Weekenders (Pretend It’s Friday)

THE CAT’S ON THE ROOF

My old friend Buckshot Hoffner (I mean “old” both ways—we’ve been friends for more than 30 years, and he is old—closer to 90 than 80) came home from World War II with a big prize. Her name was Patricia, and she was an English beauty who left her home in England to marry a farmer from North Dakota. Buckshot is a great story-teller. He used to tell one that goes something like this: After he and Pat had settled in on the farm in Benson County, Pat made a long distance overseas call to her twin sister back in England—no small feat in the late 1940s. During the call, Pat asked about her cat, her favorite pet, which she had had to leave behind when she crossed the Atlantic with Buckshot. Her sister replied that the cat had died. Pat became very upset and had to hang up the phone. The next time the two spoke, Buckshot took the phone, and while Pat was out of the room, he told Pat’s sister that perhaps she could have been a little gentler with the bad news. Maybe, Buckshot suggested, she could have told Pat the cat was up on the roof, and while they were going to have to do some work to get him down, the cat would likely be okay. And then the next time they spoke, Buckshot suggested, she could have said the cat fell off the roof and got hurt, but would hopefully recover. And then finally, Buckshot said, when they spoke again, she could have told Pat that the cat did not recover from his injuries and was gone. That way, Buckshot said, Pat would get the bad news gradually instead of all at once, and she would not be so upset. The sister agreed that would have been a good strategy, and would remember that in the future. So Buckshot put Pat back on the phone, and Pat asked “How’s Mom?” “Well,” her sister replied “Mom’s up on the roof.”

Tracy Potter reminded me of that story last week as the corps of Engineers was revising its flood forecast for the fourth time in four days. “Sounds like the Corps of Engineers has heard Buckshot’s ‘cat on the roof’ story,” Tracy said. I agreed. First 55,000 cfs. Then 65,000 cfs.  Then 80,000 cfs. Then 105,000 cfs. Then 120,000 cfs. As each day passed, we got a new number from the Corps, and a new date we could expect to see that number. I’m sure they reasoned that if they went from 55,000 to 120,000 all at once, we’d all freak out, so better to break it to us gently. Are they done now? I’m not sure. I’m afraid the cat might still be up on the roof. A lot of folks in Bismarck and Mandan are ready to climb up there and get it. Before it falls off and something really bad happens.

THE MOST UNDESIREABLE JOB IN NORTH DAKOTA

What is it with the Public Service Commission? Is it a really bad place to work? What is it that keeps the three members continually on the hunt for a new job? Commissioner Kevin Cramer never seems to let an election go by that he doesn’t try to do something else—except in the years when he has to get himself re-elected. He’s got a Facebook page up and running: Kevin Cramer for U.S. Senate. Problem with that is, his old nemesis Rick Berg, who beat him at the State Republican Convention just last year, wants that job now. Another problem: He and Commissioner Tony Clark signed a letter encouraging Berg to run for the Senate. That should rule out a rematch at the 2012 Convention?  Commissioner Brian Kalk celebrated his two-year anniversary on the Commission by announcing he’s running for the U.S. Senate. And then speaking of Congress, Kalk changed his mind, and is running for the House seat Berg has announced he’s leaving after just five months in office. Kalk has said he would seek the Republican endorsement for the Senate no matter what office Berg decided to seek, according to a May 16 report in the Grand Forks Herald. In a Saturday (May 14) email to supporters and media contacts, Kalk said he’s “in to win” at the state convention next spring, the Herald story said. “Some have asked if I would drop out should certain candidates enter,” Kalk wrote. “My response then and my response now is that we are headed to the Bismarck convention and we will win.” That was then—May 16. Just four days later, on May 20, the Herald reported Kalk has changed his mind and is now running for the U.S. House seat. Like Berg, Kalk wants so badly to get elected to something that he’ll run for whatever is available. House, Senate, doesn’t matter. Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play. And then there’s Clark, who just finished serving as the North Dakota Republican Party’s State Chairman, then announced he’s just going to quit, but wait, there’s a long shot he might run for U.S. Congress. Sort it out among yourselves, boys, and let us know when you’ve finally all made up your mind.

GLASS HOUSES

Some things about the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s study on the impacts of oil and gas development on wildlife just don’t add up. The report was completed in June of 2010. Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand told the Bismarck Tribune he delivered the report to the Governor’s office sometime after that—the Tribune did not specify when that took place. The story by reporter Lauren Donavon in the Tribune on April 1, 2011 said, “Steinwand said he delivered the draft to Hoeven’s legal counsel Ryan Bernstein, whose only comment was to continue working on the study.” In a letter to me on May 18, 2011, Steinwand said “My initial plans were to have the report to me final by mid-summer (2011) but that time frame has been moved to the end of May.” If Steinwand’s plan all along was that the report was not going to be final until the summer of 2011, why was it delivered to the Governor’s legal counsel way back last year? (Why would it go to the governor’s legal counsel at all, for that matter? I still haven’t figured that out.) Doesn’t make sense. Makes more sense that the Steinwand acquiesced to the Governor or his staff, who didn’t want it floating around during a U.S. Senate campaign, and only with some heat from the public almost a year later did Steinwand come up with a new story on its release date. By the way, do you ever look at the website fishingbuddy.com? I do once in a while. One of the things I found on it was an interview with the new North Dakota Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand, posted February 15, 2006, shortly after Steinwand took office. The interview was conducted by Doug Leier, one of the information specialists at Game and Fish. Here’s a little bit of it.

Leier: Pet Peeve?

Steinwand: One of my biggest pet peeves is dishonesty. I think I’m a pretty easy going guy, but one thing that definitely gets my dander up is someone lying to me. A close second is failure to be accountable for your own actions.

A “FINAL” REPORT

Speaking of that report, it is now accessible to the general public on the department’s website, 11 months after it was written. A month after the Legislature has gone home. Too late for that body to write any of the new laws recommended by the department staff to address the impacts of oil and gas development on wildlife. It sat on the director’s desk for 11 months. After all that time, the director made two changes to the report.

  • The word “Draft” that was overlaid on each page has been removed.
  • The date on the cover has been changed from June 2010 to May 2011.

That’s it. I can’t find a single paragraph in the entire report that was changed from the draft I obtained from Deputy Director Paul Schadewald last month. Director Steinwand wrote in his letter to me on May 18, “My initial plans were to have the report to me final by mid-summer but that time frame has been moved to the end of May at the latest. Once the legislative session concluded I had a little more time to spend specifically on this effort. The review is essentially complete as I write this letter and anticipate that the end of May time frame will be easily reached once the edits are made, which are relatively minor.” I’ll say. Really, really minor. Like changing the date. I really dislike those darn pet peeves.

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