Rain! After 6 months of drought conditions, the heavens opened and poured down rain upon Sargent County in a deluge reminiscent of the Spring and Summer of 2011. In the City of Rutland and its immediate vicinity, precipitation amounts were moderate, .45 of an inch on Friday, April 13, and .95 of an inch on Sunday, April 15, with another .5 of an inch on Monday, April 16. Around the area, though, in every direction from Rutland, rain gauges registered from 2.5 to 3.5 inches by Monday afternoon. Mother Nature did show some consideration, though, giving area residents a perfect spring day of sunshine, 70 degree temps and no wind on Saturday, April 14, and another nice day on Tuesday, April 17, followed by more rain on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Local farmers, whose corn planting schedule was put on hold by last week’s freezing temperatures, are now biding their time waiting for fields and roads to dry out and firm up enough to support the weight of tractors and planters. Meanwhile, the trees are greening up, flowers are getting ready to blossom and lawn mowers are poised for action in every community throughout the region. Come on, Spring, we’re ready for you!
This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day, a day dedicated to consciousness of, and concern for, the environment we live in. The recent outbreak of violent weather throughout the Midwest has been cited by environmental activists as further evidence that global warming, accelerated by human impacts on the environment, is having an adverse effect on weather patterns. Political conservatives, though, funded by coal and oil company PAC’s, reject that view, claiming that, other than the fact that average temperatures have risen by several degrees around the globe during the past half century, there is no evidence that global warming is occurring, and, other than the fact that human industry belches hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each day, there is no evidence that human activity is having an impact on climate. So far, the denial approach of, “If you ignore any problem long enough, it will either go away by itself, or become so large that there is nothing you can do about it, anyway,” has been adopted by much of the world. It is much simpler than actually determining what is occurring and what can, or should, be done about it, and then doing something, like reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses, to address the problem. Well, we can all hope that the conservatives are right, and there is no problem, but as this planet is the only home we have right now, maybe we should consider the scientific evidence and hedge our bets, just in case they are wrong.
Sargent County Tax Director Sandy Hanson stopped in for coffee, conversation and a session with the Assembled Wise Men at the Round Table on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 11. Sandy discussed the formula by which agricultural property is valued, and straightened out one of the Wise Men, who was so far out in right field on the subject that he was completely out of the stadium. Sandy had been in Rutland visiting with a property owner/taxpayer who had been unable to attend the City’s Tax Equalization meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. County taxpayers who have questions about property valuations for tax purposes are encouraged to contact Sandy’s office in the Sargent County Courthouse, she says.
Jeff Breker is on crutches this week, the result of a run-in with a testy cow protecting a newborn calf. Jeff sustained a broken leg from the confrontation. The cow is likely to get a trip to Burger King or McDonald’s as the compensation for her actions.
The Old Parsonage at 217 First Street opened for the season on Friday, April 13. The Old Parsonage is operated by Sue Anderson and Kathy Brakke, and features antiques, collectables and other interesting items. The business is regularly open from Thursday through Sunday during the second full weekend of each month during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons, and also by appointment. The Old Parsonage will mark its first anniversary next month, from Thursday, May 10, through Sunday, May 13.
Friday, April 13, was the last day to file for election to local and Statewide offices in North Dakota. In Rutland, Ron Narum has filed for re-election to the office of Mayor, a position he has held since 1972, and Bert Siemieniewski and Brad Christensen have filed for election to the City Council. Bert has served on the Council since 2008, and Brad served 2 terms on the Council several years ago. Incumbent Alderman Lary Arneson chose not to run for re-election. No petitions were turned in for the 2 open positions on the Rutland Park Board. The incumbents are Jeff Olson and Hilary Mehrer. On the County level, 3 candidates will be vying for 2 positions on the County Commission. Jerry Waswick of Gwinner and Bill Anderson of Rutland, both 2 term incumbents, are being challenged by Richard Ruch of Brampton. Mr. Ruch had campaigned for a seat on the Commission in 2010, losing by a narrow margin to current Commissioner Dave Jacobson of Forman. The GOP filed 2 candidates for the North Dakota House of Representatives, Sebastian Ertelt of Gwinner and Kathy Skroch of Lidgerwood, before Friday’s deadline. The 2 Republicans will oppose incumbent Democratic-NPL Representatives Jerry Kelsh of Fullerton and Bill Amerman of Forman for the 26th District’s 2 seats in the North Dakota House. No Republican candidate has filed for the 26th District’s Senate seat, leaving incumbent Democratic-NPL Senator Jim Dotzenrod of Wyndmere unopposed for that position.
Speaking of elections, Jerry Sapa and Calvin Jacobson of this community have been circulating some interesting news. It seems that definite documentary evidence proving that both terrorist kingpin Osama Bin Laden and former Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi are dead has now been obtained. It has been reported that, earlier this week, they both registered to vote in Chicago.
Norbert Kulzer was a patient in the Oakes Hospital from Friday, April 13, to Monday, April 16, being treated for pneumonia. Norbert has been battling a persistent respiratory problem throughout the Spring that took a sudden turn for the worse last week. He was back home on Monday, April 16, and up to the Café for morning coffee on Tuesday, the 17th. Norbert’s many friends here are pleased at his speedy recovery and return home. He has some fishing in his plans for the near future.
