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Golden Valley News
Beach, North Dakota
February 28, 2013     Golden Valley News
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February 28, 2013
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4 .-.. I I Representatives discuss an ethics bill that is struggling to gain support during the 63rd North Dakota legislature Ethics bill on life support By John lrby Vatican officials believe they are "holders of divine truth, unaccount- able to worldly laws." Those words were part of a quote in a recent As- sociated Press article about the Pope's resignation. The story also suggested the Vatican is "overly se- cretive." Many would acknowledge there is historical evidence of the church's policy of "hushing lips" in times of trouble, even if they don't believe Catholicism owns the market on divine truth with leaders not ac- countable to the laws of the lands. The article, however, provoked a thought of a similarity in some ses- sions of the 63rd North Dakota leg- islature. Imagine someone saying something like this: "Legislators are obsessed with secrecy because offi- cials are holders of divine truth, un- accountable toworldly laws." Some legislators are secretive. And some seem to believe they are above the law - usually the few who have forgotten or never understood the word "humility" and/or the con- cept of "servant leadership." Still, everyone knows ,there are good, hard-working legislators (it might even be a majority) who listen to constituents, put aside overly zeal- ous partisanships and act with the best of intentions. They do not pro- fess to always know what is best for all North Dakotans, and they wel- come and listen to opposing views. But consider the hearing for HB 1442 in the Government and Veter- ans Affairs Committee. The bill would establish a state ethics com- mission, but the suggestion of such was highly objectionable to a few outspoken members of the commit- tee. The bill showed up not quite dead upon arrival, but it certainly was - and is -- on life support. The plug will likely be pulled and the "Wise Guys" are betting heavily it will soon. Cory Mock. D-42, Grand Forks; was targeted in his second attempt ia calling for the commission; a similar bill was r0dely dismissed in the last session. In Mock's introduction, he tried to convince legislators the bill was not a "witch hunt." He said North Dakota was only one of three states that didn't have an ethics com- mission and the establishment of one would go a long way toward build- ing trust between citizens and state officials. He said he believes "the people" want an ethics commission. It all sounded good. But Mock and some other young Democrats have been pegged by some GOP critics as blatant partisans The bill showed up not quite dead upon ar- rival, but it certainly was - and is -- on life support. The plug will likely be pulled and the "Wise Guys" are betting heavily it will soon. more interested in advancing their own careers and' reputations than serving the people. It's more likely the small group is a little too aggressive and forthright for the establishment old guard. Whatever; that's another column and discussion for another day. What was missed, ignored or pur- posely discounted in the HB 1442 hearing was a loud and clarion call by some for legislative self-policing. It's honestly hard to understand why ethical officials would be (or are) afraid of, and not in favor of, such scrutiny. A battle cry of "we don't need it ... we are already ethi- cal" suggests an invitation to argue Since anyone who has studied ethics knows there are at least 50 shades of grey - or interpretations of what is or is not ethical. North Dakota could be one of the most ethical states, but how do we know or make such an assessment? Just saying it doesn't make it true. Most government officials here prob- ably act in an ethical manner most of the time, at least according to their own s{andards. But the recent past has proven some legislators have been susceptible to charges of ethi- cal breeches. Somewhat reluctantly, bill supporters pointed out situations where legislators faced issues of do- mestic abuse and unpaid taxes. Im- proper legislative travel, "cover ups" and other financial matters weren't mentioned at the hearing, but con- cerns have previously been raised. An ethics commission would be a positive step for the state -- but HB 1442 is flawed. There are many ques- tions, including selection of mem- bers, reporting processes, penalties and the secretive nature of investig a - tions. A justification for the bill was poorly formed as an avenue of seek- ing to silence the messenger - the media - even if temporarily, so the innocent could remain untarnished until proven otherwise by the com- mission. In the next go-round, a sub group of bi-partisan and diverse officials should unite to write a bill with a learer code of conduct, processes and transparency. Seeking a more di- verse commission - including one or more representatives from outside of government - would be advised. A reasonable and acceptable compro- mise and consensus could be ham- mered out. Unfortunately it might never happen as there seems to be too much animosity, pointing of fin- gers and possibly even paranoia, What transpired in the HB 1442 hearing was a brief witch hunt as a small angry group treating Mock as "The Witch." Leading questions in- dicating bias were routinely and repetitively asked in challenging tones. Personal feelings and person- alities echoed loudly. Tough q&' tions were asked, as they should be, but with very little respect. ClichEs and sound bites oversfiad- owed the topic: "Electors are an ethics commission" ... "we have ethics already by the way we behave and conduct ourselves" ... "this is a solution'in search of a problem." Survey findings in support of a commission were demonized by op- ponents - as well as methodology and the organization responsible for the research (The Center for Public Integrity). Mock was grilled and the bill was mocked by opposition legislators. It was suggested Mock had even acted unethically, possibly demonizing all Republicans, in an uncomplimentary e-mail not related to the bill. Mock brought some of the verbal abuse upon himself with the earlier e-mail and the fact that of the eight names at the top of the bill only one was a Republican; and with due re- spect, it was not a "big name" in the GOP pecking order. HB 1422 should not move for ward. But some committee members on attack should have considered an oft-included ethical component or objective - "do no harm." The most harm came in the successful attempt to sidetrack the watchdog movement toward enhanced ethics. Finally, some members of the legislature would be well served if they worked on improving