Change coming upon state of North Dakota
Standing on the leading edge of 2013, North Dakotans need to get reacquainted with their state. They need to because the state is undergoing heavy-duty change. That change will ramp up in the year ahead with complicated new challenges. And expectations are that we’ll see more growth, more jobs and more people.
North Dakotans will feel the excitement and, sometimes, the pain of that rapid growth.
Old assumptions about North Dakota, once pigeonholed as a farm state, are no longer valid. Certainly the state continues to have a powerful agriculture sector, but its economy has become more diversified and deeper.
Over the past 12 months, the state has set one record after another, until only Texas leads North Dakota in domestic oil production. It’s helped create an economy with less than 3 percent unemployment. It’s meant a large surplus in state tax revenue. The state’s economic good fortune has played out before a national backdrop of slow growth and high unemployment. There’s a stark contrast between the North Dakota and the national economy.
People are migrating to the state. Predictions are that we’ll see record population numbers in a few short years. The landscape in the western North Dakota oil patch has rapidly become industrialized. The state has funneled huge amounts of money into roads, schools and housing to serve the oil industry. There’s impact — good and bad — and the people who live here are trying to understand both the growth and its consequences.
The state Legislature will convene Jan. 8. In the coming session, lawmakers and other state leaders will be tasked with meeting the changes and challenges that have come to North Dakota.
It will be a pivotal session in regard to taxation, infrastructure and protecting certain quality of life issues — public safety, conservation, health care, education — that affect North Dakotans across the state.
Lawmakers and citizens of the state should take a fresh look at what’s happening around them. They ought to assess the changes in communities across the state. People should look back as well as into the future. They should brush away the assumptions held for generations about the state and its future.
With a new year rolling out and the Legislature about to meet, it’s a perfect time for citizens to express their hopes for the state’s future.
Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune
Orphans to suffer under Russia's new adoption policy
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a cruel and spiteful law that will bar Americans from adopting Russian children. The new law will wreck the lives of the 46 children whose American adoptions were already under way, hundreds of other American families who had launched the adoption process, and the lives of countless children to come who will now live out their childhoods in Russian orphanages. Americans adopt nearly a thousand Russian children every year.
The worst part is, Putin did it just to thumb his nose at the Americans for daring to protest his government's loathsome human rights record. It wasn't enough for Putin to crush dissenters and others who object to his increasingly autocratic rule — he had to bring vulnerable orphans into it, too.
The new law was originally written as a tit-for-tat response to the U.S. Magnitsky Act. Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year-old lawyer who was beaten and left to die in a Russian prison after implicating many Russian officials in a massive fraud scheme — and in a rare bipartisan moment, the U.S. Congress passed travel and financial sanctions against those officials believed to be responsible for his death.
Those officials remain quite powerful in Russia, however — which is why the Kremlin drafted a bill to impose similar visa and asset freezes on Americans accused of violating Russians' rights abroad.
That would have been enough to make their point, wretched as that point was.
Now those children have fallen victim to a political game which has nothing to do with them and everything to do with Russian officials' outrageous sense of wounded pride. What's truly outrageous is denying these children, many of whom had already bonded with their prospective adoptive parents, the chance to have a family and a home.
San Francisco Chronicle
Diverting Missouri River water worth considering
For years, upriver and downriver interests have argued over use of Missouri River water. Now a third option looms that could confound the issue further: diversion of water to parched Western states by way of a pipeline.
As a general proposition, the idea makes sense, allocating the nation's water supply to most advantageous uses. In the Great Flood of 1993, millions of gallons surging beyond the banks of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers could have been relocated to huge storage basins in the West with benefit to both areas. In normal times, when plenty of water fills the Missouri, nobody would object to diversion through a treatment plant and pipeline headed west.
Of course, it's not that simple. The proposed pipeline would cost $11.2 billion and take 30 years to build, but for such a basic improvement in the nation's infrastructure, cost should not be a stopper. Water supply could be the most important natural resource issue in coming years.
An argument would ensue in years when drought plagues upriver and downriver areas, leaving little support for yet another diversion argument, but without benefit of access to historic aqua data, we're sure most of the time water could successfully be sent from here to there with benefit to both. After all, why blow up the Bird's Point Levee near New Madrid to let floodwater out of the Mississippi if the water could be sent to Arizona and California instead?
A pipeline sending treated water to the West sounds like a good idea, but don't count on hearing the pumps anytime soon. The more desperate the situation becomes out West, the more serious the discussion will become.
Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune