Anyone want to know what’s happening politically in North Dakota? There’s an election coming up on June 12. There are two constitutional amendments and a referendum that I’ll be watching. Plus, I’ll explain a bit about what’s going on there. More below the orange fleur-de-Kos.
Constitutional Amendment to Eliminate Property Taxes
In 2012, North Dakota voters will be voting on Measure 2, which would abolish all property taxes in North Dakota. This would make ND the only state in the country with zero property taxes. I think it’s a really bad idea. Most cities and other localities (like counties and school districts) get a large percentage of their money from property taxes. In ND, 45% of property taxes go to schools, 31% to counties, and 21% to cities, according to this report: North Dakota Measure #2 considered one of the most important votes in state history.
If property taxes are eliminated, a school district won’t be able to build a new school and ask the voters to pass a school bond measure by raising the property taxes a bit. They’d have to go to the state legislature. If a city or county wants to hire more police officers or fire fighters or build a new municipal building or pave a road, they’ll have to petition the state legislature for funds.
Constitutional Amendment about Freedom of Religion
ND voters will also be voting on this constitutional amendment:
Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.If this thing passes, it opens up a big old can of worms. I’m sure that the intent is to protect Christians from big bad government rules about birth control or abortion. But what if you have a “sincerely held” religious belief in marrying multiple wives? Or using drugs or driving drunk? Or stoning adulterers? Or not working on Sunday? Or not eating certain kinds of meat? Or what-the-fuck-ever.
Another really bad idea.
Silly Referendum about a College Mascot
In June, ND voters will also vote on the Fighting Sioux nickname for the University of North Dakota (UND).
Here’s a not very brief explanation. Originally, the UND athletic teams were called the Flickertails (‘flickertail’ is another name for Richardson’s ground squirrel). Squirrels are kind of a wimpy mascot; they’re not vicious or brave or whatever (although right next door in Minnesota, the University of Minnesota has had no complaints about being called the Golden Gophers – also, Wisconsin has the Badgers and Michigan has the Wolverines). In 1930, UND changed their sports mascot from the Flickertails to the Sioux (named after the Indian tribe). Later it became The Fighting Sioux. In 2008, the sports teams from UND upgraded from NCAA Division 2 to Division 1. In 2010, they joined the Great West Conference for football and various other sports (although for hockey they’re in The Western Collegiate Hockey Association).
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) told UND they had to change their mascot, because it might be offensive to Native Americans. The NCAA said, in effect, you can keep the name if you get permission from two local Sioux tribes to continue using the name. One tribe said yes and one said no. If UND doesn’t change their name, the NCAA will not allow them to play in post-season games or to host tournaments or post-season games.
The conferences that UND plays in have said, in effect, we don’t want you if the NCAA doesn’t want you.
The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education got involved (they want to change the name). They’re in charge of the state colleges in ND. The legislature has passed a couple of laws (one keeping the name and one changing it). The Alumni Association has an opinion – several rich alumni have said they’ll stop donating to the university if the name is changed. The President of the College just wants the controversy to go away. There have been lawsuits and now the voters are going to vote on it. You can expect more lawsuits to follow.
Here’s the bottom line: Either UND keeps the Fighting Sioux mascot or they change it. But, regardless of what decision is made (by the university, or the Board of Higher Education, or the Legislature, or the voters in a referendum), the NCAA will decide whether it’s acceptable or not acceptable. And the NCAA will tell them they can or can’t play in post-season games or have games on TV or sell clothing with the logo. Ultimately, the NCAA will prevail.
Here’s more information, if you’re interested. From Wikipedia: UND Athletics and from Daily Kos: North Dakota U Dumps Fighting Sioux Mascot. Can We Finally Get Rid of 'Prairie N****r,' Too?
There’s nothing interesting to report about redistricting for the House of Representatives. It took no time at all. North Dakota has just one Representative in the House, so the whole state is the district. The boundaries of the state are the boundaries of the single district. Easy peasy.
Rivers Didn’t Flood in 2012
The Red River of the North – the one that flows north to Hudson Bay and defines the border between ND and MN, not to be confused with the Red River in Texas, the one with a valley, about which someone wrote a song telling people to remember – didn’t flood this year. Nor did the Missouri River.
Here’s the DKos diary I wrote about the 2010 flood: The 2010 Red River Flood.
Minot had a huge flood a year ago and is still recovering. Approximately 1500 people are still living in FEMA trailers a year later. But that’s the Missouri River, which flows south to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
The rivers didn’t flood this year because last winter was remarkably warm and relatively free of snow. Also, there seem to be fewer mosquitoes so far this year (probably from the lack of standing water for breeding mosquitoes).
Will North Dakota Have A Million People by 2015?
North Dakota has moved from #9 to #2 in oil production among the 50 states, moving ahead of California and Alaska and various other states. There’s an oil boom happening in ND. It’s because fracking is now economically feasible. The state is now producing 575,000 barrels a day, but it could be a million barrels a day by 2015. The #1 oil-producing state is still Texas, which produces 1.1 million barrels a day, according to this article: Regulator says ND's oil production could double.
Some news sources interpreted that 2015 prediction as meaning the state’s population could reach a million by 2015 (from the current population of about 680,000), but realistically the state probably won’t get a million people until sometime in the 2020s.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate (about 3%) of the 50 states in April 2012. Low unemployment is good, but it is causing all sorts of problems. People are moving to ND because they hear that there are jobs. But consider this:
There are not enough places to live in western ND, which is where the oil is. Rents have gone sky high. Some home owners are renting out small rooms for incredibly high rents (and a shared bathroom). There are man camps – basically a bunch of trailers plopped on vacant land, where oil workers are living.
Infrastructure is crumbling. State highways and county roads are falling apart because heavy trucks travel on them daily.
Schools are scrambling to hire teachers. I have a niece who is teaching kindergarten in Parshall, ND (which is on the Indian reservation but it’s booming because of the oil). Some oilfield workers bring their families with them, so the school systems have had to expand a lot. The Parshall school system had to provide my niece a place to live because she couldn’t afford to find a place to stay on a teacher’s salary.
Small counties with a small police force have had to deal with a huge increase in crime of all kinds (drunk driving, assault, robbery, and so on). And there aren’t enough jails.
Shopping malls are selling lots of stuff in western ND, but if they have a food court, there’s no food available until mid-afternoon because that’s when high school kids get out of school. They can’t get adult workers willing to work in the morning.
The safety net for poor people is almost non-existent. If you’re unemployed or homeless or hungry, you’re fucking fucked.
And that’s the news from North Dakota. Full disclosure: I live in Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the river from Fargo, North Dakota.