Home Contact Register Subscribe to the Beacon Login

Monday, December 10, 2018


GOV. DOUG BURGUM unveiled his proposed budget for the next two-year cycle.  His conservative budget assumes oil prices and production will be “fairly flat.”  After several years of budget cutting, the 2019-21 budget loosens a bit, particularly the area of state employee salaries and benefits.  The employees received no raise in the 2017 session.  Higher education got a $94 million boost.  The most interesting parts of the budget are projects funded by Legacy Fund earnings.  There were nine Legacy initiatives totaling $300 million, including $30 million for unmanned aircraft systems and $55 million for an infrastructure revolving loan fund.   The budget now gets a hard look from the Legislature.


LEGISLATION COULD BE PROFOUND  “We could have a reorganized higher education system, a green light for wind power, a significant increase in drone traffic, legal marijuana and a new political alignment.” — Columnist Mike Jacobs noted the Republicans have unprecedented political control, which could break down in contentiousness, or result in legislation with far-reaching consequences.


YES, IT’S TRUE  The news that the Forum-owned WDAZ in Grand Forks would consolidate its newscasts with WDAY in Fargo provoked an outpouring of concern that Forum Communications was downgrading its presence in GF.  The editorial response by GF Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel can only be described as defensive.  He noted many ways that Forum continues to support the GF community.  However, he said it was necessary for the Herald to size itself to match shrinking retail newspaper advertising.  The Herald had 180 employees 15 years ago — today, around 75.


SOUR GRAPES  “I’m sure Mike McFeely and Jim Shaw were filled with glee over the Carlson defeat. They live in their left-wing cubical pushing their liberal ideology that hopefully will never be the majority view of the North Dakota electorate.” — A somewhat bitter letter from State Representative Wesley Belter of Fargo partially blaming two Forum columnists for the defeat of House Majority Leader Al Carlson.  Belter is concerned no one will be able to deliver for Fargo “like Carlson was able to do.”


SUSAN BALA has a long, complex history which includes imprisonment for illegal gambling, the bankruptcy of her Fargo company (Racing Services) and the subsequent overturn of her conviction.  After her early release from prison, her company’s bankruptcy estate recovered $16 million of improperly withheld money from the state of ND.  Last week the bankruptcy judge denied a $11 million creditor’s claim from a professional gambler.  Bala is gradually emerging from a harrowing, 16-year battle, but still has a $31 million suit against the state for wrecking her gambling business.  The Forum reported, “Bala now works as the majority owner of an assisted living center, according to court records. She lives in Moorhead.”


SHAKY FINANCING  "Just about everything is in place but the financing.” — Possibly ominous words from Scott Austin, CEO of Minnesota Soybean Processors, which is trying to raise equity capital for a soybean processing plant near Jamestown.  The period for raising the investment has been extended.  Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said, "I certainly do understand the difficulty in raising a lot of equity from the ag sector given the farm economy.  This is very important to our community in light of the loss of Cargill.”


WILLISTON’S CHALLENGE according to The Economist is to manage abundance.  About a decade ago Williston had a “kinda rough” Wild West reputation.  Crime, prostitution and man camps were the news.  The city has “rebranded” —  it is “looking good” with new streets, pubs and coffee shops.  Its 26,000 residents have an average household income of $91,000.  But there are challenges, despite starting wages of $17 an hour in stores, the area has 2,000 job openings.  Firemen paid $62,000 a year leave for the oil industry once they are trained.  Public debt has soared.


FOLLOW THIS, IF YOU CAN  “A 900-ton crane extended above downtown Fargo's skyline on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Block 9 tower construction site. It's said to be the largest mobile crane in the upper Midwest.  A 200-ton mobile crane was used to assemble the 900-ton mobile crane, which will be used to erect one of two tower cranes at the site. The first tower crane will be used to help assemble the second tower crane.” — Fargo Forum.


HORNBACHER’S, with seven grocery locations in the F-M area, was purchased  from Supervalu by Coborn’s, a 97-year old employee-owned grocery retailer based in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Coborn’s has 53 stores in five Midwestern states.  The Hornbacher store in Grand Forks will be closed contributing to the decline of retailing in that city.


INNOVATIVE, BUT CRAZY  Gregory Leingang of Bismarck (42) stole a forklift with the intent of killing the president by flipping his limousine.  The theft took place September 2017 when Pres. Trump visited a Mandan refinery — the plot went nowhere, the forklift got stuck in a gate.


“NOW THE HIDES ARE ARRIVING — three crates of them so far, including elephant, water buffalo, Cape buffalo and impalas.”  — From a StarTribune article about the unfolding saga of the $5 million fraud at the Ashby Elevator in the small western Minnesota town of the same name. Jerry Hennessy, the 30-year elevator manager, had just returned from an intercontinental hunting trip when his fraud was discovered and he skipped town.  The co-op’s board members only woke up to the fraud, which had been going on for at least 15 years, when their bank loan was called.  They then learned they had neither money nor grain.  A townsperson said “It’s really something. I couldn’t see how such a tiny town could have such a big problem.”


JERRY HENNESSY surrendered to authorities this week and was promptly charged with fraud in federal court in Minneapolis.  He was allowed to go free subject to electronic monitoring and other conditions.  Upon learning of Hennessy’s return, Ashby’s mayor said, “Its (the fraud) been devastating.  It’s hard on a small town like Ashby.”


DAKTOIDS:  Ithan Omar, the first Somali-American congresswoman, was elected by an inner-city district in Minneapolis.  She received her political science degree from NDSU in 2011 . . . ND has seen the fastest economic growth in the nation with annual growth of 5 percent since 2010 — Factbook 2018 from the Brookings Institution.



Click here to email your elected representatives.


No Comments Yet

Post a Comment


Upload Image    

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?