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City parks are special places. But they're not hallowed ground. That's the bottom line on Verizon Wireless' proposal to build a wireless communication tower in Grand Forks' University Park. Last week, the Planning and Zoning Commission tabled a decision on the project, asking Verizon Wireless to come back with more information. The vote was unanimous—as it should have been, because it was a smart move.
Here's a useful fact to remember when the talk turns to college-sports reform: The Ivy League got its start as a football conference. Sports has been a driving force in American higher education for a long, long time, in other words. Forum Communications columnist Rob Port decries that situation in his column today, and he's not alone.
Editor's note: In his Sunday column, Forum Communications columnist Rob Port says colleges should stop subsidizing their sports programs. Port had made that point earlier in the week at his political blog, SayAnythingBlog.com; the Herald happened to be talking with UND President Mark Kennedy at about that time, and we asked the president about it. Here is a transcript of that conversation, lightly edited for clarity. □ □ □
"It may be good politics, but it's mighty poor business." That's from a Fargo Forum editorial in 1922, when the paper took issue with a legislative move regarding the State Mill and Elevator. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. For exactly the same message must be delivered today, as lawmakers consider wrecking the business model of the North Dakota State Mill, one of the most successful enterprises in the state.
There are lots of reasons to support a tax policy that encourages wind-power development. The environment is only one. And these days, not even the most persuasive one. In Grand Forks, the most persuasive reason sits in the industrial park just west of Interstate 29. That's where LM Wind Power makes wind turbine blades, and employs somewhere close to 1,000 people in the process.
It's called the "nuclear option" for a reason. When Senate Republicans blast open a Democratic filibuster this week and confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the move will lay waste to a long tradition. And when the smoke clears, we'll see a much more fractured Senate. But Sen. Mitch McConnell will only be doing what the Democrats had done when they were in power, and likely would have done if they held the majority today. Both parties have been pushed to this point, in other words. That because the stakes of every Supreme Court nomination are so high.
On Saturday, the Herald's front-page story reported on the opioid crisis in Grand Forks. Expect more such stories. A lot more. Because it's impossible to overstate this threat, which has become the worst drug crisis in U.S. history, and now kills more people each year than car accidents and gunshot wounds combined. Here are just some of the numbers, from a story last week on Vox.com:
According to Ed Schafer, nobody believed his Cassandra-like warnings in 2011, when he told North Dakota to beware the Trojan Horse of oil income. But maybe that's the because this horse helped the receiving city get rich, unlike what happened to the original Troy. In Grand Forks alone, one impressive result stands just up the road from the Alerus Center, where Schafer delivered his remarks last week. It's UND's state-of-the-art, $130 million medical school, whose graduates will be staffing North Dakota's hospitals and clinics for a century to come.
Running a college sports program would seem to have little in common with managing a department store. But we see a parallel between UND's decision to end its swimming, diving and women's hockey programs, and Macy's decision in Grand Forks to shutter its Columbia Mall branch. It's this: In both cases, the organizations were beset by forces beyond their immediate control. That makes it almost futile to lament the past—but crucial to look ahead, in order to respond as smartly as possible to the dynamics that'll continue to drive change.
Here's an idea for Grand Forks' upcoming sales-tax campaign. It would take some staging of equipment to be ready when the time (and the train) comes. But it'd be worth it: This TV ad starts with Mayor Mike Brown. He's facing the camera, while behind him is a BNSF train, parked across North 42nd Street. Brown starts walking forward; the camera retreats ahead of him. As Brown walks, he talks about the need to increase the sales tax to build a 42nd Street underpass, among other projects.