- Member for
- 3 years 7 months
Q. What brings you to town? In many ways, I think of it as coming home. As you know, I grew up in Williston, lived in Bismarck and then moved here, where I lived for 26 or 27 years. I went to UND as an undergrad and went to law school here; my third year in law school, I ran for the Legislature and served 23 years representing District 42, the university area. I got elected in 2000 as attorney general and have served ever since. But my roots are here in Grand Forks and, of course, my allegiance is to UND.
Sure, compliance is better than enforcement when it comes to environmental law, as the North Dakota Department of Health declares. When oil drillers ship their product without spilling it and safely dispose of fracking wastewater and other byproducts as well, that's terrific.
All pain. No gain. When people look at interim President Ed Schafer's program cuts at UND, that's what they see. And for Schafer, this means that his top priority for his remaining time in office must be to convince UND supporters that his cuts will leave the university better off. A fair amount will be lost, notably music therapy, baseball and men's golf, among other programs. The first two of those turn out to have especially devoted fan bases, too. What will be gained?
Highway funding. K-12 education. Colleges and universities. There are few more important categories of state government spending; but in Minnesota, the budget carts carrying these and other policy files are axle-deep in the partisan mud. There has to be a better way. Luckily, there is. It's the process that turned the United States from a collection of 13 quarreling colonies into the most powerful nation on Earth. It made Minnesota the "state that works" and is the force behind other states' legislative success stories, too.
Here's what did make headlines about the International Ice Hockey Federation's U18 World Championship in Grand Forks: Finland won. The U.S. took the bronze medal, beating Canada 10-3. Russia advanced to the quarterfinals but lost there. Here's what didn't make headlines — because the events didn't happen: Scheduling problems. Logistical mixups, sending various teams' equipment to the wrong locker rooms. Food or hotel shortages that left teams from around the world stranded with nothing to eat or nowhere to stay.
The last time a theory by a couple of East Coast social scientists got applied to North Dakota, the result wasn't pretty. But just because the Buffalo Commons concept, as imagined by Frank and Deborah Popper—both of New Jersey's Rutgers University at the time—now gets rightly ridiculed is no reason to dismiss other insights that social science can offer. For example, here's an idea that's worth pondering, because it's both better supported than the Buffalo Commons and likely more in tune with North Dakota's culture:
On March 4, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated. On March 6, he closed the entire American banking system. On March 13, he called on Congress to repeal Prohibition. (Congress complied.) On April 10, he signed the law creating the Civilian Conservation Corps. On April 19, he took the U.S. off the gold standard. On May 12, he signed the Farm Relief Bill, precursor to the farm programs of today. And those were just some highlights of the "First Hundred Days," the famous period in which Roosevelt created the New Deal.
Q. The sense in the community is that the budget cuts are impacting UND in awfully strong ways. Why is that? Why does it seem to be more so here than elsewhere?
Williston, Watford City and other OIl Patch communities are using the downturn in oil prices to "catch up," as they put it. The crowds may be gone, but the planning for key roads, wastewater treatment facilities and other infrastructure goes on. That's because oil prices will rise again; and when that happens, the crowds will return, the communities know. North Dakotans should do some catching up of their own. Here's one way how:
In life, as in basketball, at times it's best not to argue with the ref. For Lance Gaebe, North Dakota's trust lands commissioner, this is one of those times. The state auditor has released a series of reports that paint an unflattering picture of practices in the Department of Trust Lands. There may be reasons for some of the practices, very much including the department's massive increase in activity over the course of the Oil Boom.