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Erik Burgess, Published September 09 2013

Council candidate vows to only spend money in Moorhead until election

MOORHEAD – A candidate for the City Council is vowing to make all his purchases in Moorhead until the Nov. 5 election, claiming he will post his receipts online as proof.

Julian Dahlquist is running for the 3rd Ward council seat and said it’s about wearing a “badge of honor” for Moorhead businesses, but one city council member who is running for mayor called Dahlquist’s effort a “gimmick.”

Gimmick or not, Dahlquist’s plan highlights long-held concerns about the business climate in Moorhead when compared to Fargo. That tension between the two cities bubbled over earlier this year when the North Dakota chamber placed a billboard in Moorhead touting the pro-business environment in the Roughrider State. The billboard was later moved.

“I didn’t want it to be contentious at all, but I do remember the billboard discussion that happened a while back,” Dahlquist said. “This has nothing to do with that. This is a matter of helping businesses in Moorhead.”

Buying only in Moorhead is something Dahlquist said he’s been doing for the last several months. He said it only applies to personal expenditures because his work for the Minnesota DFL Party often requires travel outside of Moorhead.

Like other current council members, Dahlquist said he’s heard concerns about there not being enough businesses or restaurants in Moorhead.

“When you keep hearing that, you kind of lose sight of the good businesses that we do have in town,” he said. “It’s a way to sort of bring an optimistic perspective to the business climate in Moorhead, and that’s really what I’m trying to do.”

While Dahlquist didn’t extend a challenge to other candidates to do the same, he said he’d “love” to see the other 16 candidates follow in his footsteps.

City Councilman Mike Hulett, who is running for mayor, said Dahlquist’s “gimmick” doesn’t prove anything.

“I’m a strong promoter of Moorhead businesses, but to do what he’s doing seems just a little bit artificial to me,” Hulett said.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer, who is also running for mayor, said Dahlquist encouraging other candidates to shop only in Moorhead implies that they’re not already doing so. Hintermeyer said probably 90 to 95 percent of his expenditures are in Moorhead.

“I do it already, I think,” Hintermeyer said. “A lot of council members actually do most of their stuff in Moorhead.”

In the 3rd Ward, incumbent Brenda Elmer said she always strives to buy locally, noting that she had her campaign fliers printed in Moorhead.

“That’s his prerogative to do that,” she said of Dahlquist. “Of course, I always try to shop and buy locally, whether it be for my campaign or my family or personal expenses, and that’s always my goal.”

Dan Bohmer, the other challenger in the 3rd Ward, said he has had a “Moorhead first” mentality for years.

“I guarantee I’ll spend more money in the city of Moorhead in any given month than Julian has even thought of spending,” Bohmer said.

Task not possible?

Other candidates also argued they’ve had a “Moorhead first” mentality for years.

“I didn't know this was a novel or new idea,” said David Hallman, who is running for the open 1st Ward City Council seat. “You should always try to support your community when possible.”

Mayoral candidate Kevin Shores said he’s been in the “Moorhead first” mindset for years.

“Every purchase that I make, I will go in the phone book and have my employees call Moorhead first,” Shores said. “I’ve done that since I’ve lived here.”

But many of those same candidates argued that some things just can’t be purchased in Moorhead.

Hintermeyer said he was uncomfortable taking a pledge that would lock him into spending 100 percent in Moorhead, referencing the tickets he and his wife have to see Gordon Lightfoot on Saturday at the Fargo Civic Center.

“I’m not canceling my Gordon Lightfoot tickets,” he said with a laugh.

Bohmer argued that there are “a lot” of things one can’t do in Moorhead, especially with small children, pointing to the play areas for children at West Acres mall and Courts Plus.

“If I was a young kid without anything to do except live in an apartment in Moorhead, it’d be easy for me to say that,” Bohmer said of Dahlquist.

Chuck Hendrickson, who is seeking the 4th Ward council seat vacated by Hintermeyer, said he and his wife already make 90 percent of their personal expenditures in Moorhead, but agreed that having children makes the task a lot tougher.

“It would be very difficult to only make personal expenditures in Moorhead when you have four children,” he said, noting that his pediatrician is located in Fargo.

Shores, a Navy veteran who is blind and suffers from Gulf War illness, agreed that buying local isn’t always possible, especially when it comes to getting medical supplies, leaving him “no choice but to cross the river.”

Hulett and Del Rae Williams, the other mayoral candidate, said that’s why city leaders in Moorhead should have a broader view of the Fargo-Moorhead area.

“We are fans of our own businesses, and I applaud (Dahlquist),” Williams said. “People in Moorhead are loyal, but you know, it’s only a river. When Fargo does well, we do well, too.”

Mari Dailey, running for the 1st Ward council seat, said she “whole-heartedly” agrees with Dahlquist's effort.

“A life lesson learned from my father is that ‘you always take care of your own people first,’ ” Dailey said.

Ben Anderson, who is running for the 4th Ward council seat, said Dahlquist’s plan shows a “misunderstanding” of how Moorhead fits into the metrowide economy.

“If everyone in the metro area followed this practice, then people in Fargo, West Fargo and Dilworth would not consider shopping for goods and services in Moorhead, harming our businesses and causing further challenges to the city’s economy,” Anderson said.

Dahlquist said he plans to post receipts on his campaign’s Facebook page. He said he expects people to take him to task if they see him shopping or eating out in Fargo.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518