Nodaks are a modest bunch -- not likely to brag -- truly uncomfortable with praise (and they don’t get much). Getting the “big head” is a deadly sin. Is that starting to change? The Delta Sky magazine has a 30-page feature on ND which Tom Dennis of the GF Herald describes as “almost impossibly upbeat.” It’s the talk of the state and is the type of breathless article you see in travel magazines, sugarcoated, but partially informative. Dennis cautioned, “Don’t let the highs get you too high and the lows get you too low, as a wise person once said.”
It’s worthwhile, particularly if you haven’t been in the state recently, to read the article. Go to “deltaskymag.delta.com” and click on “Read the Magazine.” The “Profile of North Dakota” can be found on pages 115-145 of the October issue.
Many Nodaks have done well in the arts: theater, music, literature and movies, but few have achieved notable success in visual arts. Painter James Rosenquist (76) is one of the few; he grew up in Grand Forks, went to college in Minnesota, worked in New York and now lives in Florida. He began his career as a billboard painter at a time when artists actually painted the signs. So it’s not surprising that he is best known for monumental paintings -- his most well-known piece is 85 feet long. He became a top “pop artist” and his work is seen in art galleries around the world -- much of it has political themes. Today, October 7, a 13 feet wide by 24 feet tall Rosenquist mural will be unveiled at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. “The North Dakota Mural” is valued at over a million dollars -- I’ll see it next week and give you a report.
ND is loosening up, right? Maybe. Certain hair salons in Fargo relaxed their customers with a complimentary glass of chardonnay. After all, that’s not much for a $100 client. The Fargo Police Dept. doesn’t think so -- they ordered the salons to stop serving alcohol or obtain a liquor license costing $800-1,000 with further annual fees. The salons put away the chardonnay -- business isn’t quite that good.
“Simply put, I have no money for anything” -- NDSU President Dean Bresciani gave his first state of the university address and, not surprisingly, it was aimed at state legislators and was mostly about money. Bresciani said he needs support “so faculty, staff and students can excel.” He said facilities are also a problem: “Most are in a condition that threatens our productivity, and wastes valuable state resources.”
UND President Robert Kelley was more indirect in his state of the university address. He indicated UND was “healthy financially,” but enrollment had pretty much reached the limit of campus facilities. An example, the Law School has been warned by the ABA that the school’s space could become an issue in accreditation. The implication: enrollments will need to be frozen unless there is more investment. Kelley indicated UND’s focus will now be quality more than quantity.
TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS
Companies controlled by Tom Petters, a Minneapolis businessman, committed the biggest corporate fraud in the history of Minnesota. Petters has been sentenced to 50 years in prison. Fingers of the fraud touched ND in several ways, including losses to certain banks. A bankruptcy trustee is attempting to “claw back” payments made by the fraudulent companies in years preceding the bankruptcy. The trustee has filed a lawsuit against Fargo businessman Michael Hofer for $36 million on the theory he should have seen “red flags” indicating his returns “were too good to be true.” Expect the matter to drag on for a few years.
ND is one of eight low debt states, those with the lowest ratio (less than 1%) of debt to state GDP. Almost all of the low ratio states are clustered in the upper Great Plains, ND neighbors such as Nebraska and SD. Almost all the high ratio states (4-8%) are on the coasts, states such as California and Mass.
Oil and relative prosperity keep ND in the national news these days. In 1983, the state was in the news for an entirely different reason. Gordon Kahl, a leader of tax protestors Posse Comitatus, was involved in a shootout in Medina which killed two federal marshalls. A few months later Kahl was killed in another shootout in Arkansas. He was both a highly decorated WWII turret gunner and a former federal inmate. Kahl’s life is the subject of books and movies. You can share a little of that life. Kahl’s 1951 Chevrolet two-door was released by the feds in 2006, has only 19,000 miles and is on sale at Clearview Automobiles in Edina, Minn.
Like many prairie counties, Stutsman County (Jamestown) has historically bad rural roads. The roads were often upgraded from section line prairie trails and have weak subgrades which may include even fence posts and vegetative matter. Gravel and paving merely form a facade which has been pounded to bits by the heavy farm vehicles now being used. A 17-year wet cycle has further broken down the poor roads and exhausted township and county budgets. For the moment, there is a lot of hand wringing and little agreement about what to do.
Mike Zimmerman is the county road superintendent -- he makes the solution seem rather obvious. It costs $1,700 each year to maintain a mile of gravel road, If you convert a paved road to gravel the maintenance cost is $2,600 a year, to reconstruct old pavement the lifetime cost is $31,300 a year, and to construct new pavement $40,000 a year. Zimmerman thinks 100 miles of old pavement in Stutsman County should be recycled to gravel.
Almost like clockwork, ND’s congressional reps announce new gifts for constituents. In one of these carefully timed serial announcements, Sen. Conrad and Rep. Pomeroy said ND will receive a $300,000 grant from the USDA to support Open Fields, a federal program that gives incentives to farmers and ranchers to allow hunting on their land. Nice, not much money, and I’m sure both the landowners and hunters like it, but is this the type of program that justifies increasing the national debt? An alternative would be to have individual states decide whether they wish to fund such relatively lightweight federal programs. It would be a start.
DAKTOIDS: Census data indicates about 300,000 Nodaks have German ancestry, while 200,000 identify themselves as Norwegian (a 3:2 ratio). These two groups account for over three-fourths of the state’s population . . . The oil industry in western ND has an acute power shortage -- many companies are forced to power their wells with generators . . . An AP survey indicates ND and SD are the least economically stressed states; Nevada and California the most . . . A Bismarck Tribune editorial referred to ND's economy thusly: "Truly, this is the land of milk and honey."