March 12th, 2014 Bismarck Is Setting A Poor Example For Local Government The following is an issue specific to Bismarck, but the example can probabl

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March 12th, 2014


Bismarck Is Setting A Poor Example For Local Government


The following is an issue specific to Bismarck, but the example can probably apply to many cities in North Dakota. At issue is the priorities that our elected officials put on the things taxpayers expect the city to take care of (needs), and the things more people would consider to be nice to have (wants).

As anyone in Bismarck knows, Washington Street has pretty much always been a bottleneck street. There are two bottlenecks, the one in the center of the city and the one at the far north end of the city. As traffic in the city has increased, that has become more and more of an issue.

On the far north end of the street is where a lot of growth, including the most recent middle school, has occurred. Residents who have been paying higher and higher property taxes due to ever-rising property values have been waiting for something to be done to ease the situation.

The city has been working on a plan, but because the Federal Government can't be trusted for funding anymore, the commission had to table the planand wait for a more stable financing situation.

One might react to that "well ok, at least they aren't raising my taxes to do it."

But hold on, in the very same issue of the Bismarck Tribune on March 11th, 2015 there is also a story about how a group of wild eye visionaries have a plan for expanding the Civic Center, and developing a "big city" sort of project downtown.

Since 2008, there have been a couple different plans for developing this area of town. It started with the failed attempt to entice CanadInn to build a hotel next to the Civic Center. Pretty much every plan has revolved around the city building a very large parking ramp.

This is why, in 2010, the City of Bismarck bought the Strip-Mall across the street. Other local developers have been acquiring property at high prices in the area to be able to take advantage of future development. The parking ramp would likely be as big as the $13 million ramp just built in downtown, perhaps bigger, and certainly more expensive as it would tie into other buildings.

The development would almost certainly take advantage of any tax incentive programs the city might be willing to offer.

So with these two stories showing up in the exact same issue of the Bismarck Tribune - one about the city postponing a major infrastructure project due to a lack of federal funding, and one about the city paving the way for big time developers to get rich with the help of public resources - what should taxpayers think?

Whatever they think, they should certainly be asking their elected leaders about priorities.

The state legislature should also watch this situation closely as it deals with less revenue due to oil prices. Cities like Bismarck need to get used to there being less federal and state tax dollars coming to them - and as a result work more on making sure current residents are happy with the what they are getting for their local taxes.

The pendulum is swinging fast, and local governments need to get ahead of it this time instead of falling behind.


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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