Moorhead’s Progressive Chops Cemented

Moorhead still takes plenty of hits in this area as being Fargo’s poor little sister. The Minnesota city is assailed as being a poor place to shop, with rough streets, few restaurants, high taxes … etc., etc. This narrative has been there since I first moved to Fargo-Moorhead 30 years ago to attend what was then called Moorhead State University.

Some of it, especially at that time, was well-deserved. City fathers bulldozed downtown Moorhead in the 1970s  to make way for the Center Mall, which remains a less-than-ideal example of urban renewal. The strips of land along the railroad tracks downtown ain’t exactly worthy of a Chamber of Commerce postcard. Heck, the railroad tracks themselves continue to be a major pain for traffic flow in the city.

In other words, it ain’t perfect.

But the fact is Moorhead has come a long ways forward in the past 10 years. The city is growing at a faster percentage than Fargo, it has gotten remarkably younger (average age of a resident is about 27) and it continues to show a progressive streak I would’ve never imagined 30 years ago.

Evidence of this can be found in the results of Tuesday’s school bond referendum vote. The citizens of Moorhead voted to tax themselves to the tune of $78.2 million. And they did it by an overwhelming margin of 64 percent to 36 percent. The measure passed in all of the Moorhead city precincts, including the north part of town where the citizenry skews older and less affluent.

A citizen owning a $150,000 home who voted “yes” voted to tax themselves about $108 a year for 20 years.

Remarkable. Especially when you look around the region and see all the school bond referendums that failed, some by large margins.

Moorhead’s vote can be attributed to several things. Citizens believe in their school system and want their kids to have the best opportunity to succeed. Those who put together the proposal did a good job of being transparent with the process, and included citizen input whenever possible. Residents saw the issues with their own eyes and decided the district needed more space. There are many things at which you can point.

But don’t underestimate Moorhead’s civic pride and understanding that to grow as a community and to continue to attract young families with children, the city needs to remain progressive.

I don’t necessarily mean progressive in political terms, although that helps. The city has skewed strongly Democratic in the last decade, voting overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama twice, while also going strongly for liberal U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014. Generally, Democrats are more willing to approve taxes and fund education.

Tuesday’s vote goes beyond that, though. To get 64 percent to vote for a bond referendum means people of all political persuasions voted in favor of it to varying extents. It says that regardless of politics, residents saw the value in updating the school system in order to give kids the best opportunity at a quality education while continuing to be attractive to incoming residents.

Every study under the sun shows the No. 1 thing young families look at when moving to a new community is the public education system. With its progressive thinking, Moorhead has positioned itself as a destination for young families moving to Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo.

If this blog post reeks of Moorhead homerism, so be it. I’m allowed to wave the pom-pons for my town. I was proud of my community when it passed a school bond referendum Tuesday. I was more proud it sent an undeniable message with 64-percent approval: The old days are long gone and Moorhead is moving forward, always forward.