Change can be good but is rarely comfortable

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Posted 12/05/17 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

Nothing stays the same forever. If it did, we’d all be dressed in animal skins and I’d be chiseling my column into stone.
This week, chiseling being as labor-intensive as it is, I’d just write the word “change.”
On that theme, many changes come to mind -- within my own personal or business sphere, rippling out to the larger communities I am connected to -- from Crosby and Divide County to the Tioga and Ray communities -- and beyond, to include the state and the nation.
On the personal front, I am excited that I can look forward to the arrival of my first grandchild in the spring. My oldest daughter, Catrina, and her husband, Cordell, are expecting their first baby in mid-May. I am looking forward to the change of having a new little person around who I love already, but will have to get to know.
I am looking forward to the conclusion, on the date this paper publishes, of my year as president of the Crosby Area Chamber. It’s a change that will allow me to return to more of a back seat position with the chamber -- resuming my longtime role of secretary who takes the minutes rather than as the person who sets the agenda of each month’s meetings and operations. Each of us in a small town has to “take our turn” taking the lead, and while it has been fun, I am glad my year is concluding.
Looking out to my larger community of northwestern North Dakota, I see change coming in waves as startling as when the oil boom first hit. Having weathered the “downturn” that began in 2014, it seems now for many local businesses the “new normal” is going to mean a reduction of some personnel and streamlining of operations. I see this in my own business and am empathetic for other businesses I know are going through similar changes.
On the state level, I see change arriving in the form of rising property tax bills for folks who have seen their home and commercial values increase exponentially in recent years. According to figures I’ll be reporting on in Crosby next week in more detail, the removal of a 12 percent property tax rebate is having some significant impact on the amount of property tax a lot of people in Divide County will pay this year. 
Coming at a time when many of our small businesses are contracting and the housing market is slow, higher property taxes are going to hurt.
On the national level, along with a host of issues that inject uncertainty into the future (the Russia investigation, a new tax bill in the works, the potential for impeachment of the president), I am also concerned about the looming loss of net neutrality. A story in this week’s issue spells out much of the nuts and bolts of the issue and how it may impact our local telephone co-op and its members, but a simple analogy (thanks to my brother who shared it with me) goes something like this:
“Since it was invented, the internet has been a common carrier like phone lines. You can call any number anywhere and they all get treated the same. 
“The internet now allows users the same access to the The Journal as it does the New York Times. Facebook and Google started from nothing and were able overtake their competitors not just because they offered better services but because under net neutrality they had equal access to consumers of the world. 
“Those who want to do away with net neutrality want to make it like a cable company that will limit which internet sites you have free access to and which ones you have to pay extra for. It would be like your phone calls to Walmart are free but a call to your local mom and pop hardware store would require a surcharge or a small town business package upgrade. 
“The political ramifications would be worse. A free exchange of ideas and a neutral internet is the ultimate soapbox in the town square where everyone’s ideas are treated equal. Yes, the flat earthers and chemtrail nuts are annoying sometimes, but do you really want some corporate bigwigs deciding which political points of view you will have free access to?”
Ah, change! We’re stuck with it. 
Here’s hoping the change we find ourselves dealing with -- on any front -- is not as bad (or better) than our worst fears may suggest.