As I filled out my primary ballot last weekend, at home, in the comfort of my coziest chair, I was once again excited to vote for The Bismarck Tribune to be the newspaper of record for public meetings.
In previous states where we’ve lived, such issues are not put to a public vote. I think it’s great that citizens have a say.
It also caused me to consider our coverage of local events, meetings, games, etc. For newspapers, local news is our franchise, and public meetings, while many consider them boring or unimportant, are critically important to our lives.
I read our coverage of public meetings, but I also read every word of our public meeting legal notices. They are chock full of interesting information. (Who knew that the dirt in the rodeo arena needed to be replaced at a cost of $38,000 to $58,000?)
The importance of such meeting coverage came to light about a week ago in Palm Beach, Florida. It was out of a town council meeting that a really interesting story floated up to become national news. While I saw the story in The Washington Post, the story has received less attention than I thought it might.
But for the coronavirus, I suspect this would have been the day's leading story.
In short: The Trump organization filed the paperwork with the city of Palm Beach to build a dock at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.
Neighbors opposed to the dock filed suit to stop it because they feared that it would get very heavy use by all the club's members, not just the president and his family. So, the president’s lawyers changed the request to be for family use only at their residence.
Local attorneys went to work and dug up the 1993 declaration of use agreement between the Trump property and the City. It turns out the nearly 30-year-old document expressly forbids a dock. And that is not all it revealed.
As Paul Harvey was wont to say, “now, for the rest of the story.”
You may recall that back in September of 2019, the president tweeted that he, a lifelong New Yorker, was switching his legal residency to Florida; to Mar-a-Lago specifically.
The official paperwork is titled a “declaration of domicile” and both the president and first lady filled out the paperwork declaring Mar-a-Lago their legal residence.
As the lawyers and concerned neighbors began reviewing the Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach agreement they discovered that Mar-A-Lago is a “club.”
While we all know that it’s a club, what we did not know is that it specifies that it is not a private “residence.” The agreement specifies that members may only “visit” three times per year and for a maximum of seven days at a time.
You see where this is headed, right?
If Mar-a-Lago is a club and not a residence, not only can it not have a dock, but the president cannot use it as a legal address. And if it is not his legal residence, then any ballots he may have cast could constitute voter fraud.
Now, no one is arguing that point ... yet. But you can bet in this hyper political climate, they will.
It is unimaginable to me that the voter fraud matter will end with any kind of charges, as it would seem impossible to prove an intent to defraud, but the president’s attorneys will surely get their hands slapped for not knowing about this beforehand. Stay tuned for the intrigue.
But that is actually not the point of my column.
My point is that these meetings many consider boring and unimportant are actually very important. Citizens need to read these stories and the legal notices, and The Bismarck Tribune is honored to serve our community in this way.
This is what local newspapering is all about.
Gary Adkisson is publisher of The Bismarck Tribune.
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