To recap, the Herald is for developing the lot for business use. So are many others involved in community and business development, including the Economic Development Corporation, the Downtown Development Association and high-ranking members of city government.
On the other side are many who feel Arbor Park should stay as a green place that features local artwork, trees and benches.
It’s a hot issue downtown. For example, more than 5,000 people signed a petition to bring this to a vote. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at the Alerus Center.
Will 5,000 people actually show up to vote?
We figure that’s unlikely. And it’s also unfortunate, because the decision that is made today will mark downtown for decades to come, no matter which side wins. Arbor Park will either continue to be a park or it will be razed to make room for a mixed-use, multi-floor business building.
The Herald urges readers to vote today. We do so because we feel this is an important issue, and we do so because we worry Grand Forks voters are becoming lethargic.
For example, during the presidential election back in 2016 — which also featured numerous local races and issues, including a sales-tax initiative — only 55 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Only six counties in the state — and there are 53 counties overall — had a lower turnout. Throughout North Dakota, 61 percent of eligible voters participated.
Actually, it follows a trend that’s happening nationally.
During the 2016 election, only 55.7 percent of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots, according to the Census Bureau. Among developed countries, America ranks No. 28 in election turnout.
According to a report by Pew Research Center, Belgium ranks first. In that country’s last major election in 2014, 87.2 percent of the voting-age population participated. Sweden, South Korea, Denmark and various others rank among the leaders.
Pew Research notes that some countries have compulsory voting laws, so maybe it’s not comparing apples to apples.
However, in Canada, 62 percent of the voting-age population participated in the most recent election, according to Pew Research. In the United Kingdom, it was 65 percent.
Will 50 or 60 percent of the voting-age population of Grand Forks head to Alerus Center today to cast a ballot? Will 40 percent or even 30 percent?
We would bet against it.
And we’re discouraged by that.