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Tuesday, April 10, 2018


THE OIL PATCH leads an economic resurgence.  “Aside from the numbers and graphs that are showing growth, if you are in Williston, you can see and feel the increase in activity.” — Williston Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko.  Taxable sales in ND increased 3% from 2016 to 2017, but that average masked large increases in the oil cities and decreases in the state’s four largest cities.  For example, Williston sales increased 24%, while Fargo’s fell 5%.  Growth in the Oil Patch accelerated in the 2017 4th quarter. 
IT’S NOT SO GREAT THERE  “Between lottery taxes, gas taxes, wage taxes, health care, property and income tax increases in the last 15 years, it's a wonder that we've made it this far.” — Brady Olson, owner of a convenience store in Moorhead.  Olson’s letter to the Forum described the hardships of Minnesota retailers located close to ND.  He called for “sensible tax legislation and reduced spending” in Minnesota.
FELONY LEVEL CRIMES remained about the same in F-M in 2017 as the prior year; but misdemeanor crimes, such as thefts and drug offenses, were on the rise.  Metro police chiefs said the main issues were the need to expand mental health and drug addiction services and to get career criminals off the street with longer prison sentences.  Fargo Police Chief David Todd said large drug busts are taking place on region highways, but "I would say we're not even getting 2 percent of it.  You feel like you're holding down the lid on a boiling pot.”
UND PRESIDENT MARK KENNEDY is repentant, maybe.  He blamed the Legislature for funding decisions connected to lack of pay raises and poor faculty morale at UND.  Later, Kennedy apologized and acknowledged responsibility should be shared by a number of parties.  Nevertheless, he said UND’s highest priority in the next legislative session will be to deliver merit pay increases to faculty and staff.

UNFULFILLED WISH  "We're jealous that Fargo got that plum and Grand Forks did not." -- A GF Herald editorial expressed disappointment that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be the keynote speaker at the GOP convention in GF, while VP Mike Pence had spoken at an event in Fargo.  The Herald painted an unflattering picture of Zinke, a former Montana congressman -- the paper had hoped and predicted Trump would be the speaker in GF.

ND FARM ORGANIZATIONS have differing views on the tariff issue.  The ND Farm Bureau said "in this case I don’t think our members are as concerned as maybe the anxiety coming out of Washington about it.”  A spokesman said, “I don’t think they’re (members) too anxious at this point,”  The ND Farmers Union said, “We’re very concerned because trade is essential to creating demand for our commodities."
FOOL ME ONCE, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me — an idiom meaning after being tricked once, one should be wary.  Last year, I was tricked by a news item on the Jamestown Sun website which turned out to be six months old.  Since then, I noticed a number of older news items in the Sun and some in the Herald (two were ten years old).  I inquired, this is what I learned: “The Forum Co.'s websites are set up so popular stories -- the ones getting the most clicks -- pop up at the top of the left-hand column. Sometimes for reasons that are not clear old stories trend to the top. It is confusing.”
THE DAKOTA TERRITORY RETURNS  It was a sober moment when SD Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced “the authentication of historical documents proving North Dakota and his state are actually one and named ‘Dakota.’ ”  Daugaard said “It’s the most incredible discovery” by research historians who found addendums that rescinded orders establishing separate states.  Did this mean the capital would revert to Bismarck?  Before South Dakotans descended into a state of numbness, the governor noted it was April 1 — you know what day that is.
AWW SHUCKS!  UND students were astonished and delighted to learn that a favorable court ruling could lead to the reinstatement of the much beloved Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.  The good news was first reported in the Dakota Student.  It didn’t last long, it was discovered to be another April Fool’s Day joke and the usual suspects condemned it for being “insensitive and inappropriate.”  The GF Herald rode to the rescue saying “college newspapers are noted for their cutting commentary, experimentation and, yes, satire. It's fun and it's good reading. That's the point.”
WHERE IS THE SIMPLE LIFE GOING?  The Minnesota lake resorts tradition is declining and changing.  Minnesota had 1,400 resorts in 1985; 760 in 2015.  The resorts and their rustic cabins are being replaced by time shares and luxury homes.
SURPRISING GROWTH  Sanford Health is already outgrowing its large, new Fargo hospital.  Sanford’s three Fargo facilities recently peaked by filling 495 inpatient beds.  The growth was somewhat surprising and Sanford is still analyzing the reasons.  Sanford’s growth in the region is expected to drive the number of physicians in the region from less than 600 to 800 by 2025 — each physician is supported by five to eight staff members.
WESTMORELAND COAL CO. perches on the edge of bankruptcy.  Among the large company’s properties are three Montana mines and one in Beulah ND.  Westmoreland is an example of the pallor falling over the coal industry.
INNOVATION IN EDUCATION  Ted Kolderie is the co-founder of Education|Evolving, a Minnesota-based nonprofit focused on improving public education.  In an interview with the Minneapolis Civic Caucus he said: "If what we've been trying for 30 or 40 years isn't working, is there something that might work?  We haven't let people in the school adapt to the needs of the students. We must get out of the endless debate about what will work for everybody. Let people who are ready to do things differently, do something different. Let innovation spread.”  Kolderie urges the Minnesota Legislature to permit structures that grant greater autonomy to school districts and foster innovation.
DAKTOIDS  Minnesota’s northern counties are losing population.  They are not alone — the same is true of Canadian border counties in ND and eastern Montana . . .  The Tax Policy Center indicates Nodaks will receive the largest average percentage tax reduction in the nation — nearly 11 percent — SD has a similar result.

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