Wednesday, December 29, 2004
RE-VISIONING NORTH DAKOTA
A Hard Look at the Tough Issues Facing North Dakota in the Next 20 years.
Finding Hope Where Others Only See Hopelessness
A metaphorical disaster story defining the situation as it stands today
The 5 Changes Coming to North Dakota no Matter What
Defining the City, Town, Village, Bedroom Community and Settlement
A Statistical Look at a Disaster in the Making
Politically Incorrect but Plausible Solutions
By Gene Redlin
St Charles IL
All copyright rights reserved
First edition January 2003
Revised March 2004
Revised December 22, 2004
Continued Revisions as things merit
Fictional Metaphor for what’s happening in Dakota right now
THE EARTH MOVES
There were warnings. It first appeared in the fall sky in 2008. The earth had begun to quake in September of 2011. It was due to the pass by of Planet X, Nibiru (This is a real theory which you might want to investigate (GOOGLE) although I have serious doubts). Planet X visited the earths orbit once every 3500 years or so. It is 4 times the size of the earth. On an orbit like a comet, it raced thru the solar system glowing orange and then white hot as passed. No one knew exactly what was about to happen but they knew something dramatic would take place. It wouldn’t wipe out mankind. Man had withstood this pass-by before, but it would change the face of the earth and cause great upheavals. The fear was tremendous across the face of the planet.
Every nature of prediction and analysis was made. People had begun panicking. The media buzzed with expert talking heads. People’s hearts failed them for fear. Some actually dropped dead from terror. Spiritual leaders used this imminent event to motivate followers to all kinds of action, some well founded, some over the top. Despite all efforts the day drew near.
March 31, 2015. A rain and snowstorm of biblical proportions manifested in Manitoba and Dakota for over a month. Water began to back up in Lake Winnipeg without an outlet. The passing by of Nibiru caused the earths crust in North America to reform in radical new ways.
Intense global earthquakes and shifts of the tectonic plates caused an uplift in the earth’s crust. Much of the center of the prairie states sank hundreds of feet and the areas along the rivers (Red and Missouri) rose an equal amount. Small mountain ranges now stood where rivers and the valley once were. Water began to find new outlets. It rushed into the low areas newly formed by these events.
One ultimate deadly tectonic shift opened the way and billions of acre-feet of water and mud roared across the middle of the Dakotas. Not just a flood. A mud-muck tidal wave 300 feet high moved across the prairie at 200 miles per hour. Some people escaped but the deluge of mud buried almost half the population in the area. The devastation was complete and irreversible.
Where towns and farms once stood there were only occasional evidences of past civilization. The bulk of the water rushed thru an area 40 miles west of the Red River to 20 miles east of the Missouri. Bismarck and Fargo along with a few other population centers were damaged but survived. These population centers uplifted during the shift in the earths crust and the cities were damaged but spared for the most part. The glacial till plateaus and moraines sank dramatically. The wall of mud duplicated in a day what the glaciers had taken thousands of years to do. Some speculated that this upheaval was a reaction to the weight of the glaciers and the residue which had tilled this path thousands of years before. The unglaciated areas of the state were left untouched by this flow. West Slope and Badlands remained as before.
After the tidal wave, all that remained was a desolate landscape, unmeasured, unsurveyed unbounded and uninhabitable. Nearly all roads and landmarks washed out. Lakes and rivers disappeared. Hills and valleys were leveled or filled in. Towns were washed away or buried in the mud. A flat open wasteland stretched as far as the eye could see.
A few pockets of humanity remained in places where geography and natural features cooperated to spare the residents of total devastation. A remnant of the residents of these towns and farms tried to hold on. But they did so without any services, no health care, no education: no services of any kind. They had to fend for themselves. Some of these survival oases were those located near the highways that survived. Many times over half the town was wiped out. Those hardy few remained for a while. They gave up eventually. All was silent on the prairie: Silent, empty and hopeless.
The federal government assessed the situation and took a hands-off policy. The economic result from the worldwide impact of the pass-by of Nibiru meant the decision to allow the land and people to stay buried and empty was all that could be done within reason. Memorials were held for the dead, but in a few years memories faded. Life went on. The country, the world was busy recovering from hundreds of catastrophes larger and smaller than the one in Dakota.
As things settled down the process of considering what to do with this vast unused area became occasional conversation. A few professors and think-tankers tackled the problem. Always coming to a dead end. Reclamation and resettlement was not an option. The soggy sediment stood 50 feet deep or more. It was the worst kind of quicksand. Water and mud sank stinking. It was 20 years before it became accessible on foot at all. With every rain it renewed it’s impassability. It was unstable ground unable to be occupied. It became reasonable for leaders to just abandon it all together and to let nature take whatever course it chose.
