USDA Rural Development reps quiz, seek leaders’ viewsFour representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development visited Jamestown Monday to gather information from local leaders about their view of North Dakota’s future.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Four representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development visited Jamestown Monday to gather information from local leaders about their view of North Dakota’s future.
The North Dakota 2.0 initiative meeting was one of 12 scheduled around the state, including one at 10 a.m. today at the Angry Beaver Lodge in Oakes. The public is invited to attend.
“The plan is … to take this information with the community tours, compile it and put it into some kind of document that people — leaders on all levels — can use in some form,” said Jasper Schneider, USDA Rural Development state director.
For most of the Jamestown meeting, Schneider asked the group of 40 attendees multiple choice questions, which they answered with a remote-control-like clicker.
Most of the questions were about people’s opinions on North Dakota issues, but some were more like quiz questions. For example, what percentage of the North Dakota Legislature is older than age 50? Though the majority of the people at the meeting answered 74 percent, the answer is actually 86 percent.
Several trends emerged early on with the opinion questions.
The group felt more knowledgeable and interacted more with local and state governments than with the federal government. People also felt the media coverage for local government was better than state government, which was better than media coverage of the federal government.
People cited the lack of a local television station as one of the major reasons for their dissatisfaction, along with the media’s focus on conflict in politics rather than governmental decisions.
People also considered themselves more satisfied with transparency at the local level than at the state level, which in turn was considered more satisfactorily transparent than the federal level of government.
Fully 88 percent of the people at the meeting said they were “not satisfied” with the transparency of the federal government.
“Part of it is our fault for not being educated in the structure of the federal government,” said Katie Andersen, Jamestown mayor.
Because the data at each level of government becomes denser and the structures become more complex, it becomes much harder for an individual to comprehend it all, said Reed Schwartzkopf, Jamestown city engineer.
Another person commented that North Dakotans have much more access to their federal representatives than people in more populous states.
When asked “What is the primary barrier to building an economically vibrant and socially inviting community,” 60 percent of the participants chose “a lack of willingness to change,” 26 percent answered “lack of meaningful employment,” and 6 percent answered either “lack of cultural opportunities” or “lack of recreational options.”
Several questions about future development regarded infrastructure, including “What is the greatest infrastructure demand in the area?”
Sewer and water systems received 59 percent of the vote, with roads and bridges listed at 26 percent, housing at 12 percent and high-speed Internet connectivity at 3 percent. Transit received zero votes.
“We know we can’t see growth out any further without improving water distribution,” Andersen said.
Changes in North Dakota’s population were also addressed in the meeting, but the pace of energy development was considered the largest threat to the quality of life in North Dakota, receiving 38 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for deteriorating infrastructure, 16 percent for demographics, 13 percent for a cultural shift and 3 percent for environmental risk.
The full list of results for all 12 communities will be compiled into a document which will give state and local leaders an indication of what direction to take North Dakota in the future, Schneider said.
“A meeting like this is only as good as the follow-through,” he added.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at email@example.com