Dennis Johnson, the State’s Attorney for McKenzie County, said there is a distinct group of people arriving in ND that remind him of Cher’s song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” Believe me, that is not a flattering reference. He hastened to add that he considered most people coming to ND to work and live to be law-abiding citizens. Johnson said two groups are causing trouble: One he called “carpetbaggers,” people there to make a quick buck and get out; the other he characterized as people with nothing to lose and bringing a lot of problems with them. Johnson testified before a State Bar Association Task Force gathering facts about how the oil boom in northwest ND is affecting the state’s justice system. The task force met in the four largest cities in western ND.
Would you like an in-depth view of the oil fields? For $325, Bakken Field Tours has 11-hour tours originating in Minot and Williston. Investors, developers and community leaders are the expected customers.
Foreign ambassadors normally give ND a wide berth. Perhaps the state’s new prosperity is changing that. The EU Ambassador to the U.S., Joao Vale de Almeida, recently addressed the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce. He said he was attracted to ND, in part, by its oil boom. He said, “In difficult economic times it’s good to see one state in such good shape. I haven’t felt that much optimism elsewhere in the country.” Almeida will be followed by Japan’s ambassador who will visit Bismarck near the end of July.
Many in Bismarck are optimistic -- businessman Bill Shalhoob made a pitch to expand the Civic Center and finance it with various sales tax increases: “We think Bismarck is getting positioned to be the logical choice as corporate headquarters for this part of the oil play in North Dakota. We shouldn’t lose that opportunity.” General reaction was largely negative along the lines that, while business would benefit, the public would be asked to foot the bill.
A productive lifetime has drawn to a close -- Harold Pederson (94) died June 10, 2012. Harold was a WWII Purple Heart vet who graduated from USC after the war. The Killdeer, ND, native was not somebody who pushed to the head of the line, or said “look at me,” he was a kind, honest, modest Lutheran Norwegian. Harold was a quintessential member of the “Greatest Generation.” The manner of his death was probably much to his liking -- Harold had been on an outing from a retirement home in Santa Rosa, California. The day trip took him to nearby Bodega Bay, one of his favorite spots on the Pacific coast. On the return Harold dozed in the rear of the bus and at the end of the trip was found to have never wakened. Harold was a longtime friend of this newsletter.
“He’d bring political skill to a presidential ticket, plus personal charm, policy knowledge, administrative experience, proven success in creating jobs and managing a booming state economy” -- that was GF Herald Publisher Mike Jacobs encouraging consideration of U.S. Sen. John Hoeven as a Republican candidate for Vice President, an idea first suggested by John McCain. Hoeven has clearly exceeded expectations and is on an upward path, but may not yet have the national recognition to balance a ticket.
Herald opinion page editor Tom Dennis sees the scandal involving children at the Spirit Lake Reservation as part of a long history of scandal and corruption on the reservations. The names of the players may change, but Dennis expects the problems to continue. He sees the sorry history as a product of two interrelated problems. First, “First Amendment rights on Indian reservations are not protected under the U.S. Constitution.” That leads to another problem, the absence of a free press on most reservations. In the absence of free press rights, “tribal councils can close their meetings, deny open-records requests and even order aggressive reporters to be arrested.”
The Democratic National Convention is not popular with that party’s congressional candidates in ND. Both Heidi Heitkamp (Senate) and Pam Gulleson (House) have announced they will skip the convention. Republicans gleefully see this as an effort by the candidates to distance themselves from the Obama administration. The Forum extensively reported the views of both sides, but has awarded Leafy Spurge to Heitkamp’s opponents “for ranting” and being “transparently stupid.” The Forum can be very cranky on Monday mornings.
A Vietnam War memoir, “Not All Heroes,” will be published in September by the Dakota Institute Press and and has some interesting connections. The author is Gary Skogen, a ND native and a retired member of the L.A. Police Department, who is the brother of Larry Skogen, the president of Bismarck State. Clay Jenkinson, a Bismarck Tribune columnist, is director of the Dakota Institute. Gary Skogen was an army criminal investigator and the book is an alternative view of military life in Vietnam during the war.
Election time is four months away, but donation patterns are emerging in ND’s U.S. Senate race. Republican candidate Rick Berg ($3.2 million) has roughly double the donations of Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp ($1.7 million). Berg’s regional donations are mostly from senior business executives such as Greg Page of Cargill, Doug Burgum of the Kilbourne Group and Ron Offutt of RDO Equipment. Heitkamp’s larger local donations are mostly from other Democratic political figures in ND. Berg’s national donations are coming from business names like Bechtel, Hilton and Zell. Heitkamp’s are coming from liberal celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Rob Reiner.
The Minot Country Club has sold itself to save itself. That needs some explaining. The 2011 floods devastated the club and its golf course. MCC did not have the means to quickly restore its facilities, so they were sold to an investor group which hopes to reopen the golf course in 2013. Meanwhile, MCC will develop a new golf course at a location in southeast Minot which it hopes to open in 2014.
Burlington is a town of 1,100 a few miles northwest of Minot. The little town has annexed a square mile of land where developers plan to add homes for 5,000 people. Is this a thoughtful plan, or ambition ran amuck?