What did you know?
When did you know it?
What did you do about it?
In our discussions these questions come up in regard to dangerous conditions that ultimately cause some harm (such as product deficiencies or retention of an employee who has already evidenced inappropriate behavior). I find that putting these three questions into students’ heads early on allows them to be better able to identify potential issues long before they become issues.
I am thinking of those three questions this morning as I read about Sherry Arnold’s kidnapping and murder. Sherry’s story – so much like the story of Dru Sjodin – seems so random and as such, is so frightening. We don’t want to look at the world with a lens that is constantly scanning for those who would do us harm for no other reason than because they feel like it. That is a scary world. We enjoy a bit of a luxury here in North Dakota on that front, we feel safer here.
I think the folks in Sidney, Montana used to feel the same. But now they know better. In an article in InForum, Sidney’s Mayor, Bret Smelser, expressed his frustration that his town had not been able to get more money to deal with the issues that have come with the oil boom. He wishes they had more police in the community and ponders that perhaps that would have made a difference.
The oil boom – is it a blessing or a curse to North Dakota and Montana? I guess it depends who you ask. One thing I think everyone can agree on is the fact that the oil boom has created some challenges that the area communities with their pre-oil boom structures and budgets have been hard-pressed to keep up with. There is an influx of people, a dramatic increase in need for services and housing, and an incredible impact on long term residents’ quality of life.
Now I realize that the oil boom has many positive aspects for North Dakota in particular, but we would be foolish if we didn’t take a big step back and look at the unintended consequences of this activity. Increasingly, we know the consequences…sometimes, it is because someone has gotten injured or died, other times it is apparent in a simple surveying of the landscape (such as dangerous travel conditions or a shortage of housing).
We know, based on a well-documented history of events, that the oil boom presents some challeges that need to be addressed. So the question becomes – what are we doing about it? I’d say we are on notice that the oil boom has created a series of dangerous and untenable conditions that need immediate attention. Will we wait for the next crime, injury or death to finally act…or will we finally turn our attention and our money toward addressing these issues? The way I see it, you can either pay now to create and maintain a safer environment or you can pay later in a series of judgments. There are some things that government immunity doesn’t cover and gross negligence and reckless disregard are certainly among them.
We can do a better job with this situation and we need to start doing it now. We need to have an adequate answer to the question, “What did you do about it?”
Day nine hundred and fifty-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da