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Monday, July 17, 2017


CROPS FAIL Yesterday, the Bismarck Tribune reported, “In North Dakota, extreme drought conditions increased from 30 percent to nearly 36 percent of the state during the past week. More than half of North Dakota now lies within an area of severe drought.”

WAS IT WAS WORTH A TRY? ND farm families receive a valuable property tax exemption. They are exempt from property taxes on their farm residences, If they meet certain requirements. An audit by Ward County determined that nearly 100 of 590 rural residents claiming the exemption did not qualify. The disqualified residences represent $16.5 million of property valuation.

CELEBRITIES visited both sides of ND pursuing very different objectives. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, visited the Oil Patch and T. Roosevelt National Park. After visiting Williston, he said he was “grateful for the opportunity to see a community with such unique social dynamics (the coming and going of oil workers).” About the same time, Carson Wentz, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, was working out in Fargo with nine of his receivers. Wentz is using the visit as a way to know new faces on the Eagles team.

THINNING OUT PENNEY STORES J. C. Penney is closing eight of its 25 stores in Minnesota -- only Texas has more closings. This will leave communities such as Thief River Falls with only stores like Wal-Mart or Kmart for clothing shopping.

BEST RUN CITIES Three Dakota cities were in WalletHub’s top 15 “best run” cities: Bismarck 8th, Fargo 12th and Sioux Falls 13th. The three best were the Intermountain cities of Nampa, Idaho; Provo, Utah and Boise, Idaho. The worst run cities were New York, Detroit and Washington, D.C.

BRACE YOURSELF “This is going to be a difficult year for us financially.” -- Minot City Manager Tom Barry. He wasn’t kidding. They will reduce staff, reduce capital purchases, delay projects and otherwise reduce operating expenses. Like so many other cities, they also have high costs for unfunded pensions.

REVISITING THE DAPL PROTESTS “There were some that were very, very passionate and fanatical, you know, threatening to find out who I am and come to my house and kill or assault or even sexually assault my family members.” -- From an interview by the Dickinson Press with an unnamed member of law enforcement who served during the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) protests. He was referring to the behavior of professional protestors. The officer said, “And then on the other hand there were some that worked really well with us. They were mostly members of the tribe (Standing Rock Sioux).” The officers interviewed were from the Dickinson PD and the Stark County Sheriff’s Office. Their names were withheld to avoid retaliation.

NOT AGAIN, PLEASE. “Because if North Dakotans learned anything in 2016, we learned that pipeline protests are real, are serious, and are a place for activists of all sorts to peacock for the media.” -- A GF Herald editorial expressed the hope that the Enbridge 3 replacement pipeline didn’t suffer the same treatment as the DAPL. The Enbridge line starts in Canada, clips the corner of ND and heads eastward for 335 miles in Minnesota, terminating in Superior, Wisconsin.

ROB PORT Ten years ago, Port managed a Home of Economy store in Minot; before that he worked with his father as a private investigator. Today, he is a conservative political columnist, blogger and radio broadcaster associated with Forum Communications Co, the parent of four ND daily newspapers. On Sunday, the Forum ran a lengthy profile about Port with observations from both those who praise him and his critics. Supporters see his work as important and meaningful, while critics view him as an untrained interloper.

BE PREPARED “North Dakota’s university system is overbuilt. We have too many campuses. That’s a problem being exacerbated by a revolution in how people are educated. Change is coming and resisting it is futile.” -- Rob Port. He noted only about half the students in the ND higher education system are from ND and a quarter are from Minnesota. The number of high school graduates is dropping in Minnesota and its public higher education system suffers from decreasing enrollment. The combination of these conditions creates an inevitability -- ND will have to confront its overbuilt system.

GRIDLOCK "Does our constitution or culture allow us to change rapidly or well, or does it hold us back?" -- Gov. Doug Burgum was referring particularly to a feature of the ND constitution which fixes the location of public colleges and universities and blocks attempts at reorganization. There is a growing consensus the system is overbuilt, but repealing the constitutional requirement is politically difficult. Each region of the state tends to oppose repeal, fearing their school could be closed or repurposed.

BEST OPTION “Fitting higher education to the individual begins by acknowledging that a bachelor's degree is not meant for every student — associate degrees or technical certificates may be their best option.” -- UND President Mark Kennedy. For some students earning a bachelor’s degree on campus over a four-year period may not be their best option. For other students, Kennedy said it will be a UND priority to help them get a degree in four years.

BISON are fascinating, but dangerous. Each year Yellowstone National Park reports unfortunate incidents involving bison and tourists. Theodore Roosevelt National Park got in the act this year when a bison charged a 65-year-old Alaskan hiker knocking him unconscious. After regaining consciousness, the injured and bleeding man clamored up a butte to hide from a bison herd. A trio of airmen from Minot AFB heard his cries for help late at night and, after great difficulty avoiding the bison, arranged a rescue. The man was stitched up at a Watford City hospital and released.

DAKTOIDS Drought and reduced wheat acreage have driven spring wheat prices to four-year highs . . . What’s the largest county jail in ND? I knew you were curious -- it’s the new 555-bed Burleigh-Morton County jail in Bismarck . . . ND has an overall 90 percent high school graduation rate; for the state’s Indians it’s 58 percent . . . ND senators: Hoeven has a 66 percent favorability rating, 4th among all senators; Heitkamp has 60 percent favorability and places 11th.

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