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Omdahl: Small cities rise up, demand whatever

From a leaky White House, Channel NNC obtained the minutes of a secret meeting held by North Dakota small cities in some "big barn by Barlow," held shortly after the state Legislature adjourned.

Small-town policymakers from all over the state arrived for the historic event. It was the biggest crowd seen by Barlow people since 1939 when 350 showed up for Billy Bruin's closure of the BrassKnuckles Bar.

Here is what the channel of talking heads has so far:

Minutes of the first summit meetings of cities under the population of 50:

Mayor Butch of Bergen (Population 7) called the meeting to order, claiming that he was doing it for another mayor who wouldn't appear unless he could wear a mask, which was made illegal by the last session of the Legislature.

The registration secretary reported that 58 of the state's 64 cities under 50 were present. Attendees were scattered throughout the barn and hayloft with overflow in the chicken coop.

Councilmember Schmidter (Ventura, Pop.10) said there were more than 64 cities under 50 in North Dakota and wondered why the rest - like Baker, Gardena and Veseleyville — weren't invited.

Mayor Bertramson (Pillsbury, Pop. 12) explained that they weren't legally incorporated. And besides, the barn wasn't big enough for everybody.

"Why are we here?" a voice called from one of the cow stalls. Nobody could tell whether the voice was registered or not, but everybody thought it was a good question.

A councilmember from Rogers, one of the bigger little cities with a population of 46, explained in one breath that it was because the Legislature was thinking of giving all townships $10,000 each and small cities didn't get the time of day when most of the small cities had more people than the average township and, in fact, there were townships with no people.

"The governor vetoed the bill but the $10,000 deal may be back and we need to be included next time," he opined.

Some official from a town up by the Canadian border of which no one had heard reported that a committee on resolutions had been appointed two weeks earlier so we should get its report.

Dorothy Hemstead (Loraine, Pop. 9) stepped forward, admitted that she was on the committee, reported that the committee had met twice in Pickardville, and passed a resolution demanding to be included in the $10,000 deal in the next legislative session.

"Resolution One: If the Legislature is going to give townships $10,000, we demand that all cities with a population equal to the average population of townships also get $10,000."

The city engineer of Bantry (Pop.14) said he really needed the money because with his town's low property valuation it would take a levy of 200 mills for 20 years to pour one block of sidewalk through the business district and by 2037 there wouldn't be anybody left in town to walk on it.

"What we really need is parking meters," some unknown voice declared.

Several city officials in the third horse stall laughed derisively.

"Quit laughing!" Mayor Hyser Colberg (Elliot, Pop. 25) barked from the milk room. "If we had parking meters in front of Bert's Last Stop Bar in Elliot, we could rake in $20 a day."

That provoked wild clapping and shouting. Somebody in the hayloft blew an air horn.

"We have political muscle," Mayor Long of Ayr (Pop. 17) declared, pointing out that North Dakota had 64 towns with 50 or less residents.

"If our 1,756 electors speak with one voice they will listen," he prophesied.

Unfortunately, Channel NNC lost the rest of the minutes in a fistfight over parking meters. (Fictitious names have been used in this report to protect the innocent but the towns are real.)

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and professor at UND. He writes each Monday in the Herald.