Mike Jacobs, publisher of the Grand Forks Herald, wrote one of his political analysis columns this past week. Jacobs has long been the most astute journalist in North Dakota. Two quotes stood out.
- Commenting on the closeness of the race between Heidi Heitkamp and Rick Berg for the U.S. Senate, Jacobs made reference to the closeness of the race, the negative ad barrage voters have already begun experiencing, and the seemingly very low percentage of the voters who, nearly 100 days before the election, still haven’t decided who to vote for (the last poll showed Heidi ahead 50-44, with just six per cent undecided). Jacobs quoted an acquaintance of his who said “There might be 1,200 undecided voters in the Senate race,” he said. “Let’s just put them all in one room and make them watch the commercials.”
- Commenting on the possible face to face debates Heidi and Rick might be having, Jacobs said Berg would do okay in the debates if he just keeps using “the cue cards that House Speaker John Boehner has evidently supplied.”
Someone told me this week that I should type www.baeslersboobs.com into my browser and then click on it to see what happens.. So I did it. What a disappointment. It took me to the news release page of the North Dakota Republican Party’s website. You can try it yourself to see if you get different (better?) results.
ANOTHER COST OF THE OIL BOOM
A consultant has told the residents of Burleigh and Morton Counties they need a new jail, because the oil boom is putting stress on existing incarceration facilities. The consultant said the counties could save money by building a joint facility for the two counties. According to Thursday’s Bismarck Tribune, “The new jail would need 20 acres of property because the potential to expand the existing jail sites is limited in both Bismarck and Mandan due to their downtown locations.” Anybody want to guess what the next headline is going to be? How about “State Prison Farm Proposed As Location For New Jail.” Perhaps they’ll even name it for former North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, who was killed in a car accident last year. He’s the one who was leading the charge to turn the excess prison farm property into a housing development, instead of a state park, as proposed by a group of local residents headed by Mylo Candee.
One of my first newspaper jobs, at the Dickinson Press back in the 1960’s, was writing obituaries. In those days, unlike now, families filled out a form with information on the deceased, the funeral home brought it to the newspaper, and a cub reporter wrote up an obituary. It ran free as a community service—and often it was pretty big news, at least on the occasion of a prominent community member dying. It didn’t take us obituary writers long to get into a routine with these things—they were pretty formulaic, unlike the ones today, which are mostly written by family members. There were a few rules, which we generally learned from a friendly editor who would look over the first hundred or so obits we wrote and offer advice and corrections. Here’s a hard and fast rule that got broken this week:
Don Perry, head spokesman for Chick-fil-A, has died. The Atlanta-based company said Perry died “suddenly” Friday morning. Perry, who most recently was vice president of public relations, had worked with the chain for nearly 29 years, according to Chick-fil-A.
That came from the L.A. Times. Notice the quote marks around the word “suddenly.” Obviously the Times was quoting the company press release directly. Perry, the spokesman for the company, apparently didn’t train his assistant, who had to step up to announce his boss’s death, very well. The reporter, or her editor, knows that everyone dies suddenly, and so they used the quote marks to let us know they were not responsible for the use of the word suddenly. “One second you’re alive, the next you are dead. That is about as sudden as it gets.” That’s a direct quote from my first editor, who said that to me the first time I used “suddenly” in an obit. Right after he said “Fix it, Fuglie.”
We have a recent college graduate in our house these days, who is picking through career opportunities right now, so often the most-read section of the daily newspaper is the “Help Wanted” section. That’s how I came across this ad last Sunday:
Library Assistant ND State Library, Bismarck. Assists in circulation dept. preparing & sending mail, shelving & pulling books, & organizing material on shelves. Drive state vehicle daily to deliver books in Bismarck/Mandan area. Must have basic computer skills and able to lift 30 pounds, bend, stoop, stretch, and climb stairs. Salary: $8 per hour, full time, no benefits.
Yep, you read that right. $8 per hour, full time, no benefits.
Doesn’t it seem a bit outrageous that state government in the richest state in America is hiring help at near-minimum wage, with no benefits. What kind of message does that send about how we treat public employees? Sheesh. They oughta be ashamed.
CLEAN WATER, LANDS AND OUTDOOR HERITAGE AMENDMENT
Look for petitions to be filed soon to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to dedicate 5 per cent of oil tax revenues to land and water conservation. Word is the petition drive was a big success, with 10,000 more actual signatures than are required, and that the backers have some really good poll numbers—the people in North Dakota think it is a good idea to set aside some of the billions in oil tax revenues to protect fragile wildlife habitat and improve and protect water quality.