“What’s happening here in the Bakken . . . is quite special.” -- The president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. Narayana Kocherlakota said he and his staff visited Williston because their overall focus could mask important regional developments. He said “western North Dakota is seen as a beacon of light.” Kocherlakota warned the boom wouldn’t last forever: “I think people should think about this as a windfall” and invest in a way that makes western ND “what we want it to be” 20 years from now.
Kocherlakota (48) was born in the U.S., but lived in Winnipeg for most of his childhood. He entered Princeton University at age 15 and graduated four years later with an A.B. in Mathematics. He earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.
Right now, hotel developers are investing in Minot -- 700 rooms are under construction. The city is expected to have 3,000 rooms by yearend, almost double the number four years ago. Wendy Howe of the Minot Convention and Visitor’s Bureau said “hotel developers . . . are just speechless. They are not seeing this anywhere else in the country.” Howe also recognized the boom would subside: “How do we keep those rooms full five or 10 years from now?”
As the owner of the BNSF Railroad, billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has a big interest in ND and Montana. Berkshire has increased its investment in Lee Enterprises, the bankrupt parent of the Bismarck Tribune and four Montana papers, and now owns over five percent of the newspaper holding company. Lee owns nearly 50 newspapers. In May, Berkshire directly bought 63 newspapers. Buffett likes to zig when others zag.
The EPA has identified 24 national parks and wilderness areas where visibility is affected by emissions from power plants and factories. Half the locations are in Montana and seven are in Wyoming. ND has two: Lostwood National Wildlife Reserve (north of Stanley) and T. Roosevelt National Park. A new EPA rule will require upgrades at a coal power plant in southeast Montana and two southwestern Montana cement plants.
Suppose you had a dodgy record selling investment securities and your bank account was running low. You might need an exciting new product -- how about something like “New Hi-Tech Oil & Gas Discoveries” -- that ought to go over big in ND. The ND securities commissioner has blocked the sale of a security with exactly that name because of the promoter’s regulatory problems in other states.
Just what they needed! The Three Affiliated Tribes are busy bees -- they have just purchased a 67-acre ranch on their reservation for $1.85 million. The purchase includes a 11,250-square-foot house with an operating waterfall. Chairman Tex Hall gleefully signed the documents.
Was it a coincidence? Editor Mike Jacobs (“New chancellor scores with plan for N.D. colleges”) and opinion page editor Tom Dennis (“N.D. chancellor’s reforms hold exciting potential”) wrote concurrent GF Herald editorials praisinga package of reforms proposed by Hamid Shirvani, the new chancellor of the ND University System. Jacobs said Shirvani’s package was receiving a good reception. “There are two reasons for this. One is that the state is hungry for leadership in higher education. The other is that Shirvani espouses exactly the kind of results-based, responsibility-focused leadership that legislators have demanded, without quite knowing how to achieve it.”
About 44% of Nodaks self-identify their ancestry as German, compared to about 30% who identify as Norwegian. Of the Germans, roughly two-thirds are Germans from Russia, ethnic Germans who lived in Russia and immigrated to America. The GRs had a reputation for long lives and large families. Herbert Poppke (91) died in Seattle, but was born in Goodrich, ND, one of 13 siblings in a GR family. His German language was helpful -- he served as an interpreter during WWII. Following a popular German tradition, Herbert graduated as an engineer in 1951 and worked at the Coors brewery in Colorado, retiring in 1982. He is survived by his sister Irene (Seattle) and brothers “Mutchie” (Bismarck) and “Buster” (Mandan).
If you think small towns in ND are just a bunch of old Norwegians or Germans going about their business, this may change your mind. The town of Steele (750) is about 40 miles east of Bismarck on I-94. The Lone Steer motel, the town’s principal business, burned down -- a giant statute of a sandhill crane towered over smoking remains. Allen Thomas, a black Texan road worker with a criminal record 19 pages long, is accused of burning the uninsured motel owned by Muhammad Saleem Akhtar. Because of Thomas’ extensive criminal record his bail has been set at $1 million.
Nodaks are prosperous, but stingy. That’s the conclusion of a national philanthropic group which made an elaborate analysis of national charitable contributions using IRS data. They determined that in 2008 ND’s median discretionary income of $65,000 was the highest in the country (Oregon was the lowest at $47,000), but Nodaks had some of the lowest rates of charitable contributions. The group only looked at returns which had itemized deductions and income over $50,000. A number of Nodaks found the methodology misleading, saying it ignored the high level of volunteer effort in the state and the fact that many ND families don’t itemize because their homes are owned free of a mortgage.
The 2012 ACT scores are out. ND was below the national averages and smoked by all neighboring states. Nodaks need to get over the idea they have better schools. There is one qualifier -- almost all high school seniors take the test in ND, neighboring states vary from 60-80%.
Death from beating and stabbing, drug use and sales, concealment of evidence, and much more -- the Jamestown trial of black ex-con Leron "Rah Rah" Howard accused of murdering Somalian immigrant Abdi Ahmed had it all. The defense was essentially “yeah, we beat, dragged and stabbed him, but didn’t intend to kill him” -- a guilty plea to the lesser crime of manslaughter. The following statement was part of the defense summation: “At every opportunity they’ve (the prosecution) chosen to elicit testimony about his life and lifestyle. Multiple girlfriends, one pregnant, one not, maybe another pregnant. You don’t have to like his lifestyle. He is not on trial for that — don’t hold it against him.” The jury didn't buy the manslaughter story -- Howard was convicted of murder.
A strange aspect of the trial was media coverage, or lack of it. The Jamestown Sun was the only paper to give the trial daily coverage and limited itself to reporting developments in the courtroom. Readers were not provided background about the accused or the victim. It became apparent during the trial that the crime took place in the context of a certain Jamestown subculture -- the print media never developed that aspect. We can only speculate on the reasons for the cautious reporting. There may have been a deliberate effort to avoid any reporting which would further sensationalize the trial or prejudice the jury.
DAKTOIDS: Enbridge Pipeline is proposing to make the world’s longest horizontal drill 200 feet under Lake Sakakawea . . . The ND Humanities Council hopes Louise Erdrich will be inducted into the Roughrider Hall of Fame. They said, “We think that she is the finest living example of an author from the state.”