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Monday, April 24, 2017



THE GREAT FLOOD This is the 20th anniversary of the Grand Forks flood. In a GF Herald editorial, Tom Dennis acknowledged the substantial state, federal and charitable aid Grand Forks received for its recovery. He also noted: “But money, initiative and charity alone aren't enough. The communities also needed those less tangible but still vital qualities that ensured the help would be put to good use. That was the area's North Dakota and Minnesota ‘society’ . . . it reassured a nation of skeptics that their tax dollars would be well spent.”

A similar, less eloquent observation was made here in March 2009:

FLOODING IN ND AND NEW ORLEANS: Comparisons are inevitable; interpretations differ and are apt to be political. All levels of government in ND seem to collaborate effectively -- citizens volunteer by the thousands -- communities ready themselves for self-help -- authorities are reliable and trusted -- attitudes are hopeful, self-reliant, without despair and self-pity. A disaster coordinator in Fargo put it this way, yes, there was some fear, “But nobody’s bailing. We are Norwegian, German, stubborn and fighters. This is our place, and we’ll stay here.”

“NORTH DAKOTA SMUG replaced North Dakota Nice.” -- Forum columnist Mike McFeely contended ND Republicans overspent and cut taxes too much during the Oil Boom. He was slightly ominous: “The good old boys club played a shell game with property taxes and lost. And now you're going to pay.” Fellow columnist Rob Port tended to agree, he said Republicans “can’t escape responsibility for excessive spending in previous sessions.”

SONNY “But, quite frankly, Perdue's pluses greatly outweigh his minuses.” -- Agweek editorial recommending approval of Sonny Perdue (former governor of Georgia) as ag secretary. The editorial said, “His executive experience will be an asset in managing an expansive agency with a multibillion-dollar budget.” Agweek wished Perdue had more experience with Midwest crops and livestock.

BRUCE GJOVIG retired after 33 years leading the UND Center for Innovation which develops and supports entrepreneurs. His retirement party was attended by most of the ND political establishment. While best known for the Center, he is also a patron of ND visual arts and the walls of the Center are lined with work of the best ND artists. Gjovig was also an enthusiastic supporter of all things Norwegian and he cheered UND’s extensive relations with Norway. He commented at his retirement reception, "Education and entrepreneurship are the two best ways I know to empower people to be what they want to be."

SALLY SMITH is one of UND’s most respected and honored recent graduates. The 1979 accounting graduate climbed corporate ladders in the Twin Cities eventually becoming CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings. She has a long list of awards for business and professional achievements. Mick McQuire, principal of Marcato Capital, has called for her resignation calling the company’s performance “over the last several years” inexcusable. Smith is the daughter of the former leader of Alerus Financial in Grand Forks.

NOT SURPRISING The NY Observer has named Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges the second-worst mayor of a major city. The Observer says she has good intentions, but is guilty of gross mismanagement.

NEED A ROOM? Last week, I mentioned that valuations for Minot hotels were plummeting. This week, two of Wiiliston’s 25 hotels closed and two more are for sale. Occupancy rates in Williston hover around 30 percent.

BUMPS IN THE ROAD “The Jamestown Sun has been forced to make some tough business decisions by reducing the number of pages in our print edition.” -- Letter from the publisher. The letter had an uncomfortable tone, apparently, in response to blowback. The publisher said “this is not to paint a picture of doom and gloom,” but rather to work out a balance between print (5,000 a day) and online readers (6,000 a day). He said there will be days when the size of the paper may be reduced, but they will continue to have pages from USA Today.

AN ANNUAL RITUAL Trump’s budget eliminates 15 long-distance Amtrak routes -- the Empire Builder which runs through ND is one. Members of Congress from ND and Minnesota say they will save the money losing train.

NUCLEAR FOOT IS SHRINKING “We’ll still maintain 150 Minuteman III silos at Minot with about 17 of those in a non-deployed status, meaning there won’t be a missile in it.” -- Minot Air Force Base spokesman. The reduction is pursuant to a treaty with Russia. The Minot AFB has 26 B-52 bombers and is the only base with both bombers and missiles.

DAKTOIDS The F-M Diversion is a $2.2 billion, 30-mile man-made river channel around Fargo-Moorhead to control the flow of flood water. Work on the diversion began this week . . . The USDA says 2017 will be more of the same for farmers -- prices may be below break-evens and farm income is expected to decline 9 percent.


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