Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.
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City Council members are people, too, with busy lives and careers. Sometimes, they miss meetings. But when you're on the City Council, handling millions in public dollars—and making big decisions on a community's future—how often should you be expected to show up for the weekly meeting?
With testimony finished and attorneys' closing arguments filed, all that's left in a court case on Grand Forks' Arbor Park is a judge's ruling: Will the June 20 election on the park's future be valid or void?
A spokesman for UND apologized to the Herald after reviewing footage of a UND police officer ejecting its reporters from a public university property. Peter Johnson, UND's top public affairs official, delivered an apology in person to two Herald reporters at the newspaper's downtown offices on Tuesday. Journalists Andrew Haffner and Andrew Hazzard were covering an Aug. 9 visit by Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to UND's Energy and Environmental Research Center when a UND officer asked them to cross the street and leave the property.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., downplayed President Donald Trump's latest remarks on violence in Charlottesville, Va., calling them "fine"—though he said the president had gone "strategically wrong" in offering his opinion on the removal of statues celebrating the Confederacy.
North Dakota Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, announced Wednesday he will seek a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2018. Campbell made the announcement on social media. His entry into the race could lead him into a general election against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who currently holds the seat, or a primary race against Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. Neither Heitkamp nor Cramer have announced their 2018 intentions yet.
Grand Forks leaders dove into the nitty-gritty details of city development on Monday night, preparing to tweak policies used to bring big projects, historical restorations and other construction downtown and elsewhere. The city's Committee of the Whole heard a lengthy presentation on a parade of local policies, from TIF and PILOT programs to the city's renaissance zone. Most are ways to discount taxes on new development—for example, the "ren zone," as it's called, includes a downtown area in which developers can apply for state and local tax breaks on their projects.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., criticized President Donald Trump's initial response to the weekend's rally and violence in Virginia on Monday as "woefully inadequate." Her remarks join a chorus of voices from both parties saying Trump should have been clearer sooner about racists' place in America. Heitkamp's remarks come after a Saturday demonstration in Charlottesville, where white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters. Dozens of people suffered injuries, including many inflicted when a man drove his car into a crowd, killing a protester.
After a second day of witness' testimony, a lawsuit on Arbor Park moves from the courtroom to chambers, with written arguments due to District Judge Steven Marquart by 5 p.m. on Aug. 16. The move brings the case closer to a resolution that could come before the end of next week. The second day of testimony saw final questions for Howard Swanson, the city attorney who had previously taken the stand, as well as Debbie Nelson—the top county election official—and a resident who described difficulty voting on election day.
The first day of a trial over Arbor Park brought two key witnesses to the stand in Grand Forks District Court. Mary Weaver, a longtime activist to preserve the park, and City Attorney Howard Swanson both testified about the June 20 election at the center of a lawsuit brought by nearly two dozen voters. Their suit argues that the election, which unfroze city plans to sell the park to a developer, should be voided.
A lawsuit seeking to preserve Arbor Park will go forward, a judge ruled on Wednesday morning, setting up a hearing on Wednesday afternoon. District Judge Steven Marquart denied the city of Grand Forks' request to dismiss the case, which the city's attorney argued was filed improperly. By rejecting procedural points about the case, the judge's decision is expected to allow attorneys to begin debating the merits of its arguments.