Rock the vote
It may be just spitting into the wind, but even here in Fergus Falls, it’s important to make our voice heard on the upcoming HF1054 (AKA the “Marriage Equality Bill”) vote. My own humble request is as follows:
Representative Nornes -
Please consider voting in favor of HF1054. I know that it would be viewed as a largely unpopular move on your part, given the traditional channels of support that you have received in your district, but I believe that a vote in favor is a vote that is on the right side of history. There exists a number of younger constituents in Fergus Falls and elsewhere for whom this idea of same-sex marriage is a natural progression towards a more equal society, and the support of our state representative would do a lot to quell the sometimes dispirited and jaded feelings we have towards government as a means to a better end.
In harm’s way
Kaid Benfield of the NDRC put up a post yesterday discussing how urban sprawl can aggravate flooding. It’s a timely topic in these parts, as cities up and down the Red River Valley are gearing up for another flood fight. None more so than Fargo, for which this is becoming an annual event. The local paper has dubbed this go-round “Floodfight 2013,” replete with logo. Although it appears that the agonizingly slow spring melt has reduced the chances for a severe flood this year, it seems that no typical spring will ever pass in these parts again without mention of the “f” word.
Though I think that the increase in flood frequency and severity lies largely at the feet of farmers who have installed drain tile throughout their fields in order to lessen the time they must wait before getting to work in the spring (thus hastening the snowmelt runoff into drainage ditches and eventually the river, while also lessening the retention capabilities of the land), a place like Fargo does itself no favors in terms of flood protection by how it goes about growth. Simply put, the city has grown in ways that are increasingly difficult (or too costly) to protect.
Consider the following satellite image of Fargo from 1991:
This image focuses largely on the south end of the city, which is where a majority of the growth has occurred in the past 20 years. Main Avenue can be seen near the top of the image, and I-94 and I-29 are the large roads that are intersecting the city east-west and north-south, respectively. Moorhead is across the Red River, which snakes its way between the two cities. West Fargo is still its own enclave, separated by a section of land.
Jump ahead to 1997:
Not much has changed. West Fargo and Fargo are starting to merge into one entity via a patchwork of big box shopping, parking lots, and apartments, but southern growth has remained largely constrained. This was Fargo as I remembered and enjoyed it before moving away, and is the city that endured the flood of 1997 without the major damage sustained by its neighbor to the north, Grand Forks.
Eight years later, in 2005, the city looked like this:
Growth north of I-94 has just about filled out the available land, while growth to the west of I-29 is also taking place. Most notable, however, is the amount of new construction between I-29 and the river. In the span of a few years, farmland was being turned into subdivisions and strip malls and millions of dollars of construction was happening on the tabletop-flat land in close proximity to the river. Remember, they call it a “floodplain” for a reason.
The latest satellite image in Google Earth was taken in 2010:
Most notable here is the addition of Davies High School, which is the large grey rectangle in the northwest corner of a section set apart from the growth on the southern edge of the city. If one uses the school as an indicator of the city’s plans for growth, it’s likely that additional development will be focused around the school. Whether or not the economy lets the city continue on that trajectory is another issue, but the difficulty with this kind of north-south growth is that it increasingly puts more real estate within reach of the river. In addition, western growth, which is near the Sheyenne River (entering from the southwest corner of the image), is an area of secondary concern.
At some point, sandbags as a primary defense don’t scale. What remains are extraordinarily expensive and contentious measures, such as digging a $2 billion trench to move water around the city. It’s Kunstler’s technograndiosity, writ large. Despite Fargo’s downtown rebirth, I fear this city is too far invested in the usual trappings of suburban growth to be able to stop on their own. The only way I can see this madness abated is through extravagant external spending, a major disaster, or (likely) both.
Bonus clip: Here’s an animation of the city’s growth over the past two decades.
Last Friday, our state senator and representative held an open forum and meet-and-greet at a local senior citizen’s center. Owing to other responsibilities, I did not attend, but had I been there I would have liked to think I could have worked up the pluck to ask the following questions, which I’ve been sitting on for some time, and which stems from this letter to the editor that was authored by our state senator and published in several local papers back in February.
Senator Ingebrigtsen —
In a letter that was published in several local newspapers back in February, you assert your support of Second Amendment rights, which you characterize as “constantly under attack.” You then mention the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 as the “two greatest mass murders” in our country, neither of which, you note, were committed with guns, thus leading you to stand in support with those “who will uphold the constitution and not allow our own government to infringe on citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.”
However, this argument seems weak to me, as there is the equivalent of three Oklahoma City and 9/11 attacks happening in our country each year. This attack is carried out in our streets, schools, and homes by individuals who murder with a gun. Nearly 10,000 dead. Twice that number choose to end their own lives with a gun. All told, that’s around 30,000 people, a number that has been fairly consistent for several decades.
In light of this, do you regret your comments in your letter? Do you not view these deaths as the greater crime? Don’t we owe it to these victims and ourselves to be more honest in our national discourse about guns and gun control?
While my talents are few and lie far outside the bounds of the visual arts, I like to try my hand at new things. So when I heard that submissions for public art to adorn our fair city’s new roundabout were now being accepted, I immediately threw my hat in the ring.
This first piece, which I call “White Bread,” is intended as a non-offensive commentary on the stated desire of the city to solicit art that is free of controversy and/or political messaging.
My second proposal, which I imagine will enjoy a critical and popular reception in the Daily Journal comment section, where I debuted the piece, is a Pop Art homage, a la Warhol, to the workaday magnificence of Black Sign advertising.
Surely if there is a place where the common Black Sign is elevated to revered status, it is Fergus Falls.
And, because the joke is worth repeating, the piece is customizable so that one need never wonder when the next OLV fish fry is again.