The land void of humanity, plant and animal life was declared undeeded; not legal for habitation by a federal proclamation. This was interpreted as an act of God. Insurance and the government was unable to support or respond to this unprecedented disaster. And then all was quiet. It became in the true sense of the word a no-man’s land.
Years went by. Plant and animal life returned slowly. The land was declared off limits by the federal government. A federal preserve. The highways that connected the few population centers were restored. I-94 and US 2 became high-speed arteries.
The uplift had spared the population centers of Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Wahpeton, Minot and Dickinson. Everything in the center of the state was gone. Many believed the land was poisoned, dangerous, or polluted. Apocryphal stories of disease and demons kept out the curious.
The flat, open, unfeatured landscape offered little opportunity or attractiveness. There wasn’t much consideration by anyone of the fate of the land. No jokes about the area, no pejorative comments, just intense apathy.
Fifty years passed. It was the year 2065. Desperate national economics from war and deficits pushed renewed desire for reclaiming this land that had been abandoned a half century before. Anyone who had real time memory of the way things were or who had a claim on turning back the clock was dead or gone. This was a clean slate.
The climate had changed since Nibru’s pass. The growing season had extended to 120 days. The weather was on balance warmer but long hot dry summers made sustainable agriculture difficult.
Winters were temperate but when blizzards came they were mammoth storms. Intense droughts were interspersed with incredible rain events. Floods came often and then staggering heat. The severity and uncertainty caused even the hardiest soul to think twice about what to do with the empty land that now occupied most of Dakota.
The formerly prosperous population centers had drifted into relative obscurity because of the isolation and weather. The population in Dakota stood at 240,000 people and sagging. The rest of the world had endured an equally devastating impact and the global population stood at just under 4 billion people. This celestial event had changed everything.
People were beginning to postulate what they could or should do with the land now idle for half a century. No one had ownership. Uncle Sam wanted to unload the responsibility to care for what had become a burdensome BLM issue. Food technology, globalized agriculture and markets made any practicality to farm or graze this land a fruitless pursuit.
The government’s proposal was simple. Demonstrate any reasonable use for the land and you could have as much as you needed for free. Deeded over. A new homestead act was born.
The only codicil was you agreed never to accept any financial support from the government; and you had to pay the taxes. Proposals were fielded. Ideas floated. Few took. They just couldn’t show that they could make it self-supporting.
Livestock? The Argentines and Aussies owned that market. Grains? China and Brazil fed the world. A renewed Siberia and Canada with climate change kept commodity agriculture under economic pressure. Without government support, crops like beets for sugar were out. In fact, it soon became apparent that most of the agriculture which had supported the state 50 years before was impractical. The economy of agriculture in the Americas was specialized and technical. Commodity production of grains, feeds, oilseeds, and vegetables were grown elsewhere in the world for much less money. Most of the world had become self sufficient in food production. With a smaller population it was apparent that there was little need to try to feed a fully satiated world.
The Federal and State governments had long since backed away from any financial underpinning for national agriculture. The advent of a robust liquid fuel produced from seawater had made energy to pump water, farm, and ship worldwide cheaper than it could be done in the Americas. Patronage contracts to a few politically well-connected producers yielded just enough production to maintain a minimal food supply in the event of war, national catastrophe or other “civil defense needs”. There was little need to continue to farm.
Most of rural America was now prosperously dedicated to other things. Dakota Prairie was about to enter this brave new world with a clean slate.
The seemingly insurmountable challenge was, what can be done to reclaim the outback of Dakota? That was the question faced in the fictional 2065 world of the future. It is in fact the question we face today. Can we find a future and a hope in this land of opportunity?
All of the events noted in this fictional account (minus the earthquake and tidal wave) are metaphorical for what is now and changing the face of Dakota. This tidal wave of change is sweeping across the plains as unrelenting and furious as any blizzard. We are viewing the present day as if a slow motion bomb went off in 1950. As devastating as the real thing but so slow and inexorable as to be indiscernible.
While it’s obvious effect is less dramatic than the metaphor depicted above, the change coming is no less certain. The warning of the impending earthquake is sounded. Don’t be swept away. Learn to navigate with the flow. There are monumental changes coming to Dakota that won’t be delayed.
