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UND President Mark Kennedy and his administration took two praiseworthy actions this week, both of which required good judgment and the courage to hold true to first principles. One action was to refuse to adopt a policy of "zero tolerance" for racist or racially insensitive expression. Kennedy was asked to adopt that policy by students who'd not only taken offense to two widely circulated photos, but also said they'd experienced racial slights at UND themselves. Such slights can be cruel, and malicious expression of any kind is unwelcome at UND, Kennedy stressed.
Protests play a key role in American history. And when protesters understand that their real mission is persuasion, protests can have spectacular effects. But having neglected that key mission, the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters for weeks have been turning to coercion. And that's a mistake. For when protesters disrupt debates, seize the stage at public meetings, defy trespass laws and vandalize other people's property, they alienate huge numbers of the people whose support the protesters need.
Fargo was lucky, back in 2009. The skies stopped pouring rain at a critical hour in the spring. That meant the Red River stayed within its sandbag-raised banks, and Fargo didn't flood. Fargo also was deeply unlucky in 2009. And for the very same reason. Because today, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is holding Fargo's narrow escape against the city and its tens of thousands of residents.
On Friday, UND students and others held a Rally Against Racism, a response in part to recent photos that had surfaced on social media. Such rallies are important—or even vital, to the extent that students use them to call attention to slights they've experienced on campus. But before people pass final judgment on the photos themselves, it's essential that UND answer one key question: What happened? In other words, what circumstances led up to the creation and release of the photos? Who did what, when did they do it, and why?
The Q&A on the Herald's editorial page today deals with city's proposed sales-tax increase. And deep in the feature's text, there's a web address. It would be easy to miss. For that reason, it's also worth calling attention to. The site is GrandForksGov.com, and if readers would like more information about Grand Forks' proposed sales-tax increase, it's an exceptionally useful source.
Last week, the Herald Editorial Board sat down with Grand Forks city officials to talk about the proposed ¾-cent sales tax increase, which will be on the November ballot. Present were Mayor Mike Brown, City Council President Dana Sande, Council Vice President Ken Vein, City Administrator Todd Feland and Community/Government Relations Officer Pete Haga. Below is a transcript, edited for clarity and length. □ □ □ Q. What's the main message about the proposed sales-tax increase that you're trying to communicate?
Fargo has started a debate on refugee immigration that Grand Forks should pay attention to. That's because while more refugees have settled in Fargo than in any other North Dakota city, Grand Forks hosts growing numbers of refugees, too. That means Grand Forks residents are asking the same questions that people in Fargo are asking. So, let's tune in to what's happening in Fargo, and use the best insights to craft policy in Grand Forks.
How to get off on the wrong foot with the press: Vote to become a public-arts "supergroup" and powerful public entity in Grand Forks, but do so at a closed gathering that apparently broke North Dakota's open meetings law. But all is not lost for the Public Arts Commission, which voted Friday to merge with the North Valley Arts Council. That's because the circumstances of the improperly closed meeting were confusing at best.
You don't have to look at a new dam or a new school to see an example of good governance. You just have to look at a plot of land a few steps long and a single step wide. With its grass cut. That's the case this week in Grand Forks, where the tall grass that had been growing on the berm outside of attorney Henry Howe's office got mowed on Monday. Howe himself didn't do the cutting—though he should have, in our view. In fact, he should have cut it months ago, like every other homeowner and business owner cuts the grass on their berm multiple times a year.
UND President Mark Kennedy is right to take action in response to the photos that went viral last week. We'd offer two cautions and an encouragement as the president acts. The most important caution is to first, find out what happened. The photos may seem self-explanatory. But as America has learned and relearned in recent years, these things very often are not what they seem. The first photo showed three girls, one of them wearing a UND sweatshirt, in what looks like a dorm room. They've taken a selfie, and the photo is captioned, "Locked the black b---- out."