OUT OF THE CLOSET
Plains Talk, the newsletter of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, usually arrives in my mailbox about this time each year with a really comprehensive list of summer events related to the history and culture of North Dakota and the Great Plains. It arrived in time this year for me to share one of the highlights with those of you don’t get it. Here it is:
Mark June 8 on your calendar. June 8 is “World Wide Knit in Public Day,” (WWKIP Day) to be celebrated at the Former Governors’ Mansion Historic site in Bismarck. Okay, here’s your big chance, secret North Dakota knitters, to come out of the closet. And do it in public. Don’t miss it. You’ll be among friends. Call 701-328-9528 for more information.
CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE
A few weeks ago there was a big hullabaloo over some billboards erected by the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, seemingly critical of Minnesota, which some folks found a little insulting. Now I (ahem) know a little something about billboards. So I kind of paid attention to the news stories about it.
Then one day I started up my car in the morning to run an errand and the radio came on. It had been tuned to KFYR 550 the night before, and so the Scott Hennen show came blasting out at me (have you ever noticed how much louder the radio sounds when you first start the car in the morning than when you shut it off the night before?). Scott and his callers were talking about the billboards, especially the one erected in Moorhead, Minnesota that said “NORTH DAKOTA: OPEN FOR BUSINESS.” Some callers found it offensive.
Then someone called in and said “Hey, don’t you remember the billboards our state Tourism Director Kevin Cramer put up years ago? One of them said people should stay in North Dakota because Minnesota is closed this week.”
Well, that got my attention. I was Tourism director during the George Sinner years. Kevin took over from me when Ed Schafer was elected. Those billboards we put up during my time as Tourism Director back in the 1980s were pretty well received by the public. A Minneapolis Tribune reporter even called Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich and asked him what he thought, and Perpich was just fine with them—appreciated the humor, he said. There was even a picture of one on the front page of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, as well as the Los Angeles Times and in Newsweek and People magazines. So my first instinct was to grab my phone, call in to Hennen, and shout “HEY, THAT WASN’T KEVIN CRAMER, THAT WAS ME!” But I was driving and didn’t want to stop and do that. So I kept listening. More and more calls came in critical of the billboards. And another caller commented negatively on the tourism billboards of years past.
And finally, as I arrived at my destination and turned off the car, I said to myself, “Aw, what the heck, Kevin, they’re all yours.”
ON A SERIOUS NOTE: KEYSTONE PROBLEMS
Amidst all the talk about the Keystone Pipeline and our Congressional delegation’s support for it even though it does not go through North Dakota, it is important to remember there already is a Keystone Pipeline, and it DOES go through North Dakota. It is Keystone 1. The new proposal to take Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico is Keystone 2. Supporters of that pipeline should read the letter in today’s Forum by Bruce Pantzke. Pantzke lives near a pipeline pump station North of Fort Ransom, in southeast North Dakota. In his letter, he writes:
I am writing to make you aware of an ongoing issue with noise control at the Keystone Pipeline pump station north of Fort Ransom, N.D. It is located less than 1.5 miles from the north border of Fort Ransom State Park and in the heart of the pristine Sheyenne River Valley. There are significant variances in the noise decibels that are emitted from this pump station based on a variety of variables, which are clearly outside the parameters allowed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission. At times, the high pitch and/or frequency related to this noise are extraordinarily annoying and can be compared to someone scratching their fingernails down a chalkboard. Our state PSC says that 55 decibels is acceptable and we all should just learn to live with it. Now imagine having to listen to that noise/whine in the peaceful valley and trying to sleep with it. This noise issue has most definitely reduced quality of life, the serenity and peace of the valley as well as the value of properties in the surrounding area. . . . I do not feel Keystone officials fully understand or respect the scope of our complaint, but they most clearly have been very poor neighbors as they assured us all at initial township meetings that there would be no environmental impact of any sort to the area. All attempts to resolve this issue have been unsuccessful with the PSC and with numerous calls and visits with Keystone.
If you’ve ever spent a night in the Sheyenne River Valley near Fort Ransom, you’ll know what Pantzke is talking about. It is indeed one of the most peaceful, serene places in our state. It has a growing tourist industry, including riverside campgrounds and bed and breakfast operations. North Dakota parks and tourism officials should be concerned. Keystone and our PSC should be ashamed. Keystone supporters should be aware of this very real problem as they press forward with their support.
Here’s a link to Pantzke’s thoughtful letter.