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Monday, April 10, 2017


JAMES ROSENQUIST The most important public art piece in the state is the “North Dakota Mural,” a 13’ by 24’ work by James Rosenquist and the centerpiece of the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. The million dollar piece was received by the museum in 2010 and features iconic ND images. In 2013, the ND Museum of Art at UND held an 80th birthday party for the artist and exhibited his 17’ by 46’ “Through the Eye of the Needle,” an homage to the artist’s mother, an aviation pioneer in Grand Forks. Rosenquist died last week in Florida at age 83.

BILLBOARDS are the clue to Rosenquist’s style. During summer months, between studies at the Minneapolis School of Art, he painted signs, Phillips 66 tanks and grain elevators. Later, he painted billboards in Manhattan. The techniques learned evolved into his large-scale paintings and international fame. Examples of his work can be found at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks and spent summers as a child on his grandparent’s farm near Grand Forks.

POOR DEAL FOR ND TAXPAYERS? A WalletHub report gave ND a relatively good 9th place national ranking on quality of government services, ahead of Montana (30) and SD (16), but behind 1st place Minnesota. ND’s Achilles’ Heel was education -- it ranked 34th. Because ND taxes per capita are the highest in the nation (50), the state received the poorest ranking for “taxpayer return on investment.” On that scale, SD (2) was nearly the best, Montana (31) and Minnesota (35). Warning: The WalletHub report is not easy to follow.

TOO MUCH SPENDING? Did ND spend oil boom revenues in an excessive manner? Former governor Ed Schafer tends to think so. The GF Herald’s Tom Dennis doesn’t see it that way. He thinks the state benefited in countless ways from the spending. He wrote: “But the infrastructure that the oil revenue helped build—the medical school, Grand Forks' now-under construction water-treatment plant, several billion dollars worth of highway, sewer, flood-control and other infrastructure projects out West, to name a few—remains functional and sound."

JOCELYNE AND MONIQUE LAMOUREUX, described as the two most prominent UND women’s hockey players of all time, sent an eloquent letter to UND President Mark Kennedy asking that the school’s women’s hockey program be reinstated. The letter was signed by all members of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Kennedy thanked them for the letter, said they were outstanding ambassadors, and extended “best wishes.”

TOO MANY SCHOOLS “The entire state needs to come to grips with the fact that 11 state-funded universities (all competing for funds and against each other) are too many.” -- Letter to GF Herald from Dickinson reader. He said the cuts in athletic programs are just a small part of the story. In Dickinson, money previously allocated by the Legislature for the T. Roosevelt Library may be used largely to meet needs at Dickinson State University. The excessive number of public colleges and universities in the state does not include five Indian colleges.

HEALTH OF COUNTIES A U. of Wisconsin institute ranked counties within each state based on health outcomes. The five healthiest counties in ND (Burleigh, Bowman, Stark, Cass and Divide) have little in common,

SO THERE! “Jon, you are not nearly smart enough. You should either join the Army or work for Woolworth’s.” -- Jon Wefald, retired president of Kansas State University, recalling the words of his Minot High School English teacher. His response to her blunt comment took him to Pacific Lutheran, Washington State, and, ultimately, his Ph.D at Michigan. He began teaching at Gustavus Adolphus and became Minn. Commissioner of Agriculture before becoming Chancellor of Minnesota’s seven state universities (what would Minnesota do without its ND imports?). His final position at KU lasted 23 years. His brother Bob was ND attorney general and district judge.

CONSIDER ANOTHER LINE OF WORK A district court judge in Minot was suspended without pay for three months by the state Supreme Court for failing to decide cases. Judge Richard Hagar had previously been censured and suspended for the same reason. Hagar has degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy (1979) and UND Law School (1988).

HARSH EVOLUTION First, ND’s smallest towns died. Larger county seat towns like Carrington, Cooperstown and Lamoure were beneficiaries drawing most of the business in their respective counties. Now, evolution is entering a different phase. Regional cities, such as Jamestown, are becoming hubs with medical centers and stores that pull business from surrounding counties and their county seats. Online purchases also contribute to business losses in smaller towns.

NO COMMENT Forum readers were asked what restaurant they would most like to see brought to ND. Leading the list, “Chick-fil-A;” a couple spots further, “Jack in the Box.”

THE LONDON TERRORIST ATTACK put Minnesota on edge. The Star Tribune Editorial Board said the state needs federal help to combat terrorism in Minnesota’s Somali community. There is special concern about whether the Trump administration will continue support for CVE (counter violent extremism) programs.

DAKTOIDS Taxable sales and purchases in ND were down 24 percent in 2016 from the prior year falling to pre-oil boom levels. Will 2017 be the turnaround year? . . . During the oil boom some cities grew a little too big for their pants. It takes Minot 72-96 hours to clear snow after a storm. Slower growing Grand Forks does it in a day . . . ND leaders were disturbed, but not surprised, to learn that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had lobbied the federal government to restrict funds for the F-M flood diversion.

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