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Thursday, July 12, 2018



SALES INCREASED, BUT . . .  ND reported a taxable sales increase for the first quarter of 2018 compared to the prior year.  The report shows an unusually bifurcated state.  The four largest cities all reported decreases with Grand Forks down a horrifying 15% (falloff in Canadian visitors).  The majority of 53 counties had sales decreases, yet total state sales were up 10%.  The odd state outcome was only possible because of huge sales increases in Oil Patch counties and cities.  Williams County (Williston) increased 33%, neighboring McKenzie (Watford City) increased 37% and Stark (Dickinson) increased 15%.  This irregular pattern will continue until and if there is recovery in the agriculture counties.

CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC  ND just passed the first half of its 2017-19 general fund biennium and revenues are modestly (two percent) ahead of forecast.  Oil and gas tax revenue is 72 percent above forecast, but most of that money goes to special funds such as the Legacy Fund -- a long-term investment of oil and gas taxes. 

“NORTH DAKOTA IS A RIGHT-TO-WORK STATE, meaning that state law prohibits unions from compelling employees to join a union or pay union dues. Each worker should be free to decide whether to join a union or not join a union, and today’s Supreme Court ruling affirms this right.” — U.S. Sen. John Hoeven.  Congressman Kevin Cramer applauded the decision, while Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said it moved in the wrong direction.

ED SCHULTZ died yesterday at age 64 in Washington, D.C.  At the time he was the host of "The News With Ed Schultz" on RT America, formerly Russia Today.  ND has produced few widely known broadcast journalists -- native son Eric Sevareid is the most famous, but Ed Schultz is better known in ND.  Schultz easily wins the contest for the state's most controversial broadcaster.  Fargo columnist and broadcaster Mike McFeely labeled Schultz the "most universally disliked" and "most talented broadcaster" seen in Fargo-Moorhead media. 

DOES TALK RADIO MOVE THE NEEDLE?  Forum writer John Hagman discussed the role of talk radio in ND politics and, particularly, the current U.S. Senate race.  A historian said talk radio is "part of the fabric of the culture" in rural states where many people are in front of radios in a truck or tractor during the day.  Hagman described the current talk radio lineup:  Scott Hennen and Rob Port are right-leaning; Joel Heitkamp (Heidi's brother) and Mike McFeely are left-leaning.  Senate candidate Kevin Cramer embraces talk radio, while opponent Heidi Heitkamp does not (“I’ve got hearings to go to”).  Cramer’s openness sometimes lands him in trouble (“I’m doing what I'm supposed to do and that is talking to the people I work for”).

IT’S NOT PEANUTS  The WSJ published a breakdown of how retaliatory Chinese tariffs on soybeans and hogs (25% rate) and Canadian tariffs on beef (10% rate) affect the farm revenues of each state.  Chinese tariffs affect 30% of ND farm revenues, 33% of SD and 35% of Minnesota.  Montana and Wyoming are relatively unaffected by Chinese tariffs.  Canadian tariffs affect 11% of ND revenues, 26% of SD, 11% of MN, 39% of MT and 62% of WY.  At 66%, WY receives the greatest overall impact followed by SD at 59%.  About 20 farm states will feel significant (20% or more) impacts — together they will bring major Congressional pressure on the Administration.
LOOK MA, NO HANDS!  General Atomics will fly an MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aircraft from Grand Forks to Gloucestershire, U.K., on July 10th.  The trip will be 3,900 miles nonstop, the first ever trans-Atlantic flight by a remotely piloted aircraft.  Sen. Hoeven said the flight was possible "because of our state's central geography and our unique convergence of public, private and military unmanned aircraft operations.”

LITTLE ND TOWNS keep shrinking — towns that were once bustling retail and school centers have given way to nearby county seats.  Sykeston in east central ND is an example — 100 years ago it had 400 residents, today, it’s closer to 100 — its business and schools moved to Carrington.  But former Sykeston residents retain an allegiance which is hard to explain and produces some surprising outcomes.  Every five years Sykeston holds an all-school reunion attended by up to 2,000 people.  The town expected 500 people last weekend for its 135th anniversary.

OH,OH!  The Associated Press travel writer chose Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora as a destination because of the legend of Teddy Roosevelt.  Beth Harpaz said, “For travelers looking to visit all 50 states, North Dakota is often one of the last to be checked off.”  Was ND about to get another black eye?  Not at all.  Harpaz wrote, “For me, Roosevelt Park ranks among the most interesting and beautiful I've seen. I wish I hadn't waited so long to visit, and I hope someday to go back and absorb more of the place that Roosevelt called ‘a land of vast silent spaces — a place of grim beauty.’ “  As she hiked and drove the badlands, Harpaz was awed by what she saw, “Framing it all were the famous badlands stretching to the horizon: flat-topped stone formations with striated slopes in tawny yellows and russet reds, dotted with bright green trees and patches of grass.”

WATCH THE WEATHER  Volatile weather and high winds are common in ND and sometimes bring tragic consequences.  Last Friday, trees were uprooted by 90 mph winds in Grand Forks; Cooperstown had winds peaking at 96 mph.  A man was killed at a campground east of Washburn when high winds rolled his camper vehicle over him.

DID YOU SEE AN OLD CHRYSLER?  Doug Davis’ 1974 Case tractor was parked this week in a wheatgrass field in northwest South Dakota when a tornado roared through.  The tornado was about 900 yards wide with winds over 135 mph — it picked the 10,000-pound tractor straight up and carried it into nearby Montana.  The parts, including the engine, were scattered over a three-mile path.  Davis is still missing a Datsun pickup and a Chrysler New Yorker.  The tornado’s path was near the point where the borders of SD, ND and MT meet.

WINONA LADUKE, Minnesota’s most prominent Indian leader and head of Honor the Earth, vowed to block Enbridge pipeline construction in Minnesota by rallying the same groups that staged the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in ND nearly two years ago.  She said “This is Minnesota Standing Rock” and “we will stop this with our bodies.”  In her Monday column in the Fargo Forum, LaDuke said, “Frankly, I am in a state of war, not one that I called, but one called by Enbridge.”  The Minnesota PUC gave the Enbridge pipeline a green light. 

DAKTOIDS:  “He was a great showman in Fargo, but not a compassionate one.” — Fargo Forum columnist Jim Shaw referring to President Trump . . . Jamestown has the greatest proportion of resident sex offenders of any ND city — some stayed in Jamestown after release from the State Hospital there. 



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