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Friday, March 02, 2012


The decade ending in 2010 was one of economic progress in ND, unlike much of the country. Yet, the number of children living in economically distressed areas of the state increased. A program called Kids Count determined the percentage of children living in such areas increased from 5 percent in 2000 to 7 percent in 2010. Two-thirds of children in concentrated areas of poverty live on the Standing Rock, Spirit Lake and Turtle Mt. reservations. The remaining one-third live in Grand Forks and Fargo neighborhoods with relatively high immigrant and American Indian populations.

There was a time when reasonable efforts and goodwill could have made the UND Fighting Sioux nickname and logo an even greater asset for the school, the tribes and the state. A faculty minority determined to demonize the name and a series of weak, appeasing administrations at UND squandered that opportunity. Is it too late to reverse the process?

An article by Chuck Haga in the GF Herald illustrates part of what is at stake. John Chaske is a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux. He grew up in tough circumstances, didn’t like whites and ended up on the wrong side of the law. During a long period of rehabilitation, he balanced his views and came to believe that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo should be worn with honor. He participated in a flag-raising ceremony at UND and found it to be a powerful and moving experience. Later, he took two young grandsons to a UND hockey game. “They had never seen a crowd like that, the enthusiasm,” he said. “I could see the pride (at the Sioux symbols) in their young faces. I thought, why would someone want to ruin such a good thing, take it away from them?”

“Who’s afraid of the NCAA?” Definitely the administration at UND, but not Marilyn Schoenberg of Hebron, who urges all Nodaks to wear green on Fridays in anticipation of a statewide vote on the Fighting Sioux nickname. She says the logo says, “Don’t give up, don’t give in, set a goal and fight to win.” Brad Hagen of Northfield, Minn. supports her. He says a minority, which includes the current UND administration, has ignored UND’s motto of Lux et Lex (light and law) and used every advantage they could to change the name. Hagen said, “They have played the race card, the insensitivity card, the political correctness card and most recently, the administration card.” Who will prevail, the Marilyns and Brads, or the dreaded minority?

Republican Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch from Mandan was years behind in paying both income and property taxes. She is chairwoman of the ND House Education Committee and serves on committees dealing with taxes and finance. A $300,000 lien was filed against her and her husband -- she blames the attorney husband. The ND Tea Party asked her to not seek reelection for failing to meet standards of leadership. Without regard to the merits of Kelsch’s case, it is refreshing to see members of a political party take the initiative to challenge the ethics of one of their incumbents. Too often, parties look the other way in these circumstances.

The Forum advised Kelsch to resist calls to resign. Part of the reasoning: "Difficult family financial problems of one kind or another are relatively common among the residents of the state."

The Sandy Blunt case has always been puzzling. The former director of the ND workers’ comp fund was convicted of a felony for an action, which, viewed from the outside, seemed little more than a question of management judgment. Blunt has asked a federal court to review his conviction.

Agweek magazine is a publication of Forum Communications. The magazine recently surveyed industry leaders about changes that can be expected in Northern Plains agriculture in the next ten years. The responses came from a varied group including leaders of farm organizations, researchers and environmental activists. They almost all agreed on one thing: the role of technology in agriculture is taking off -- the SD Farm Bureau president said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Technology and its cost led to more agreement -- the future favors increasingly large and more sophisticated farms. Mid-sized farms will be squeezed out as will the small towns they support. A place is seen for small, niche farms making direct sales of specialty foods, but they will tend to locate near urban areas to access customers. Leaders were optimistic ND agriculture will benefit from rising populations and incomes around the world.

Mountrail County is the center of the oil patch and the subject of a New York Times article highlighting the rise of both prosperity and inequality in the county. As a resident said, “Some people get. Some don’t.” During the last decade median income in Mountrail rose more than 50% -- 21% of households earn over $100,000. One example, a retired farmer, who previously lived on social security and farmland rentals, is now getting $80,000 a month from mineral rights. However, he is one of the lucky ones, only one in five farmers gets royalty checks from the land they own -- in many cases the mineral rights were separated and sold. The unequal distribution of oil money causes some residents to feel guilty and play down their new wealth.

I do miss obituaries in the Fargo Forum -- they were interesting histories of life in ND and the continuity of rural areas. Fortunately, other newspapers still run obituaries and there is a chance to learn about people like Lawrence Loose (82). Loose was born in Woodworth (northwest of Jamestown) and there he stayed for 75 years. He was married to Ardelle Ziesch for 55 years and they raised grain and Polled Hereford cattle. He held every lay position in the local Lutheran church and was an athlete who for 40 years was the official scorekeeper and treasurer of the Woodworth Athletic Association. In late life, he was a member of the James River Horseshoe Club. Loose sang bass accompanied by his sisters.

Are people in Minot especially naive? I don’t think so, but sometimes they make me wonder. A man allegedly impersonated a police officer there. Part of his getup, a tan Chevy Suburban with a siren and Texas license plates.

DAKTOIDS: The Tribune reports the Bismarck-Mandan area has 66,000 jobs of which 21 percent are in government . . . As CRP acres go, so go meadowlarks. Herald publisher Mike Jacobs traces the decline in the state’s meadowlarks to a reduction in Conservation Reserve Program grasslands . . . Enrollment of traditional male students is down at western ND colleges -- two explanations are offered: plentiful jobs in the oil industry and a shortage of student housing . . . Agriculture is a large part of the ND economy, but the state is not one of the largest ag states -- for example, in 2011, Minnesota’s $7 billion corn crop exceeded the $6 billion value of all crops in ND.

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