Letter: Boom takes toll on quality of life in oil country
While the oil boom has created great benefits for our state, nothing comes free.
It’s creating jobs, contributing to a ballooning surplus, revitalizing a portion of the state that has seen hard times and giving opportunities to our young people to stay here.
But there’s another side to the oil boom, which is the toll it has taken on the quality of life in oil country.
Senior citizens being driven out of the area by rent increases they can’t afford. School districts without teachers and rooms for the influx of students they expect this fall. Health care providers and EMS first-responders that can’t keep up with demand.
Overloaded law enforcement and criminal justice systems. The list of stories goes on and includes environmental concerns, housing shortages, crumbling roads, inadequate water and sewage treatment capacity and soaring crime rates.
The severity of the problems out west we must now deal with is directly attributable to a monumental lack of leadership by the Republican super-majority that has controlled state government for the past 12 years under the direction of Sen. John Hoeven, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Rep. Rick Berg and Rep. Al Carlson.
Democrats like Rep. Shirley Meyer saw problems coming along with the benefits of oil development when she asked for a special session 2007 to begin addressing them.
During the summer of 2010, Rep. Meyer, Rep. Kenton Onstad, Rep. Lois Delmore and Sen. John Warner called for a special session as problems in oil country mounted, as did U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan.
The official Republican response: What problems? If some exist, we’ll get to them later.
By all reasonable estimates, this oil boom is going to last for some time and should give us the financial means to deal with the problems that are threatening the traditional way of life in western North Dakota.
The governor and Legislature we elect this fall will have an obligation to move immediately to alleviate the unprecedented challenges out west, and to anticipate and deal with new problems that will come with continued development of our oil resources.
Given the Republican Party’s track record, the only way that will happen is to change the leadership in Bismarck that apparently is more interested in perpetuating their seemingly permanent majority than taking reasonable and fiscally responsible steps to address problems in oil country.
Greg Hodur, Fargo, North Dakota Democratic-NPL chairman