If you enjoy the intrigue of history, I recommend a book titled “Rising Tide”, written by John Barry. It chronicles the great Mississippi flood of 1927, arguably the greatest flood disaster our country has ever known. The flood waters covered more than 16 million acres in seven states. The most contentious and suspense filled part of the story surrounds the city of New Orleans. No other locality in the country, save perhaps Chicago, rivals the reputation of greed, graft, and corruption of the Big Easy. The lavish floats and royalties of Mardi Gras, which ended this week with Fat Tuesday, are a monument to the social clubs that have historically driven the unscrupulous influence climate of that town.
In the 1927 flood, those social clubs and the special interests they represented, exercised their influence by bribing and coercing regional politicians to cut the dikes to release water away from the city. The largest newspaper in New Orleans threw their political weight behind blowing the dikes. The unfortunate result of the actions was flooding between 15,000 and 20,000 square miles of rural parishes that were home to Cajun and African American residents. The damage caused by the intentional flooding cost ten times more than the New Orleans power brokers estimated, and a large percentage of the flooded rural residents received nothing for the damage they suffered.
Last week we found out that the Mayor of Oxbow expects to be paid more than $75,000 per year by the Diversion Authority to direct the ‘re-organization’ of his community behind a ring dike designed to keep Fargo’s dammed up water at bay. The majority of the people in the larger Hickson, Oxbow, and Bakke community have said they don’t want to live behind a 15 foot mountain of dirt. Despite a plurality opposed to the idea, amazing political winds blew a new country club and swimming pool into Oxbow’s city limits, and suddenly the Oxbow Mayor, the Fargo figureheads, and even the governor, fawned over a game changing plan to avoid impacts from the diversion’s dam and reservoir.
The whole thing smells. How much money and how many votes does it take to blow the political wind? North Dakota has been an oasis of honesty and integrity, where people bypass the glitz and glamour of the coasts, to raise their children and live with a semblance of community and coalition.
Welcome to Fargo, Louisiana style.