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Wednesday, February 06, 2019


ENOUGH!  Dangerous cold covered ND — midweek temperatures dipped into the minus 30s and wind chills into the minus 50s — the state ground to a halt — schools closed — mail undelivered — Amtrak canceled -- cold weather records challenged.

FOREIGN EXPERIENCE  "People like myself are not used to this, so it is kind of a new experience. Exciting, but dreadful experience.”  — Precious Umunna, a Nigerian student at Moorhead State, reacting to the Arctic weather.

NOW OR NEVER?  That was the question raised by a ND state representative who was concerned that major donors night go elsewhere if the state dithered about the Roosevelt Library in Medora.  Theodore Roosevelt V, the great-great-grandson of President T. Roosevelt, came to Bismarck last week along with Rob Walton, a former chair of Walmart, to attend a reception for legislators at the governor’s residence.  Roosevelt said he’s "very confident that there will be financial support from donors (outside of the state) if the state Legislature shows up.”  He added: "There's a real sense that this (Medora) is a unique place to build this library.”

SUPPORT TEDDY  “I was born and raised in Bismarck and attended its great public schools.” — So began a letter from Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard.  He wrote, “North Dakotans are tough, resourceful, highly educated, self-reliant, builders of farms, businesses, towns, schools, churches and community.”  Karlgaard likened Nodaks to Teddy Roosevelt, “people who talk softly, but they carry the big sticks of compassion, competence and courage.”  His comments were a prelude to urging support for a Roosevelt library in Medora.

GET IN GEAR  “The state ranks near the bottom in discoveries and discoverers.” — UND President Mark Kennedy says ND has a shortage of good business ideas that could attract venture capital.  This is part of Kennedy’s continuing effort to persuade the Legislature to afford UND more research funding.  A Senate bill under consideration would use 15 percent of Legacy Fund earnings for research at UND and NDSU.
BULGING CLASSROOMS  Oil prices have gone up and down, employment levels in the Oil Patch have fluctuated, but the enrollment in Williston schools has steadily grown.  The population of Williams County grew 50 percent from 2010 to 2017.  School enrollments exceed capacity at all levels — Williston has 52 portable classrooms.  On April 9, Williston voters will consider a $60 million bond issue to add two new 600-seat elementary schools, a high school addition for 400 students and renovations to existing elementary schools.

STATE HELP FOR SCHOOLS  Williston’s mayor says this is all a little too much for local taxpayer’s to handle.  Howard Klug believes the state should step in with grants for overcrowded schools and legislation has been proposed to that effect.  Klug says future economic growth is not assured unless the schools train an adequate workforce.  He says that is why the state should have a special interest in schools in areas of rapid growth.

ND INFRASTRUCTURE (eight categories, such as bridges and dams) received an overall grade of C.  The nation’s overall grade is D+.  ND’s report card was prepared by a volunteer group of the state’s civil engineers, who may or may not have self-interest in the results.  The report will be used in the Legislature by advocates for infrastructure funding.  Sen. Majority Leader Rich Wardner from Dickinson said, “If it wasn’t for the oil development out in western North Dakota, all of the grades on here would be one grade less.”

CIRRUS AIRCRAFT have an unusual feature — they are equipped with a parachute.  The single-engine aircraft are manufactured in Duluth aided by a plant in Grand Forks.  A Cirrus SR22 took off from Bismarck Tuesday headed for Florida — a short distance out of the airport the plane experienced an oil pressure issue.  The pilot turned back to Bismarck, deployed the parachute, landed in a rural area and the passengers were uninjured.

OVER 15 YEARS after the kidnapping and murder of 22-year-old UND student Dru Sjodin, defense attorneys prolong the death sentence of Alfonso Rodriguez with multiple appeals.  They are developing an elaborate argument that he is intellectually disabled and therefore cannot be executed.  ND does not have a death penalty — the Rodriguez case involves a crime that crossed state lines.

GO FIGURE  A Forum poll asked “should employers be allowed to ask about criminal histories on job applications?”  The poll showed 90 percent voting yes.  What followed was a puzzling disconnect — the ND House agreed 8:1 to prevent public employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history until the person has been selected for an interview.

TURKEY TALK  Are you ready to supplement your meager knowledge of turkeys?  All right, the term for a group of turkeys is rafter.  No need to thank me.  Turkeys are terrorizing the citizens of Moorhead — they chase mail carriers, rip up gardens and scare children.  One particularly menacing rafter has grown to 50 turkeys.  One resident said the “root of the problem” is people feeding them.  A turkey admirer presented another view: “As humans we should learn to live with nature. We need not dominate . . . the turkeys who are part of nature and just trying to make a living.”

THE WOMEN’S PRISON in New England (pop. 600) is in a remote location 25 miles south of Dickinson and provides substandard services to inmates.  This is among the reasons given by Gov. Burgum for moving the inmates to the Missouri River Correctional Center near Bismarck.  Opposition comes largely from New England where it is believed the move could be the economic downfall of an already struggling community.

JUST A MIXUP AT THE OFFICE  ND has its own version of the $5 million grain elevator fraud at Ashby, MN.  Hunter Hanson, a 21-year-old grain trader from Leeds, ND, is accused of writing over $5 million in bad checks for grain purchases.  A felony criminal complaint has been filed against Hanson.  His company, Midwest Grain Trading, is classified as a “roving grain buying company.”  One of Hanson’s victims speculates that the NSF checks may put several farmers out of business.

DAKTOIDS:  Forum columnist Mike McFeely said former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has a “sense of abandonment” by voters she helped . . . A Forum poll asked if Trump should declare a national emergency to construct a wall: Yes - 41%; no - 59% . . .  Almost 100 faculty and staff applied for buyouts at UND.

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