Grand Forks is a metro after all.
Last week, the White House Office of Management and Budget declared the threshold for a “metropolitan statistical area” will remain at a population of 50,000, rather than increasing it to 100,000.
Doing so means Grand Forks and many similarly sized cities get to keep their status as a metropolitan statistical area and thus continue to qualify for certain federal funding. It quells, at least for now, the worries that arose early this year when the OMB first proposed the change, which would have downgraded more than 140 cities nationwide to “micropolitan” statistical areas. Around these parts, it would have included cities like Grand Forks, Bismarck, Mankato and Rapid City.
It may seem like quibbling, but MSA status truly matters. Millions of federal dollars – untold millions over the coming decades, actually – were in jeopardy.
In a Grand Forks Herald report back in March, City Administrator Todd Feland said the city’s concern “is not about today, but what it’s going to mean into the future.” That uncertainty generally summed up the concern about the potential change.
Last week, Mayor Brandon Bochenski was relieved the proposal was scrapped.
“It allows us to get that federal money for infrastructure and (community-building) types of funds,” he said. “If you want to call it a win for federal-local partnerships, it's a good day for that. At least, for our size."
Congressional delegates from the area deserve praise for their concerns on the issue, and deservedly so.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., called the OMB’s plan a “misguided proposal” that also was “short-sighted.”
“We appreciate OMB heeding our call to abandon the change, which would have directly affected the federal funding that these communities receive for infrastructure, health care, housing and other federal programs,” Hoeven said.
Said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.: “I appreciate OMB’s Acting Director Shalanda Young for being attentive as my colleagues and I voiced our concerns about this issue, and I am grateful she made the right call.”
And Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said this on his Facebook page: “The Office of Management and Budget made the right decision to keep the current Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) designation criteria. Communities like Bismarck, Minot, and Grand Forks deserve to be treated equally on the national level.”
Earlier this month, Armstrong said that if adopted, the OMB’s proposal would jeopardize “access to services that benefit the whole state.”
In March, we cited a piece published by the Brookings Institution that said “the proposed change is potentially so significant, and the statistical and financial consequences too insufficiently understood, for OMB to make an informed decision.”
And with that, we suggested, the best next step for this proposal was to file it and then stash it deep in a cabinet or wastebasket.
After so many people voiced their concerns over this proposal, it has indeed been tossed into the garbage. Thank goodness for that.