Public officials should want public informed

When Minnesota, North Dakota and the federal government are planning on spending $2.2 billion on a project to divert floodwaters along the Red River, a project affecting hundreds of thousands of people, one would think that would be of crucial interest to the public who are being asked to foot the bill and to live with the consequences of the project.

Yet a reporter from the Fargo Forum was escorted out of a recent Fargo-Moorhead diversion project meeting, a meeting that was attended by a host of local and state elected officials, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and several members of the F-M Diversion Authority Board. Maj. General Richard Kaiser, the new head of the Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley division, was also there.

There may not have been a quorum of the authority in attendance, but the group was certainly discussing an important and controversial public project (the state of Minnesota and several upstream communities have filed a lawsuit regarding the project against the Corps of Engineers and the F-M Diversion Authority).

One reason given for closing the meeting, according to Gov. Burgum, was to “make sure everyone in the room feels comfortable sharing their concerns.”

We have said before that if government officials don’t feel comfortable speaking their minds in public, they probably don’t belong in government in the first place.

We join with the Fargo Forum editorial writer, who said “This is a massively expensive project, with massive public expense and impact. The people should know what is happening and their elected leaders should want them to know.”