June 3, 2014


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

In the June Primary Election, state voters will be asked to decide whether or not to approve a constitutional measure that would change the filing deadline for the submission of initiated measure petitions from 90 days to 120 days before an election, while Watford City residents will be asked whether or not to approve a Home Rule Charter that would increase the city’s sales tax from one percent to 1½ percent.
Both of these measures deserve the support of the citizens and should receive a “yes” vote.
As I have done in past elections, this week I’m going to review both of these ballot measures.
Constitutional Measure No. 1 - Changing Filing Deadline For Initiated Measure Petitions
At first glance, it would seem that changing the filing deadline for the submission of initiated measures from 90 to 120 days would be a good thing. But there are those who claim that extending the filing deadline 30 days would make it harder for people supporting the petition drives to collect the necessary signatures.
So is the measure good or bad for the people of North Dakota?
According to Al Jaeger, North Dakota Secretary of State, who wants the change, it gives his office more time to review petition signatures for accuracy, as well as allowing the Supreme Court more time to consider any challenges that may be made.
Currently, by state law, the Secretary of State’s office has 35 days to determine if there are a sufficient number of valid signatures to place a measure on the ballot. And after that review period, with only 55 days left before an election, the ballot must be certified. It is Jaeger’s contention that it is not enough time.
On the other hand, April Fairfield, who is running against Jaeger, says that the change is unnecessary and is an attempt to hinder ballot measures initiated by the people of the state.
From my perspective, I’m going to trust the judgment of Jaeger, who has been serving the people of North Dakota as the Secretary of State since 1992, as to whether or not more time is needed to ensure that the ballot signatures are legitimate.
Fairfield’s point, that moving up the filing date by 30 days would be an inconvenience since signature collectors could not gather signatures at the North Dakota State Fair, seems to miss the point. If as she says, 30 percent of the petition signatures are collected during the State Fair during July, it just means that the petition workers will have to work a little harder and hit more county fairs and other statewide events.
Constitutional Measure No. 1 deserves a “Yes” vote.
Watford City Measure No. 1 - City Sales Tax
Simply put, the issue before Watford City residents on this measure is whether or not they want to extend the city’s sales tax and to increase it from one percent to 1½ percent.
Without question, the existing city sales tax, which is administered by the Roughrider Committee, has benefitted the people of Watford City and the surrounding area virtually more than any other tax. These funds have gone back into making Watford City the place that we have all been proud to call home. The money has been used to help build virtually every recreational facility in the community from the Veterans Memorial Building, the McKenzie County Multi-Purpose Building, the Wild West Water Park and the Connie Wold Wellness Center, to name just a few. It was the catalyst that was used to help Watford City retain and recruit businesses at a time when our region’s economy was struggling. It has helped build daycare facilities and affordable housing. It has been used to help fund our ambulance service, build a new building for the Northwest Transit Authority and upgrade our city parks.
It is hard to imagine what Watford City would look like today if not for our city sales tax.
This is why it is critical that voters support this measure on June 10. As Watford City continues to grow, the need for those sales tax dollars is only going to increase. And many new projects, such as the new replacement healthcare facility, the community events center, more affordable housing and improvements at our airport, are going to be dependent upon those funds.
With a “Yes” vote on June 10, all of these projects and many more will continue to make our community a “rising star” in western North Dakota. It will be a place that families and businesses will want to call home.
A “No” vote on the other hand, will mean the end of the Roughrider Fund and all the good that it can do in the future.
Watford City’s Measure No. 1 deserves a resounding “Yes” vote.