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I have this need to remind both my loyal readers that as of this week I will have been married for 48 years. I recently heard that around 70 percent of marriages now end in divorce so once again I have found myself in the abnormal group. The upside is that it looks like our marriage will outlast even our expectations. So thanks for keeping me around, Renee, and I look forward to continuing our abnormal relationship.

On to the news. I’ve noted a great deal of money and energy is being spent opposing Measure 1. Even the Bismarck Tribune along with all sorts of high-powered groups willing to finance the opposition (the oil and coal industry, Chamber of Commerce, Catholic Church, ACLU, etc.), so I once again find myself in opposition to the opposition.

Measure 1 creates an ethics commission, which is an issue that our Legislature has blown off under the notion that their ethics will be judged by their colleagues or the voter. In a sense I agree, but then again, unlike John Smith, I do think that the free market has some shortcomings when it comes to the concept of injecting business ethics into government ethics.

Business ethics basically thrive on the notion of whatever the market will bear or, in other words, whatever you can get away with. These ethics work well in a freewheeling market until someone gets caught getting away with more than they should.

As one who has experienced government from about every angle there is (citizen 68 years, elected legislator and city commissioner for 22 years, public servant/government employee five years, and somewhere over 30 years as a paid lobbyist) I believe that every citizen in North Dakota would benefit by voting for Measure 1. At a minimum, passage of Measure 1 levels the playing field between those in power and common folks like you and me.

Over my career I’ve seen very little fraud in our government; however, I have seen a lot of questionable wheeling and dealing that has left me question the ethics of some of my colleagues. I’m a firm believer in sunshine laws, conducting the public’s business in public, and by public I mean an arena where the average citizen has no problem accessing their government and Measure 1 forces our government to open itself to the people governed.

I’ve always felt it was a privilege to be a public servant. I fully understood that working in government and politics is quite similar to committing yourself to life in a fishbowl, where everyone keeps an eye on you. Times have changed a bit at the state level; thanks to the existing super majority’s stronghold there seems to be more backroom decisions made than back in my day. As such, you and I have lost our access to what’s really going on.

Not that I think all sorts of nefarious activities are occurring, rather you and I as common folks don’t have the capacity to take on the powers that be. For instance, during my tenure as a lobbyist for Blue Cross we could afford to take an entire committee out to dinner and fill them in on our issues. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I don’t know about you, but if I had to do that out of my pocket it would consume the vast majority of my monthly Social Security check.

So I signed onto the sponsoring committee not only knowing that many of my peers would be frowning but like I was saying I thought it would give the little guy at the end of the line a better chance to be heard. So I hope you vote yes on Measure 1.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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