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John Aron Trandem, Fargo, Published January 18 2014

Letter: City wastes time, money on social issues and art

What is the most pressing charge of Fargo city government right after keeping our houses from floating down the river? Displaying art.

While I can’t say that the current commiss-ioners and mayor have not done anything good for Fargo, it seems the efforts that have garnered headlines in the past few months illustrate that City Hall has been occupied by a dangerously misguided group of activists.

Commissioner Melissa Sobolik seems to be spearheading the lion’s share of these laughably ill-advised social experiments, and the rats seem all-too-happy to follow her into the sea.

The agenda for a meeting I attended last year included a resolution regarding special protections for LGBT individuals. Having followed the news on this item, I was aware of a Forum story in which Sobolik cited numerous examples that she was aware of where landlords had found out their tenants were homosexual and threw them out into the street, and where employers were asked about partner benefits and responded by firing the inquisitive employee.

I thought it was reasonable to ask her to produce evidence of these occurrences prior to taking a vote on the resolution, but my plea was ignored, and a unanimous vote followed to approve the resolution, which, as Sobolik promised supporters, was only the first step in a process to pass needless ordinances based on dishonest rhetoric.

I am unopposed to the creation of a task force to evaluate the matter of public art, but I suspect that the real purpose of such a group is not to determine if there is truly a need, or public support, for such an effort but to rationalize what the city was already going to do. I will applaud anyone who is able to generate private monies to facilitate the placement of statues, sculptures or other such (tasteful) displays, but I fear that public funds will ultimately be the greatest funding mechanism behind the new acquisitions.

One only need look back a few years to a time when the voters approved a new library on a new site, in response to the argument that the old one was dilapidated, flood-prone, and provided limited parking. This effort was to be funded by a three-legged-stool approach relying on tax increases, private fundraising and grants. What did we get? A remodeled library on the same site that came in millions over budget and was funded not by a three-legged-stool but a stool with one massive leg. Is it unreasonable to suspect that we may be taken for a similar ride in the interest of art?

Let’s remember this is an election year as we consider whether those who occupy City Hall represent the voters. From my perspective, it is time to clean house.


Trandem is District 45 Republican chairman.