They will be capitalized on for good to those who face them with boldness, optimism and without fear. To those who try to hold on to the “old ways” will experience a wrenching shock as they move thru the state like the mythical tidal wave depicted here. So what are these inexorable changes? The coming changes are neither good nor bad, but they are coming. Can we learn to capitalize on them and make a better world than has been dealt us? Let’s Hope So!
In the first section I offered you a metaphorical view of the future where the middle plains section of North Dakota was destroyed. This was designed to help you think in terms of what can be without thinking about what is. All growth comes from Death, Chaos, Community, and then Progress. So it was important for your minds to put to death the status quo to move forward. Look at post war Europe. In many communities the damage done has lead to greater things. Lets just hope it doesn’t take a catastrophe to get Dakotans to take the chaos, form communities and move ahead.
Inexorable Change Number One
Moving “6 Feet or more”
Outmigration has been a deep concern for some time in Dakota. Rural depopulation is global, not just in Dakota. You know the problem; how you gonna keep em down on the farm after they’ve seen Minneapolis. This problem is real but without quick solutions that scream for action. While politicos concentrate on keeping young people in the state, the bulk of the population is migrating from time to eternity at an accelerating pace. In Lamoure county the average age is nearly 60 years. Without hyperbole, a third of the population will leave that county permanently in the next 5 years (if you believe that after you step from time into eternity you go somewhere else and it’s not called Dakota).
The effect of the tidal wave burying half the population and the other half escaping and a few hangers-on is essentially what is happening right now. It’s slower but just as inexorable.
This vertical outmigration without the correspondent replacement of people yields major manifestations and hundreds of ripple effects. This population coefficient is the real engine or brake of rural America’s vitality. Let’s examine the result of this manifestation. Many of them are painful:
Foreign Owners! Who owns Dakota? Nobody in Dakota!
While the numbers from this decline in population are significant, the real issue is the ownership of assets is now being transferred to out of state interests, heirs who no longer live in Dakota. Most of the land and businesses in Dakota is owned by non-Dakotans.
Even when an heir does live in the state, as soon as the estate is settled, if it’s significant, their former address becomes Dakota. They head for warmer “more interesting” climes. The rent check from that date forward is addressed far out of town. Let these people go. You won’t be able to hold them or compete with the bright lights or warm climate of far far away. They aren’t in Dakota’s future.
The Answer to Outmigration in Dakota
at any cost.
at any cost.
Too Simple?? Here’s the truth!
THE BASIC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT UNIT IN ANY STATE IS THE HUMAN BEING.
Look at China, new worldwide economic power, why? People. Why is California the 5th largest economy in the world? People.
There are all kinds of efforts made to stem the outmigration tide. Nearly all are paltry impermanent successes to complete and utter failures. Population stabilization and growth will not come by trying to keep people in the state. It will only come by new people to coming into the state. These new immigrants, some naturalized, some true immigrants and some economic opportunists must see a future where natives can’t. They don’t want to part of a club that would have them as a member. This is a positive. Of course they won’t be welcomed. It doesn’t matter. There will be few native people left to object as things are going now.
The immigrants who are coming will bring life and vitality to the state. The bad news is native Dakotans will see them as invaders changing an unsustainable status quo. They will bring change, change for the better, but unlike the Indians that occupied the plains 200 years ago there will be no reservations or treaties for the losers. It will just be economic war won by default and displacement. It must be economic opportunity that will drive this change. Nothing else will.
As certain as was the defeat and occupation of the land by the white man in 1870, so sure will be the occupation of this land by the newcomers. They will be discriminated against, legislated against, economic sanctions against but they will win. Dakota will win, but those who are here today will lose. Mostly they just won’t be here. They’ll be gone.
They’re not going to be just like us
I have heard an adage for years. Someone will farm that land. If land was for rent and no one had it rented for farming, “someone will farm that land”. That’s no longer true. Someone doesn’t farm that land. Someone isn’t here yet. And when the new people come they won’t farm it like Norwegians and Germans do. They’ll farm it like “heaven’s forbid”, Netherlanders, French or Belgians, or OTHERS.
And there will be others. Unconventional, weird, strange, maybe not even ethnically homogonous with the rest of the state. They might even be black, brown or maybe even not Lutheran. They will come. Get Ready!
Welcome the outsider. Open your countryside. Become creative in ways to excite new outsiders (and maybe just a few native Dakotans). Excise the word parochial out of your dictionary. Get off the government dole. Learn to create economic opportunity without federal or state funding. Others did it, so can you. Spend your time and energies fueling home grown and immigrant initiated enterprise.
