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Monday, March 19, 2018


A POLL BY SURVEY MONKEY measured approval ratings for political figures.  In ND, Gov. Doug Burgum was on top with a 84% rating followed closely by Sen. Hoeven at 77%.  Sen. Heitkamp, considered by NBC News to be the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in the nation, had a 57% approval rating.  For comparison, Trump has a 60% rating in ND.
FLORIDA SAYS NO  If you want to learn something negative about UND or its leaders, the Fargo Forum is the best place.  Columnist Jim Shaw had this to say: “Pretty sleazy that UND President Mark Kennedy is already looking for another job after only serving a year and a half in Grand Forks.”  Continuing: “I dare say that if the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education knew Kennedy would try to make such a fast exit, they never would have hired him.”  The GF Herald reported that Kennedy was a finalist for a job at the U. of Central Florida, but was unsuccessful.  An awkward period ensues at UND.
CREDULITY  “To be clear, I wasn’t looking, and I’m not looking.” — Mark Kennedy after returning from Florida where he sought a position paying over three times his salary at UND.  He put a positive face on the matter: “I’ve worked hard throughout this process to elevate the name of the University of North Dakota.  Along the way, we’ve elevated (the university) and drawn more eyes and attention to the good work happening here.”  Kennedy said the experience lent to his current position and “in many ways, it’s a compliment” to UND.  A GF Herald editorial bought much of Kennedy’s argument and concluded “he is UND’s president . . . it’s best we all accept that.”
HAPPINESS abounds in certain Dakota cities, if you accept the findings of WalletHub.  Bismarck was No. 2 in the nation for happiness, Fargo No. 6 and Sioux Falls No. 7.  The highest ranking city in Minnesota was St. Paul No. 19.  Fremont, California, was No. 1 and San Jose, another northern California city, was No. 3.  To avoid unhappiness don’t go to Detroit No. 182 or Birmingham, Alabama, No. 181.
PROFITABLE AND HAPPY  It’s not often a newspaper goes out of its way to editorially laud a business headquartered in its region.  The GF Herald editorial board praised Marvin Windows and Doors in Warroad, MN (100 miles northeast of GF) as an economic giant that has done much for northern Minnesota and ND.  Marvin has 6,000 employees, 2,000 of which work in the little town of Warroad.  The editorial characterized the nearly $1 billion business as profitable and happy.
THE KILBOURNE GROUP is a real estate operator in downtown Fargo founded in 2006 by now governor Doug Burgum.  No, Kilbourne does not own half of downtown, as many people think, but its ownership is considerable.  The group owns about 8 percent of downtown square footage and a similar portion of valuation — second only to Sanford Health.  Kilbourne’s investments have been a lever to open the market’s potential.  It completely overhauls older buildings — a higher risk type of investment.  One commercial realtor said of Burgum and his group (he has 70 investors), “There’s not a lot of people that could’ve done that, quite honestly.”
WEAK BUT STABLE  In 2017, Midwest farmers encountered a fourth year of stress, a period in which soybean prices were down a third and corn is down a half.  Farmland prices have declined about 20 percent from their 2012 highs.  Farmland prices have settled, but there is still good demand for high quality land.  The data is from Minnesota, but probably applies equally well to eastern ND.
A TALE OF WOE  “He never went into the bank account because he trusted her.” — Wife of Larry Magstad.  Larry trusted his secretary and high school classmate, Melinda Strom, who ripped off $700,000.  The theft was discovered about a year ago and threatens to bankrupt Northland Boring, a Bismarck oil drilling company, which had 13 employees.  Melinda poured stolen money into her business, Beary Tweet & Tasty.
TOO MUCH, TOO SOON?  A ballot initiative is proposed that would boost ND’s minimum wage from $7.25/hr. to $15 in three years.  This seems like an ambitious leap — backers need 13,452 signatures to get on the November ballot.  An example of the challenge, a Dickinson motel pays its employees $10/hr. — the owners could face a 50 percent increase in only three years.  A Forum poll with over 4,000 responses found 58 percent opposed a $15 minimum.   Minnesota mandates a $15 minimum, but has given businesses 4-6 years to increase from the current minimum of $10/hr.
IS COLD WEATHER THE CAUSE?  A study by 24/7 Wall St. ranks states for drunkenness based on statistics for heavy drinking.  ND won the drinking prize, hands down, followed by Wisconsin, Alaska, Montana, and Illinois.  Minnesota was #6.  Also, see results of "Happiness" survey (above) -- go figure!
GEORGE SINNER (89) was governor of ND from 1985 to 1992.  Lloyd Omdahl, who was the lieutenant governor for most of those years, called Sinner "the most warm, personable governor in the United States.”  Sinner died last week.  He was preceded as governor by Al Olson and succeeded by Ed Schafer.
LET MIKEY DO IT  The obituary of Michael Walter (87) of Bismarck takes us back to the depth of the Great Depression when Mike, the oldest of 12 children, worked at six years of age for a New Salem dairy farmer for 50 cents a week and a gallon of milk each day.  As he grew older, life became more joyful — he played the guitar and he and his wife Irene sang beautifully together — their children especially loved “The Bluebird Song.”  Mike became a “jack-of-all-trades,” did everything and was known as “The Hanging Man” for his wallpaper skills, and as the “singing bartender.”  When Mike checked out, he had 40 great-grandchildren.
DAKTOIDS:  UND hockey is going to the NCHC Frozen Face-off in St. Paul and will have a chance to advance to the NCAA tournament for the 16th-straight year . . . ND’s Legacy Fund has $4.2 billion and receives another $50 million a month.  A GF Herald editorial urges the Legislature to put some of the money to work in the state . . . A Bismarck man fished a 51-inch, 41-pound muskie out of a Burleigh County lake . . .   Happy Birthday to MDU Resources — 70 years as a public company and 50 years headquartered in Bismarck.

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