their bed- side manners. (John lrby retired as editor of the Bismarck Tribune. He is now a free- " lance writer, private investigator and management consultant. He can be reached at johnrobertirby@hot- mail.corn). Presentation to focus on sustainable agriculture MEDORA - Roger Ashley, area extension specialist with the Dickinson Research Extension Center of North Dakota State University, will lead a presentation at the Chateau de Mores Interpretive Center in Medora titled, "Conservation Agriculture: Sustainability into the Fu- ture Conservation Agriculture" on March 9, at 2 p'.m. Conservation agriculture is a way of improving soil productivity, nutrient efficiency, and crop production' while protecting the environment. This system integrates practices closely mimicking natural processes and cy- cles by working with Mother Nature. This system, first hinted at in southwest North Dakota in 1910, has evolved into a dynamic, site-specific practice reflective of resources available and the producer's personal deci- sions. Ashley's presentation will cover current research at the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center as well as other locations to illustrate how early progressive adopters are changing the face of agriculture in North Dakota. This Red Roof Presentations program is free and open to the public. Rural Leadership North Dakota participants pose for a photo at the Born Futuro soybean farm. (Courtesy Photo) Local residents visit Brazil Over the last several years the country of Brazil has become a topic of discussion in the world, especially with agricultural products and tourism. This past January Cory Mc- Caskey, Jolene Obrigewitch, resi- dents of Beach, North Dakota and 26 other people from the state of North Dakota had an opportunity to visit Brazil as part of the Rural Leader- ship of North Dakota class. The ten-day seminar objectives were to learn about Brazilian culture and customs, their agriculture prac- tices aad policies, domestic and for- eign policies, and the trade relationships between the United States and Brazil. The itinerary was full of tours, presentations and speakers. The tours included Emprapa Cerrado (ag. research center), Domingo Hata Ranch in the Pantanal (a Nellore cat- tle ranch), The Rote of Waters in No- bres (privately owned snorkeling agri-business and tourist destina- tion), Bom Futuro Farm (largest cor- porate soy bean farm in the world), and .Port Market Cui'aba' (farmers market). Throughout the tours, the owners and guides talked about their business, practices and challenges. The class had the honor of listen- ing to many different presenters such as representatives from the U.S. Em- bassy, USDA office in Brasilia, Famato (similar to American farm bureau) and Acrimat (Cattlemen's Association). The class learned about the country's economy, socio- economics, education, infrastruc- ture, government, environmental issues, land ownership and the grow- ing world-wide impact from Brazil- ian agriculture imports and exports. One of the objectives was to learn about Brazilian culture, e.g. commu- nication, language and use of Real (pronounced 'hay-AHL'), the Brazil- ian currency. Although the class had two guides who did most of the inter- preting, there were many instances wheh the North Dakotan students had to learn basic communication skills and the exchange of money paid for goods. For example, at the Port Mar- ket, class members could buy fresh fruits, grains, meat, coffee beans, candy and other items. The class vis- ited a food court in a mall .and had to order their meals and pay for them. Another example was at the open market at Rio de Janeiro where many locals sold souvenirs, clothes, jew- elry, purses and other items. Another educational objective was trying the different Brazilian foods and drinks. Most of the restau- ranfs offered buffets. This was their Jolene Obrigewitch and Cory McCaskey at Corcovada. (Cour- tesy Photo) way to feed many people quickly. The buffets included a large variety of fresh fruits, rice dishes, breads, and beef, chicken and fish meats. Brazil's national dish is called fei- joada -- a hearty stew made of black beans, pork and dried bee. Students tried many different native drinks in- cluding hgua (bottled water - gas oi" flat); guaran (carbonated soft drink), hgua de cEco (coconut water), Coke or Coke Zero, or freshly squeezed juices such as pa- paya or passion fruit. The coffee drinkers had cafE, which is a kind of cane sugar-sweetened espresso served in a small cup. Many guides talked about the in- creasing tourism opportunities com- ing to Brazil. Brasilia will be hosting the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the 2016Ssummer Olympics will be in Rio de Janeiro. RLND class mem- bers enjoyed some of the country's tourism sites during, their visit. They saw several churches in Brasilia, had a bus tour of the cities of Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, and visited Cor- covada (Brazilian statue of. Christ) and Sugar Loaf Mountain. Some people got up at 6:00 a.m. to watch the sunrise on the beach or walk in the ocean. The group also took a. Smaba dancing class. The class spent ten days together, flew on nine different planes, and spent 75-100 hours together on buses. Atthe end of the journey, the consensus opinion of the class was the Brazil Study Tour was an amaz- ing experience and e,erything they learned can't be put into a few words. Rural Leadership North Dakota (RLND) is a statewide leadership development program that includes seminars with experts; on-site tours/presentations; meetings with agriculture, business and govern- ment leaders; international experi- ences and personal skills development. The RLND Program is designed for men and women who are dedicated to strengthening the agriculture community, their com- munity and the state of North Dakota for the future. For more in- formation, visit its website at What's Happening? Listings for high school sporting events, plus public events that are free to anyone and aren't fund- raisers or aren't family or business invitations, can be published free of charge in this column. Varsity boys basketball, Feb. 25-28, Regional Tournament, Trinity, TBA Southwest Water Authority board meeting,Tuesday, March 5, beginning at 9 a.m., Elks Lodge, Dickinson We Speclahze" " " Ag L " We're a strong, healthy bank that's committed to the future ,. . ,LA- :'' of agriculture. Our loan officers are experienced and our loan f'r-i-tlt" -' rates are competitive. If you're looking for a good ag bank to :: ) :'   ": ' work with, we invite you to talk with us. First State Bank" Beach 872-4444 Golva 872-3656 Medora 623-5000 24 hr. ATM in Beach & Medora lobby Medora Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m We now offer Internet banking!