5 things to know today: Harsher sentences, Pledge decision, Generational pain, Utility bills, FM Pride
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. North Dakota Attorney General aims to crack down on violent crime with tougher sentences
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley is calling for tougher prison sentences for violent crimes with illegal firearms in response to what he's calling a rise in crime across the state.
In Fargo alone, multiple shootings happened in the past couple of weeks. Wrigley said that's an example of the increase in violent crime that statewide statistics, which he plans to release soon, will show.
"Something is starting to erode," he said. "It's real, people see this, they recognize it, and we can't just be North Dakota nice about this and act like what we're seeing isn't real."
Wrigley believes harsher sentences will discourage violent crime, so he's putting together a package of new laws targeting violent crimes in which a gun was illegally used.
Watch the story from WDAY's Nick Broadway
2. Fargo School Board's Pledge of Allegiance decision garners attention nationwide
Since the Fargo School Board rescinded its decision Aug. 9 to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to begin each meeting, Fargo Public Schools (FPS) has received an abundance of attention both locally and nationally.
Individuals from all over the country have voiced their thoughts on the subject as news of the vote spread.
National news outlets such as Fox News, the New York Post, Daily Mail and the Washington Examiner all have stories pertaining to the school board's decision.
Locally, FPS left the Forum a statement Friday, Aug. 12, regarding phone calls they received containing misinformation.
"Some of the feedback is coming from misconceptions of what was decided by the School Board. Tuesday night's decision does not impact classroom or school practices of the Pledge of Allegiance. The motion that was passed is specific to the start of school board regular meetings. Additionally, the decision was not to change the words of the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the words 'Under God.'"
Fargo parents Jake Schmidt and Allie Ollenburger joined the political morning show, "Fox and Friends," and both agreed they believe the district's next step will be to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from classrooms.
Read more from The Forum's Andrew Haugland
3. North Dakota family grapples with generational pain inflicted by Native American boarding schools
One of Rose Wilkie’s earliest memories is the day she arrived at Fort Totten Indian School in 1955.
At the tender age of 7, the youngest of nine children was humiliated.
“We were just little girls, and we had to take all of our clothes off, walk naked down this hall into the showers. There, they deloused us. I don’t know what it was. It smelled like kerosene. We were just little girls and modest and tried to hide ourselves,” said Wilkie, now 70, a registered member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
“I didn’t look at anybody, being that I didn’t want anybody to look at me," she said. "We didn’t have bugs when we went there, but we sure did when we went home."
At the same reservation, extreme poverty sent Duane “Jimmy” Brunelle, now 78, to Fort Totten Indian School, as well. A relative of Wilkie's through marriage, boarding school was a mixture of sporting achievements, three square meals a day, ghosts and demons.
In an old fashioned ice room at Fort Totten, a place where some claim young girls were molested, Brunelle's name and others were carved into the wood. They remain there to this day.
Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen
4. Regulators cut $60M from Minnesota utility customers' bills for 2021 storm
State regulators will require four Minnesota natural gas utilities to pay around $58.7 million in costs they incurred during severe winter weather in 2021, reducing the amount customers will have to bear.
Severe cold weather across the southern U.S. in February 2021 sent energy prices soaring across the U.S. due to gas supply disruptions and a spike in demand. While the weather had a particularly severe effect on Texas’ power grid, customers in Minnesota ended up seeing significant increases in prices. Customers of the state's gas utilities ended up getting charged around $660 million more than they normally would in February.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, the Citizens Utility Board and the state commerce department brought the matter before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission one year ago, arguing the utility companies had not done enough to manage the price spike and overcharged customers. An administrative court earlier this year ruled the utilities could charge the full $660 million, but the utility commission voted Thursday, Aug. 11, for four gas utilities to eat nearly $60 million of that bill.
“Though Minnesotans were fortunate to receive reliable gas service during the February 2021 storm, the utilities spent millions more than they needed to on expensive gas, thinking that customers would foot the bill,” said Brian Edstrom, Senior Regulatory Advocate at the Citizens Utility Board, a customer advocacy group. “The PUC (Thursday) told them that this is unacceptable in Minnesota.”
Advocates argued the utilities failed to use backup gas reserves effectively, poorly forecast demand and did not cut off interruptible customers.
Read more from Forum News Service's Alex Derosier
5. FM Pride brings color and creativity to Fargo-Moorhead
After two years of being limited by COVID-19, Fargo-Moorhead Pride is fully back and bigger than ever and looking to expand.
FM Pride Chair Chelsea Diederich says that next year, organizers will have to consider expanding the layout of popular events like Saturday’s Pride in the Park.
“We’ve seen a huge influx of support,” says Diederich, adding that she sees the events as a partnership between FM Pride and the larger community.
The annual celebration has about 60 business sponsors and attracts thousands of attendees to Pride Week events, leading up to a Sunday afternoon, Aug. 14, parade on Broadway.
“We wanted it to be more experiential,” Diederich says of this year’s events.
Pride in the Park, for example, features more than 100 different LGBT-friendly vendors, merchants, artisans, services and local community organizations and groups as well as games, activities and entertainment for all ages in Island Park. Highlights will include a display set up by the Red River Zoo and a station where people can paint rocks which will then be relocated throughout the community, dotting the landscape with unexpected art.