The UND “Fighting Sioux” nickname issue has many moving parts: state courts, NCAA, Sioux tribes, Board of Higher Education, colleges, and, not least of all, editorial writers. All the parts are in high gear. The issue caught the attention of both the Washington Times and The New York Times. The NYT marveled at a “legal standoff that has turned some preconceptions upside down,” referring to a suit brought by the Spirit Lake Tribe to retain the name. The article was accompanied by a colored picture of Fighting Sioux hockey clothing The WT said “the most prominent defenders” of the nickname are neither UND alumni nor hockey fans, “THEY’RE SIOUX.”
ND’s congressional delegation is palpably nervous about pending federal legislation. They have to BALANCE WATER ON BOTH SHOULDERS -- they need to appear to be aggressively protecting ND interests, while still supporting priorities of their party. This results in some odd straddles. Sen. Conrad has drawn fire from fellow Democrats for his concern about the impact of Medicare rates in ND. Sen. Rockefeller of W. Virginia said he was “very, very tired” of hearing Conrad’s argument. Sen. Dorgan is clashing with the administration about importing low-cost prescription drugs, and Rep. Pomeroy is opposing the EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. It will soon become clear whether they strongly support those positions, or are posturing.
Herald Editor Mike Jacobs discussed how Obama’s success or failure could affect ND senate races. He says Sen. Dorgan, who is up for re-election next year, is not closely identified with the president, except for issues “that are safe in North Dakota.” Sen. Conrad, who faces re-election in 2012, is the more visible of the two and more closely linked to the president. Jacobs says Obama’s popularity ratings may determine whether Gov. Hoeven chooses to oppose one of the incumbent senators and, if so, which one.
A Herald reader raises A TROUBLING POINT, but is not likely to be taken seriously. Tom Krenelka knows the vast majority of campaign financing for congressional seats in ND comes from outside the state -- sometimes in excess of 90 percent. He wrote, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a North Dakota election? I mean an election in which the only money that could be spent . . . must be raised in North Dakota.”
Are many small ND towns dead, but just haven’t fallen over? Not necessarily, says JACK GELLER, who has significant experience with rural development in both ND and Minnesota. He told the Herald resources have been wasted trying to breathe life back into the economies of small towns. He thinks small towns should be accepted as residential neighborhoods (desirable places to live) and the focus should shift from economic development to community development -- improving the quality of life and meeting the needs of residents.
Geller has serious concerns about the economic future of Minnesota. He sees a “STRUCTURAL IMBALANCE” developing, as an aging population demands more services, but younger people are less educated and less employable than in the past. Greater needs -- fewer revenues. Urban Minnesota has a youthful minority population which includes many refugees and other immigrants. The state’s minority population rose from 6 percent in 1990 to near 15 percent today and is the state’s fastest growing segment.
PER CAPITA INCOME IN ND IS ON A TEAR. The state ranked 39th in 1990, then rose to 20th by 2008. It has passed Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin, but still lags dormant Minnesota. ND’s percentage of personal income derived from natural resources (13 percent) is higher than any of the surrounding states. ND must remain wary of volatility in commodity prices -- it ranked 12th in the nation in per capita income in 1950 (strong farm income) before dropping to 39th.
What if you prepared minutes for the quarrels of a dysfunctional family? The minutes might look much like those for the JAMESTOWN CITY COUNCIL. Mayor Clarice Liechty and her council do not play well together. See the Jamestown Sun for a description of their endless bickering.
The Blues prepared for the worst, and then . . . ALMOST NOBODY CAME. Blue Cross Blue Shield, which dominates health care insurance in ND, had a tumultuous year -- one in which it became a regulatory and political bulls eye. A new CEO and an awakened board are trying to repair the damage. The Blues cautiously planned their annual meeting at a Fargo hotel. They arranged seating for 200 policyholders, barred the press and emphasized the point with police and security. Only 12, mostly quiet policyholders showed up.
State Sen. Tim Mathern was one who wasn’t -- he ran for governor last year, received about a fourth of the votes, and has struggled since to maintain political visibility. Mathern saw a dark side to the low attendance: “When you have a major institution like this with major controversies, and there are more staff than anybody else showing up for the meeting, it means there’s a very controlled environment and a population that doesn’t feel comfortable taking part, and that’s very sad for our state.” Mathern said the meeting confirmed his belief “THERE ARE THINGS THAT ARE WRONG.” Afterwards, he was quite willing to talk to the press.
A member of the Turtle Mt. Chippewa began a letter to the Herald by saying the reservations “have been a safe haven for many criminals who have at times been our tribal leadership.” Delvin Cree urged that future government and nonprofit aid to the reservations should come with controls “that will put a damper on criminal activity, corruption and continual misuse of funds” by tribal leaders and their family and friends. He said tribal sovereignty should not be a defense.
Josie Green (18) is a heroine. It is she who pulled Lucas Littleghost (29) from the Red River on Nov. 20. Littleghost never regained consciousness and died several days later. Green is an American Indian (Oglala Lakota) as is Littleghost (Spirit Lake). That’s a coincidence -- Green was a passerby when Littleghost fell from a railroad bridge into the river. Green is a positive role model who, since the rescue, has had numerous interviews, been featured in a Fargo parade and spoken to groups of Indian students. Littleghost’s aunt calls Green “A TRUE WARRIOR.”
MARRIAGE IN THE MARKET. Warren Wilkinson and Mari Buckley were hitched by Minister Barb Schauer in Super One Foods in Grand Forks. For those of you who hunger for details -- it was at Checkout #1, next to the dog food. The enchanted couple first met at the store. Minister Schauer is in to these things -- she has married people on the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It was bound to happen -- OIL KICKED OUT COAL. Beulah and Hazen in Coal Country have been ND wage champions. Not now -- oil rich Williston pushed to the head of the line with a $50,000 average annual wage in 2008. The coal cities average about $48,000. To appreciate the profound differences in the state, look at Rolla -- $23,000. The state average for 2008 is $35,000.
THIS AND THAT: Firefighters in the town of Douglas (60) got continuing education when the home of their fire chief burned down on Thanksgiving Day. Chief Gorlyn Wohlk escaped only with the clothes on his back -- he blames a pesky space heater . . . Bad news for ND farmers -- WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, has petitioned to have the Sprague’s pipit placed on the Endangered Species list. The pipit is a wide-ranging prairie songbird . . . Each year nearly half of ND’s counties find their way on to the natural disaster list and its attendant benefits. This year 24 counties got the call for maladies ranging from drought to excessive rain. Natural disasters turn out to be surprisingly selective -- they prefer years in advance of elections.