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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

SCHMID: LOOKING BACK FROM THE LEFT COAST - SEPTEMBER 17, 2018

EYES ON ND  It’s no secret why President Trump and much of his cabinet have been in Montana and ND.  He senses Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of ND are vulnerable.  The Wall Street Journal refers to the ND race as “A Senate Barnburner in Farm Country.”  The WSJ rates it a “tossup” election, but sees Trump’s trade war with China as a “potential hang-up” for Cramer.  

HEALTHCARE COMPETITION  Blue Cross Blue Shield is ND’s dominant private health insurer with 91 percent of the small group market, 84 percent of individuals and 51 percent of the large group market.  It’s followed by Sanford Health Plan which has 8, 6 and 44 percent, respectively, of those markets.  Change is in the air, UnitedHealthcare, a Minnesota business which is the nation’s largest health insurer, will be entering the small group market in ND and is expected to eventually become a “full player.”

WALLET HUB stays busy making rankings— this week it was about the Happiest States.  A happy cluster of upper Great Plains states made the top ten: Minnesota #3, ND #4, SD #9 and Nebraska #10.  We find relative unhappiness in a cluster of south central states: Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.  Hawaii #1 was very happy and Alaska was very unhappy.

HE DIDN’T MEAN IT  Columnist Lloyd Omdahl said, “The state tax and spend system is a royal mess” and he called it a “house of fiscal cards.”  Omdahl may have been a little grumpy — a house of cards is something flimsy, prone to collapse.  His column suggests almost the opposite: ND has billions tied up in special funds, some lack a clear sense of purpose, but they are financially stable.  He sees this outcome as the product of a “part-time legislature” that doesn’t take time to “organize a rational funding system.”

WAS IT WORTH THE HUMILIATION?  "I think the guys are proud of how we played; we stuck with it for three quarters.  It was a bitter ending there, not closing it out in the fourth. But we're optimistic about our team. No one is down, and we're moving on to next week.” — A member of the UND football team speaking after a 45-3 loss to the Washington Huskies last Saturday in Seattle.  As I said last week, “Hope UND received a big check.”

LOCAL PRIDE  In ND, the two larger universities are considered excellent, if not outstanding.  That impression fades when you leave the state.  For years, U.S. News has ranked UND and NDSU at the lower end of national universities:  UND ranked 112 out of 132 top public schools; NDSU ranked 121.  The ND schools serve their state well, but are considered consistently mediocre on the national stage.

THINK CRITICALLY  Ike Schlosser is a UND professor emeritus.  In a letter to the Herald he asserts that thinking critically and evaluating quantitative and written information are among primary goals of higher education.  He said an assessment by UND faculty and staff of graduating seniors in a recent 3-year period indicates UND is not achieving that goal.  Only 21 percent were “accomplished” in critical analysis/inquiry and only 48 percent were “accomplished” in quantitative reasoning. 

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT  “We appreciate the ESA. We do, however, believe the ESA has evolved in a way that its founders did not foresee and that, over time, amendments . . . should be considered for some forms of human progress.” — From a GF Herald editorial that suggests economic impacts are given too little consideration in the Act.  The Herald concluded, “The ESA shouldn't be dismantled, but it also shouldn't be the end-all decider on vital development in western states.”  In the editorial’s view, tiny creatures such as the sheep nose mussel, Topeka shiner minnow and skipperling butterfly have grabbed too much of the ESA’s attention.

KENT CONRAD, former U.S. Senator from ND, is the only known congressman to graduate from high school in Libya.  How did that happen?  Curt Eriksmoen provides the answer in roundabout fashion in his Forum column.  He begins by introducing Wendell Smith, a geologist who cut his teeth in the Williston Basin.  Smith and his wife became friends of Gaylord and Abigail Conrad, a couple that had a printing business in Bismarck.  The Conrad couple were both killed in an auto accident leaving three orphan sons. When Smith became an oil executive in Libya, he sent for Kent, one of the three Conrad orphans, and provided him schooling at a U.S. Air Force base in Libya.

A RUGGED LIFE  The obituary and picture of Vernon Beyer (77) of Spiritwood leave no doubt that he was a rugged man.  Coal mining, construction and self-taught mechanics — he tried them all.  He fixed old tractors and was well known for scrapping (a dying term).  His first marriage ended in divorce, but matters improved — “The last fifteen years were spent with his companion Claudette Yde.” 

PARADOX  The family of Joseph Bruce Sr. (38) of the Spirit Lake Reservation contends he has been murdered; others suspect he is hiding because of his criminal history and pending charges.  He is described as 6’ 2” 220 pounds, wearing a red hat with “Native Pride” and “always wears silver chain with his dad’s ashes around his neck.”  His girlfriend says, “He was the best dad, his kids loved him, they are so lonesome for him.”  At the time he went missing, a warrant was out for his arrest for domestic violence and child neglect.  

DAKTOIDS  Macy’s, Sears and 15 other locations are vacant at Columbia Mall in Grand Forks.  JCPenney and Scheels remain as anchor tenants, but it’s hard to replace such a high level of tenant losses . . . Last year’s drought in southeastern ND has resulted the last two years in the lowest pheasant populations in decades.
    

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