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Monday, March 13, 2017


ND IN VANGUARD “With a few strokes of a pen, he placed the state in the vanguard of an emerging backlash by conservatives.” -- New York Times. The reference is to four bills signed by ND Gov. Doug Burgum making it easier to control protests. The article stated 16 states are considering variations of the ND legislation. The article said in ND “the protests exhausted police resources and brought unwelcome scrutiny.” Burgum said, “You have something that’s chewing up millions of dollars of extra law enforcement cost that we don’t have.” The laws are expected to be challenged by free-speech advocates.

JUST A LITTLE HOUSEKEEPING The Corps of Engineers finished cleaning the main DAPL protest camp. The Corps used 600 dumpsters to remove over 2,000 cubic yards of debris.

ND REP. KEVIN CRAMER belittled Democratic congresswomen who, as a group, wore what he called “bad-looking white pant suits” at Trump’s address to Congress. He was rebuked by GF Herald columnist Tom Dennis who said candor was fine, rudeness was not. Dennis said Cramer needs to be more careful, or his intemperate remarks could be his undoing.

THE WINTER OF ’66 "Any state records for winter storms were broken with that storm and Jamestown and the area to its northeast was kind of the epicenter for the storm." -- Daryl Ritchison, assistant state climatologist for ND, referring to a March 1966 storm that cause zero visibility for three days. The storm stranded a NP passenger train in Jamestown -- 140 passengers eventually left by bus. Over 125,000 livestock were killed by the storm.

FUN ON AMTRAK The Empire Builder left Minot this week for the Twin Cities seven hours late (yawn, what’s new), but near Rugby it hit a snowbank that trapped the train and 111 passengers for 13 hours. The train arrived in the Twin Cities a day late. The westbound train with 100 passengers was held at Leeds for 14 hours.

A HUGE TRUCK CRANE was pictured in Forum papers lifting a toppled tractor-trailer out of an I-29 ditch. The crippled vehicle was one of six semis blown over by 50 mph winds in the Grand Forks area. The same spring storm also tipped over semis in Western ND -- empty trailers act like sails in high winds.

INDIFFERENCE? “But this year, cuts of up to 20 percent in existing college budgets (ND) have been greeted with silence. Why should this be?” -- Columnist Mike Jacobs speculated on the answer. First, he said was “hostility toward higher education in the Legislature” resulting from perceived bungling at the universities and the state board. Next, he listed facility and program sprawl. He also mentioned the political climate -- a populist movement with a conservative cast. Concluding, Jacobs said it’s not about money.
BUDGET CUTS pinch UND. President Mark Kennedy suggests that lawmakers raise tuition rates before making further budget cuts. Nursing professor Thomasine Heitkamp (sister of U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp) had a different solution -- raid the state Legacy Fund. This week the Legislature was informed that further cuts of nearly $50 million would be needed in the current 2015-2017 budget and an additional cut of $100 million will be needed for 2017-2019. There is a glimmer of future relief as the oil industry begins a slow recovery.

LEAVING ON A HIGH NOTE UND’s basketball team won The Big Sky Conference championship. The UND football team was also a Big Sky champion, as were teams in two other sports. A Herald sports writer reported, "Winning the big four in the Big Sky has never happened before in the league." Tom Dennis at the Herald wrote, “UND has established itself not just as a competitor, but as a top competitor in some of the highest levels of college sports.” Too bad UND is leaving Big Sky.

“GO INSIDE ‘LITTLE MOGADISHU,’ the Somali capital of America” -- Heading for a Star Tribune article about the Cedar-Riverside area of Minneapolis, home to 8,000 mostly Somali residents. The area has a bigger significance as a symbol of the nation’s largest Somali diaspora.

ILLEGALS HEAD NORTH The flow of illegal refugees through the Pembina, ND/Emerson, Manitoba border crossing continues to rise -- last week, 40 people were caught by Canadian authorities. As a generalization, most of the illegals are Somalis from the Twin Cities who overstayed their visas and were denied U.S. refugee status. Canadian police warn of the extreme danger of walking in darkness and winter weather.

HELP FOR SMALL HIGH SCHOOLS ND is still a largely rural, small-town state. Many high schools can support only a limited number of courses. Technology makes it possible to overcome that disadvantage. A health science course taught in Hebron H.S. is offered online to 10 other western ND schools through the Roughrider Area Career & Technical Center. Online teaching permits one school to sponsor a course and split the cost with schools in its region.

TURNOVER It was mentioned earlier that a Sears store, an anchor in the West Acres Mall in Fargo, was closing. Seven other stores in the mall are also closing. Mall management seemed unperturbed and provided a list of stores eager to fill the vacancies. They also expressed confidence JCPenney would remain open in Fargo. Management said the turnover was part of an “accelerating rate of retail change.” Closings are affecting other ND cities -- Macy’s will close in Grand Forks and Sears in Jamestown is “temporarily closed” with an uncertain future.

PARKING METERS are banned on public streets in ND, a holdover from another era. Opponents want to increase parking availability and turnover in downtowns. Legislation has been introduced to permit meters -- Gov. Burgum backs the bill.

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