North Dakota is still struggling to climb out of the economic doldrums caused by the slumping agriculture and energy industries. A few years ago, the situation was very different, when both of these vital sectors were booming. North Dakota's gross domestic product reached a peak in 2014 at $59.5 billion and has been up and down since. The story is much different in Minnesota, where the economy has grown steadily in recent years, peaking last year at $351.1 billion. Minnesota's economy, besides being much larger, is much more diverse.
The campus of North Dakota State University and surrounding residential neighborhoods have long been a set of fault lines, fraught with tensions between homeowners and developers intent on building big apartments catering to the growing demand for student housing. It's a stubborn dynamic. The most recent example is the feud between the Roosevelt Elementary School neighborhood and Roers Development, which seeks to rebuild the Newman Center in combination with new housing, including a six-story apartment building.
We seldom criticize a criminal sentence handed down by a judge. But we're troubled by the light sentence given to Darren Patterson, who was sentenced to serve 18 months for the death of James Grant. Patterson threw a lethal punch at Grant, knocking him down. The back of Grant's head struck the sidewalk, causing a traumatic brain injury. In the same altercation, which happened outside a downtown bar in May 2017, Patterson also punched Grant's brother and another man, who also suffered a brain injury.
One of the great joys of summer around here is the chance to take in a theatrical production or concert at the Bluestem Amphitheater. The outdoor performance venue, situated amid the prairie south of Moorhead near the wooded bank of the Red River, provides an extraordinary experience that combines top-notch entertainment combined with the pleasures of nature. It's not unusual for audience members to catch a glimpse of deer browsing or to be serenaded by honking geese as they fly overhead during a performance.
It was exactly a year ago today that Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared. She went to visit an upstairs neighbor in her north Fargo apartment, summoned to help model a dress the neighbor was sewing. Before leaving, she had ordered a pizza, but never returned. Eight days later, kayakers found Savanna's body in the Red River. Although she was eight months pregnant, her child was missing—taken, authorities later determined, by crude Cesarean section.
In a heartland state like North Dakota it's easy to forget how interconnected we are to the rest of the world. Farmers are acutely aware of this global interdependence, however. Export markets are crucial outlets for the crops and livestock they grow in far greater quantities than Americans can consume. Less obviously, some farmers depend upon foreign workers to help in the field. In fact, this dependency on foreign farm labor is growing. That's because our rural communities continue to lose population. In years past, farmers often retired to the nearby small town.
We talk a lot about the spirit of Christmas. Throughout his long and devoted life, Palmer Forness actually embodied the spirit of Christmas. Most obviously, he was Santa Claus for generations of children in Fargo-Moorhead. For years he personified Santa Claus for children at West Acres. And he did, in fact, have an impressive set of whiskers that grew white with the years. But he was not, as one of his sons pointed out, a "ho, ho, ho" Santa. He was more like Mister Rogers dressed as Santa.
The metro area mourns two children who recently drowned, and a troublesome question lingers after the funerals: What more can be done to prevent these tragedies? The circumstances of each fatality show how difficult it can be to save a person from drowning, once in the water. Grace Bettie, a 9-year-old Moorhead girl, was participating in a youth group outing June 27 in the swimming hole at Buffalo River State Park near Glyndon, Minn., when she slipped under the water.
We'll acknowledge this: President Donald Trump, a former reality television performer, certainly knows how to rile up his supporters. His rally speech at Scheels Arena on Wednesday, June 27, was enthusiastically received by the audience, whose members had waited outside for hours in sweltering heat before they were admitted. His "Make America Great Again" speech was spiced with many of his tried-and-true applause lines, including his administration's efforts to protect the nation's borders and to kill "job-killing regulations." As expected, he had supportive words for Rep.
Fargo-Moorhead is engaged in a constant competition with other cities to attract a skilled and talented workforce. The metro cities for years have consciously worked to provide amenities to improve quality of life to make the area more welcoming for young people. But other challenges remain. One of the biggest: affordable day care for young families. The issue recently came to the fore at a Chamber of Commerce event, when nonprofit and business leaders gathered to talk about the dire need for affordable, high-quality child care.