City fund open for business

Come one, come all. Step right up, folks. The Community Facilities Fund is open for business.

The Minot City Council on Monday approved giving more than $4.4 million to four private groups and two government-related entities, despite misgivings from the mayor, the council’s own lawyer and some council members.

The North Dakota Constitution does not allow local governments to give public funds to private groups, unless government establishes enterprises and gives money to private groups to carry out the enterprises.

But what constitutes an enterprise? That was at the heart of Monday’s discussion. City attorney?John Van Grinsven cautioned council members that creating enterprises should be “used sparingly and on a limited basis.” Mayor Curt Zimbelman told council members they were “walking a very fine line here.”

Let’s face it: Just because a group says it’s doing something good for the community doesn’t mean it deserves tax dollars, and it doesn’t mean giving that organization money sits well with the Constitution. Those receiving money Monday Bishop?Ryan?Catholic Schools, the Minot Family YMCA, the Minot Curling Club, the Minot Commission on?Aging, the Minot Park District and Minot State University are all established members of the community. But what concrete benefits are taxpayes getting from those organiztions in exchange for the money?

Alderman Bob Miller said the council is obligated to return the money to the people based on the 2011 vote that created the fund. In theory he’s right, but voters also don’t expect the council to rubber stamp every request, and we expect them to follow the law. Alderman Blake Krabseth said funding the projects will improve Minot’s quality of life. Even if that’s true, that doesn’t mean it’s legal.

The entire process surrounding this fund has been poorly organized, poorly and, quite frankly, hard to defend. Having granted virtually every wish that has come before it, how can the council ever say no to anyone in the future?