Before members of North Dakota's congressional delegation participated in a public hearing on flood issues Tuesday in Minot, some of them met privately for a short time with Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman and others to discuss similar issues. Gov. Jack Dalrymple was also scheduled to attend the private meeting.
We say private for a reason: Minot Daily?News reporter Jill?Schramm, the only media member present, was asked by Zimbelman to leave the meeting, which she did. That gathering, city officials said, was not a public meeting, although Zimbelman mentioned it at Monday's City Council meeting and it was on the public schedule of at least one senator. But because the meeting was attended by a limited group and did not include a quorum of city council members or any other official board, city officials did not consider it a public meeting. Perhaps they are right, but we still thought it was important we attend, and that's why we showed up at the meeting. But Schramm left when asked.
Perhaps the attendees were wary of the public and the media being part of such behind-the-scenes discussions, where ideas would hopefully flow freely and frankly, even though no real decisions would be made. Much like sausage-making, that sort of process can be messy. Not everyone wants to see the behind-the-scenes process of making sausage; they just want to enjoy the final product. But sometimes, the process is as important as the final product. We believe the process, in this case discussion about potential uses for flood recovery money, was important to help our readers to better understand the decisions being made by our elected leaders when it comes to flood recovery.
No one here was surprised when Schramm was asked to leave, and the officials knew ahead of time she was going to be there. No bridges have been burned on either side. Rather, we think of Tuesday's private meeting as an opportunity missed for local residents and local media to be part of a give-and-take session involving elected leaders on local and national levels who are making decisions that will forever impact thousands of residents of Minot, Burlington and other communities affected by the Souris River flood of 2011.