Scam is in the air. In March, I mentioned an Iowa company’s plan to use an idle Grafton ethanol plan to turn sugar beets into fuel. The plan seemed sketchy and a hard sell to ND investors. Company spokesman Darrell Smith has resigned. Agweek reports he made misrepresentations to potential ND investors and has a history of complaints regarding sales of insurance products.
A character in the new movie “The Five-Year Engagement” claims ND is the “worst place on earth.” Nodaks do not seem disturbed -- GF Herald readers were polled and asked if they were offended, the result: three out of four were not. A related article in the Herald drew well over a 150 comments -- more than any other article.
Minnesota insults continue to trickle down on ND. The state was still contemplating jabs made at its capitol and the Fargodome, when a Minnesota Vikings “Super Fan” raised the ante. He told legislators their failure to approve a new stadium would turn the state into a “third Dakota.” Larry Spooner prepared a large banner reading “NEW STADIUM YES! Let’s not become the third Dakota.” When will this stop?
Chalk up another category in which ND is a leader. In this case, it’s a Census segment called the “oldest old,” people 85 and older. In ND, 2.5 percent of the population falls into that bucket, a teeny bit behind Rhode Island which has the nation’s highest percentage. This old group is increasing its foothold in ND and is expected to be 3.8 percent of the state’s population in 2030. The national percentage of “oldest old” is 1.8. Health care and retirement homes are the big challenges.
Clay Jenkinson’s columns in the Bismarck Tribune sometimes follow a pattern. He first sketches a horrendous, growing problem, then offers a modest solution. In a recent column, it was the oil industry munching its way across western ND threatening the state’s most beautiful natural scenery like a voracious Pac Man. The Pac Man has its eyes on icons such as the Badlands and the state’s most prominent buttes. But Jenkinson was ready with a response to blunt the Pac Man’s worst excesses. He endorsed a friend’s recommendation for a three-year moratorium on state land mineral auctions. Jenkinson asks, “Can we agree to set aside a mere 1/181th of our state, less than one half of 1 percent, the most magnificent, pristine, spiritually renewing places we collectively own and share, as off limits?”
The Forum is fond of reminding us that Fargo is the “economic engine of the state,” but that claim is growing a little weaker. Williams County (Williston) created 12,000 jobs from January 2010 to September 2011. During that seven-quarter period, Cass County (Fargo) created 7,500 jobs. Average wages in Williams are the highest in the state, over $70,000 a year, compared to about $45,000 in Cass.
A Forum editorial called it “a crime wave the likes of which they have never before experienced.” They were referring, of course, to the crime boom accompanying the oil boom. The editorial urged local law enforcement in western ND, eastern Montana and Saskatchewan to accept state and federal help to respond to criminal elements attracted to the Oil Patch.
State and local officials have tried to calm concerns about rising Oil Patch crime by implying it is caused by population increases. Statistics indicate they are wrong. In the first quarter of this year, criminal cases in the NW Judicial District (a six-county district including Minot and Williston) jumped nearly 50 percent, while traffic cases were up 75 percent.
The University of Mary in Bismarck is an ambitious little school. It has only about 3,000 students, but has partnership agreements to provide classes for three larger schools: Bismarck State, Arizona State University and Alexandria (Minnesota) Technical and Community College. It’s a little unclear what drives that ambition.
Somebody else is also ambitious. Medcenter One in Bismarck and Sanford Health are in the advanced stages of merger talks. Sanford has headquarters in Sioux Falls and Fargo and is already the largest, rural nonprofit health care system in the nation. Medcenter One is the largest health provider in western ND. Economies of scale and expanded demand for health services in the western part of the state are the reasons given for the merger. The big get bigger.
Is the CEO of the UND Alumni Association stretching a point? Tim O’Keefe said the entire university community leadership accepts the need to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname. He was rallying support for a measure in the June 12 primary election which would allow UND to retire the nickname. Without specifying, O’Keefe said the nickname is having an effect on academics at the university. Using possibly the understatement of the year, he said, “He understands that some within his association’s ranks remain committed to the nickname.” A spokesman for nickname supporters contends the NCAA sanctions “are minimal and easily managed.”
An “oxymoron” is a phrase in which combines contradictory ideas. Does “Indoor RV park” meet that test? A Minnesota construction company is building such a park near Watford City, an Oil Patch town southeast of Williston. The park will house 240 RVs in ten buildings, the first of which will be ready July 1. The project is described as a safer, more comfortable option for those forced to live in campers because of the housing shortage. The park will have laundry facilities, a community gathering room, and each camper will have water and sewer hookups.
Frankly, Jellybean is not ready. The barely 3-foot tall miniature horse is being trained as a therapy pet at a Minnesota ranch. The tiny horse attended a coming-out party at a Girl Scout pet adoption event in Fargo. Jellybean slipped his halter and six police officers in squad cars chased him at speeds up to 35 mph (not authenticated) as the horse thundered around downtown. A bystander said the police were not accustomed to handling larger animals. Jellybean tired after about a half hour and surrendered. The brown-and-white pony definitely requires more training.
DAKTOIDS: Cole Gustafson (56) was the respected chairman of the agribusiness school at NDSU. Ironically, he was driven over and killed by a tractor he was operating on his father’s farm . . . Contractors from the Midwest Region are pouring into ND -- the state plans a record $700 million of road construction this year . . . Rarely a month goes by without an official at the Turtle Mt. Reservation being caught with a hand in the till. This month, the Belcourt fire chief pleaded guilty to stealing a department pickup -- he doubled down by getting a loan on the vehicle