5 things to know today: Faculty cuts, Criticizing bills, Repair shop, Funding requests, Backyard chickens
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. NDSU proposes fewer faculty cuts as plan to fix $7.6M deficit enters phase 2
North Dakota State University President David Cook has given more detail on moves to chip away at $7.6 million in funding reductions for the 2023-2025 budget biennium, saying the school might be able to get by with fewer faculty cuts than originally proposed.
The update on “strategic reductions” was discussed by Cook and Interim Provost David Bertolini during an afternoon campus assembly of faculty and staff department heads on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
The announcement comes just over a month after the two laid out a plan in a similar meeting to reduce the school’s seven academic colleges to five and cut more than 34 full-time positions.
NDSU solicited feedback on the proposed academic college merger and staffing reductions and received more than 700 responses, Cook said.
Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner
2. Fargo leaders criticize bills on book bans, LGBTQ rights, approval voting at heated meeting
The city of Fargo is expecting to have a fight on its hands when it comes to the state Legislature, which has been pushing a bill that would strike down Fargo's approval voting system. City commissioners consider the pending legislation an attack on local control.
Fargo commissioners also expressed a desire to oppose many social issue bills that the current state Legislature has been debating, such as those that would limit books in public libraries, transgender rights, rights of LGBTQ populations and bills extending where guns are allowed.
Terry Effertz, legislative consultant for the city of Fargo, gave city commissioners Denise Kolpack, John Strand, Arlette Preston and Mayor Tim Mahoney an update on bills both chambers have taken up during the current session at a Tuesday, Feb. 28, meeting at City Hall.
The bill that would most directly affect the city of Fargo is House Bill 1273, which would prohibit ranked-choice voting and approval voting.
"I would call 1273 the biggest fight the city will have during the second half," Effertz said.
Read more from The Forum's Wendy Reuer
3. Fargo mayor to settle John's Repair shop dispute short of legal action
The Fargo City Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 28, voted to authorize Mayor Tim Mahoney to negotiate a solution to a dispute with a northside auto repair shop that would preclude either side having to take legal action.
A public interest legal firm that had taken up the cause of John's Repair shop and its owner, John Bultman , hailed the decision as a victory.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Institute for Justice (IJ), of Arlington, Virginia, asserted that the City Commission's decision came in response to a letter the institute sent three weeks ago urging city officials to allow John's Repair to remain open.
The letter sent to city officials, dated Feb. 6, 2023, did not specifically threaten legal action, but such a step was implied with wording such as: "We have sued dozens of local governments for infringing on individuals' property rights, including through unreasonable and unfair zoning regulations."
Bultman had recently received notice from the city that his business near 12th Avenue and 11th Street North was operating in violation of city ordinances and was given until March 30 to shut down.
On Tuesday, the City Commission met in executive session to discuss the possible legal repercussions of the IJ letter. When the board reconvened in open session, a vote was taken to allow the mayor to negotiate a settlement.
Read more from The Forum's David Olson
4. Moorhead, Clay County try to balance multiple funding requests at the Minnesota Legislature
The city of Moorhead and Clay County are teaming up to ask the Minnesota Legislature for $60.2 million to fund flood control projects.
The two government entities said they're collaborating on the request, so it does not outcompete pending requests to fund other essential local projects, including the 11th Street railroad underpass in Moorhead and the new Dilworth Fire Station.
Funding those two projects is a higher priority, said Joel Paulsen, executive director of the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, even though ideally this flood mitigation funding would be granted as well.
The city has a funding shortfall for its 11th Street underpass project, Paulsen said, due in part to rising construction costs. The city submitted a $10 million bonding request to the state Legislature to cover the shortfall.
“That project cannot move forward without additional (state) funds,” Paulsen said.
Read more from The Forum's Melissa Van Der Stad
5. West Fargo seeks input on allowing backyard chickens
To gauge resident support for allowing backyard chickens, West Fargo has opened a survey for residents to give their input as staff considers drafting an ordinance that would support the egg-laying enterprise.
The survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/P5LG9V9 and will be live through 12 p.m. Friday, March 10, Communications Director Melissa Richard said.
"The data from the survey will be provided to the City Commission and could be potentially used to draft an ordinance or lead to additional public input opportunities," Richard said.
West Fargo commissioners Roben Anderson and Mandy George helped create the survey and are working with staff to evaluate the potential permit after proposing the city consider allowing backyard chickens at its Feb. 20 meeting. The West Fargo City Commission voted 4-1 to direct staff to begin drafting an ordinance that will allow for backyard chickens, with Commissioner Brad Olson casting the lone dissenting vote.
Residents have long requested the city allow chickens to be raised in backyards, but former city commissions have pecked away at the idea, unanimously voting not to change the city ordinance at least twice in the past 10 years.
Commissioners renewed the call for consideration of backyard chickens as the national price of eggs shattered records in December, and the supply dropped significantly. At that time, a dozen large Grade A eggs was more than double the average 2022 price of $1.79. This price hike followed a historic outbreak of bird flu in the U.S. that disrupted egg production and supply.