leaders. We need the party of Gov. Art Link. We need the North Dakota Democratic-NPL now more than ever.

Taylor is a Towner, N.D., rancher, former state senator and Senate minority leader, and Democratic-NPL candidate for governor in 2012.