Rutland native Arden Anderson (RHS Class of ’60) was hospitalized in Sanford Hospital, Fargo, on Saturday, April 14, and had emergency neck and spine surgery that night. Arden has been hit with double trouble, 3 ruptured disks in his neck that weakened his left arm and hand, and a fungal infection, aspergillus, that was affecting his spinal cord. As of Tuesday, April 17, he was still recovering in Sanford’s Intensive Care Unit, but was reportedly feeling well enough to be grumpy about not being able to watch golf on TV. He is expected to be hospitalized for some time, until the infection has been conquered. At the present time, according to his daughter, Jody, visits to Arden in the hospital are discouraged, due to his susceptibility to infections from the outside. Friends may check on Arden’s condition, and send their best wishes, on-line at www.caringbridge.org/ardenanderson. Arden’s family wishes to thank his many friends here for their expressions of concern.
Paul Anderson of Rutland was in Grand Forks on Tuesday, April 17, where he attended a program honoring a friend, classmate and fraternity brother from college days, Dale Morrison, a native of the small town of Milton, near Langdon ND. Mr. Morrison was recognized for his leadership by the Business Administration Department of McCain Foods, a Canadian based multi-national processor, wholesaler and distributor of food products. Mr. Morrison recently retired as CEO of the McCain company. He had previously served as President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Co. The McCain group is setting up an annual CEO summit at which business leaders will gather to discuss business trends and methods. Paul reports that his friend delivered a very effective speech on leadership in the business setting. Paul also met another old friend, Bob Olafson, a native of Cavalier ND, who spoke on business ethics. Pam Gulleson of Rutland, the Democratic-NPL candidate for the U. S. House of Representatives from North Dakota, also attended the conference, and discussed proposals for revitalizing American industry with the business leaders present. Prior to serving in the North Dakota State Legislature, Pam served on the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, where she encouraged the development of value added processing of food and other ag products in the State.
Measure #2 on the June 12 Primary Election ballot, a proposed Amendment to the North Dakota State Constitution that would do away with the value based “ad valorem” property tax system in the State, has been the topic of discussion at many coffee counters, round tables, kitchen tables and other gathering places around the State this Spring. At first glance, it appears to be an attractive proposition – get rid of the property tax, that perpetual bane of homeowners, farmers and the owners of business property everywhere. The old saying is, “The only 2 things certain in this world are death and taxes, but death doesn’t get worse every time the legislature meets.” Proponents of Measure #2 insinuate that they would reduce the list of certainties to one, with taxes being removed from the equation. The question that North Dakota’s voters have to ask themselves is, “What will replace the value based property tax, if it is abolished?” At this point, the answer is, “Nobody knows.” There are several possibilities, and many of them may be worse than the current property tax system. First, the proposed amendment does not do away with special assessments for improvements such as streets, curb & gutter, water & sewer systems and other public infrastructure, assessments and fees for drains and other benefits to farmland, or other fees and assessments that are not based on the value of the property being assessed. The assessments can be spread equally on all benefited property, with low value property being assessed the same as its high valued neighbors. Of course, the old standbys of sales tax and income tax could be increased to recoup some of the revenue needed for schools, fire districts, city, township and county services, and the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel could be raised significantly to pay for the maintenance of city streets and Township & County roads. The State Tax Commissioner estimates that between $812 and $852 million in tax revenue would have to be raised from other sources to replace the property tax revenue that would be lost if Measure #2 is adopted. The measure requires that the Legislature replace the funds needed by local governments for “essential” expenditures, but does not address the source of the replacement revenues, or even which services provided by local governments are essential, a determination that has been made at the local level up to now. There is also a question of basic fairness – Who should pay taxes and who should get a free ride? – that has to be addressed, as well. At present, 17% of the property in North Dakota is owned by out of State individuals and entities – 2% of residential property, 16% of agricultural property and 37% of business property – many, perhaps most, of whom pay no other taxes in North Dakota. If Measure #2 is adopted these non-residents would get a free ride, with the share of the property tax they now pay being shifted over to residents of the State who will still have to pay for police protection, fire protection and other services for the non-residents without getting a nickel in return. We should not feel resentful toward these non-residents, though, for this is not something that our non-resident friends would be imposing on us. If it happens, we would be doing this to ourselves. In the short term, Measure #2 appears to be a recipe for chaos. In the long term, it appears to be a short-sighted, sledge hammer approach to a problem that can be addressed by merely replacing about 1/3 of the most narrow minded, short sighted conservative members of the State Legislature with representatives and senators willing to address the current inequities in North Dakota’s tax structure. It seems to this writer that a “NO!” vote on Measure #2, is the only rational choice, not because our current property tax system is totally fair and equitable, it isn’t, but because the result of a “Yes” vote would be a system that is even less fair and less equitable than the system we now have. If we are going to make a radical change in the way we fund essential government services, from roads to education, let’s do it in a way that’s going to make things better, not worse.
Well, that’s the news from Rutland for this week. For more information about what’s going on in the little city that can, check out the community’s internet web site at www.rutlandnd.com, and stop by the Rutland blog and Facebook pages while you’re at it, too. Don’t forget to keep the pressure on the U. S. Postal Service and North Dakota’s Congressional delegation to SAVE OUR POST OFFICE! Later.