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Jane Ahlin, Published December 07 2013

Ahlin: Tell me, Gov. Dalrymple: What century is this?

Gov. Jack Dalrymple is chairing the Task Force on Property Tax Reform, a group he created by executive order this past week “to research and analyze all mill levies for political subdivisions other than school districts.” In announcing his task force, Dalrymple also expressed the desire for it to be as successful as the Commission on Education Improvement, a group he chaired when he was lieutenant governor that was concerned with mill levies for education, more specifically, North Dakota’s “funding formula and policies ... provid[ing for] adequacy,

equity and better student performance.”

Certainly in one way, the Task Force on Property Tax Reform is a dead ringer for the Commission on Education Improvement – well, at least if we’re talking about X and Y chromosomes. With 14 members in each appointed group, the chromosomal tallies are identical: 13 XY combinations and 1 XX.

Evidently when Dalrymple wants “very meaningful results,” he’s apprehensive about double-Xs. (XY is a regular guy, but XX belongs to the complex sex.) He also said he thinks the task force is “very well-balanced.”

Wake me up, folks. Is this 2013 or 1913?

Supporters of the governor might call the gender makeup of the new task force an embarrassing oversight. (What was he thinking?) Those less enamored of his tenure are more inclined to see it as an embarrassing pattern. (The issue of gender-skewed appointments has arisen before.)

Either way, the appointments are an embarrassment for North Dakota. In fact, because they are contrary to accepted standards for appointments as outlined in the North Dakota Century Code, the governor’s task force appointments are worse than embarrassing. Here is the statute:

“Appointments to boards, commissions, committees, and councils of the state ... if not otherwise provided by law, should be gender balanced to the extent possible and to the extent that appointees are qualified to serve on those boards, commissions, committees, and councils. Any appointment in accordance with this section should be made in a manner that strives to seek gender balance based on the number of each gender belonging to the group from which appointments are made.”

Let’s see. Which gender pays property tax? Just guessing here, but I don’t think XX chromosomes excuse 50 percent of taxpayers from paying property tax. While we’re at it, go back to the Commission on Education Improvement. Which gender is more invested in funding for education? Hmm, if a child is a product of an XY and an XX, we’re back to that 50-50 thing again. As for educators, if the rest of the state is anything like Fargo, the majority of teachers (K-12) are female. In Fargo, it’s 77 percent, and a whole lot of them own property.

We know the old-fogy excuse: We can’t find women with the right expertise. All the ways that is poppycock would fill three columns. (Then again, it would make for an interesting campaign slogan.) Suffice it to say, the governor is responsible for 72 percent of all board and commission appointments. If he valued gender balance, he certainly has the clout to make it happen.

Under the heading “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” one of the task force members, Sen. Dwight Cook, tried to explain the anxiety he thinks North Dakotans have about the Task Force on Property Tax Reform in an appearance on the Joel Heitkamp radio show. Calling it “the unknown factor,” he used a personal analogy.

Cook said “When I find out my wife’s been shopping at a home improvement store, I get nervous. I wonder what ideas are going through her pretty little head and what it’s going to cost me.”

Tell me again, what century is this?


Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum.