It seems that nothing stokes populist anger more quickly than perceptions that public officials are traveling irresponsibly on the public dime. That's especially true in North Dakota, where prairie frugality is engrained in the culture. But sometimes perceptions can gallop well ahead of the facts.
Sara Lafleur-Vetter was filming the arrest of protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline when police tackled her to the ground, with one officer placing his knee on her back. On a video of the arrest, demonstrators can be heard telling police that LaFleur-Vetter is a journalist. She was taken by bus to the Morton County Detention Center, booked, then transferred to the Cass County Jail. Lafleur-Vetter, whose video later was posted on The Guardian newspaper's website, was strip-searched and spent two nights in jail before she was released.
Minnesota is in many ways an economic marvel. It's long been among the most innovative states. Companies like 3M, an iconic Minnesota company, and Medtronic come to mind. Minnesota is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies, including Target and Best Buy, as well as the nation's largest privately held company, Cargill. Minnesota performs well in a number of business benchmarks: It ranks fourth in a technology and science workforce index, fourth in patents per capita, in the top 10 in business formation and survival and 16th in entrepreneurship.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. Maintaining a healthy democracy requires the active engagement of citizens—well informed citizens. A hallmark of our governmental system is the value we place on keeping citizens apprised of what their governments are doing in their name. By law and by custom, local governments are obligated to keep citizens informed. This takes various forms. One of the most vital is publishing public meeting minutes and agendas as well as public notices that run in legal advertisements.
Those who are advocating that North Dakota adopt a mandatory minimum wage of $15 per hour should pay attention to Flippy, the burger-flipping robot that made its debut recently at a California fast-food restaurant. Flippy is a six-axis robotic arm designed to take orders via a digital ticketing system, then flip burger patties and remove them from the grill when done. The robot is intended to work alongside humans, who still are required to guide placement of the patties on the grill. The fast-food industry is eager to automate part of its cooking.
The nationwide student protests to demand action to curb gun violence proved one thing: We've entered a new era in the gun debate. At schools all around the country, tens of thousands of students walked out of schools in an impressive demonstration of the determination of young people to do what adults have failed to do—take real steps to help prevent mass shootings, especially in our schools.
George A. Sinner's two terms as North Dakota's governor spanned years that were the most difficult for the state since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Elected in 1984 and re-elected in 1988, he was the state's last Democratic governor, and was unfairly tagged with the moniker "Governor Gloom and Doom." Sinner died last week. He was 89.
The North Dakota Legacy Fund is fed by a portion of the state's share of petroleum revenues. The fund, which started collecting deposits in 2011, now has a balance of more than $4.2 billion and the cash is pouring in lately at the rate of between $42 million and $45 million a month. So far, the only use that has been made of the fund, which is intended to enable the state to make strategic investments to create a better future for its residents, has been to balance the budget.
Fargo civic leaders and arts patrons have long dreamed of having a premier performing arts center to enrich the city's cultural life. Each of the three college or university campuses has its own performance venue, but each is old and has its limitations. The Fargo Civic Center, also past its prime, is seen as simply inadequate, for reasons that include its poor acoustics, and the Fargodome is too large and not really designed for the performing arts. The possibility, which had languished as city leaders were preoccupied with issues including the new City Hall, now has been rekindled.
We have to acknowledge that the drawings for the proposed skywalk at Hector International Airport look nice. The idea of the elevated walkway is to provide airport visitors with an enclosure to protect them from the harsh elements while walking to and from the parking lots. It certainly can be an unpleasant hike in snowy or rainy weather. But the skywalk, with a price tag now estimated between $13 million and $15 million, would be a foolhardy use of public funds. The money would be far better spent on a real solution to the airport's parking aggravations: a covered parking ramp.