The new Dakotans will be Un-entitiled
This new population will be different. These will be people who see Dakota thru eyes of opportunity and not of entitlement. The Entitlement mentality has been an obstacle to growth and development in Dakota. With this change the Entitlement Mentality will die. Good Riddance!
The out of state hunting arguments that rumble around are the most graphic representation of the entitlement mentality that will be replaced by the tidal wave of new move-ins. It makes economic sense to bring in out of state hunters en-mass but the entitlement mentality keeps them out. The CRP and crop support payments of Dakota agriculture are a component of this attitude. I got mine. You can’t have it. Well, at some point no one will have it and then we will have empty nothings to lean on. When it all hits critical mass these entitlements will fall off the edge of the earth. There is little appetite in Washington to continue to pour Quentin Burdick style pork into states that have less and less real impact on national decision-making. Look at the 2004 election. George Bush won and hardly campaigned. Dakota is a red state nationally and a blue state locally. This contradiction makes it powerless.
No One is going to Help DO This
We have all seen the ads by a wild man by the name of Lesco who enthusiastically tells us the government has money to give us to do all kinds of wonderful things. This feeds the myth. There are just enough people in agriculture who in fact have lived off the kindness of strangers in Washington to perpetuate the myth. As long as Dakota believes It’s salvation resides in any government program it will never proceed out of the rural ghetto. The political climate, federal deficits and costs of the War have put a plug in more money from anywhere. Remember CRP? It’s a retirement program and habitat enhancement for many Dakotans. It is also a tremendous depopulation initiative as an unintended consequence. Dakota NEEDS more people virtually at any cost.
If you get nothing else from this book, get this, more people (population) in under-developed areas is the absolute answer to the core problems Dakota has right now. The question is how? We must start by facing the truth about the situation and use the truth as a platform to becoming free to prosper.
We’ve been lied to
and worse we lie to ourselves
There are damaging illusions Dakotans live under which sustains this pathology of decline. There are truths that need to be made manifest before change can come. At one level Dakotan’s live life under the illusion that nothing can be changed and that it’s all under control by someone else. Dakotans live in resignation of the lie that they have no power to change their destiny. The reality of this situation (the red pill or the blue pill) is harder to swallow. Let me help you find out how deep this rabbit hole goes. Here are lies you may believe which need to be dispelled if you are going to make it in the Dakota that is coming.
LIE: Dakota must learn to compete with Florida to Win
You have been told you must compete with other parts of the world or the USA to make it. It’s not true. This is not a win-loss game. You lose if you try to be something you can never be. Dakota can never be better than a second class Florida, New York, California or Las Vegas. People go there because they want what those places offer. Trying to me too is foolish.
Dakota can’t and shouldn’t try to compete by trying to offer a poor version of those things. Fargo will never compete successfully with the Twin Cities. NEVER. Get over it. Fargo imposed a quarter cent tax to promote tourism to Fargo. Very Silly. Cities in North Dakota, if they are going to appeal to the new people, must not try to be a third class Disney Land. They must learn who they are and be that. Figure it out, spend the time to define who and what you are and what you possess that might appeal to a focused segment of the national (or international) population. Dakota possesses a market niche. People move to other parts of the country or the world because the opportunity it represents to them is appealing enough to make them take that kind of life changing action. Dakota has this same quality of opportunity if we will discover it.
The initial population incursion in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that produced the current population we see today came because they saw opportunity that appealed to them. Free land, open space, potential for a boom, freedom, things that appeal to people all over the earth today. These people came with a pioneer spirit that has long since been lost.
Determine what Dakota has to “compete” with.
Let other states try to match what Dakota successfully offers and let the fireworks begin. Woefully, this will hurt. What Dakotans think appeals to others, what is on the travel brochures probably isn’t what really appeals. This will take positioning. This will take placement outside the norm.
This is not advertising Medora’s summer musical. This is finding the heart of the true potential new Dakotan and touching it the right place. It’s probably different than you think. Your focus group to really discover this cannot contain any Dakotan’s or Minnesotans. Start in LA, Manhattan and Toledo. You might try Berlin, Krakow and Kiev. Or Jakarta, Beijing and Mexico City, or Malawi. There is a hot button, find it and push it. Start to get new pioneers Dakota bound. They will make it a better place.
LIE: Dakota has Low Unemployment
I don’t know how many times I have heard and your probably have too about how Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the USA. How companies can’t find workers. How if you hire a Dakotan you get a loyal hard working smart farm kid with a masters degree that will work happily for $8 per hour. Well, even if you could land that kid for a little while he won’t last. This is the most damaging illusion of all.
Dakota’s reputed unemployment rate (2 or 3%) is in reality much much higher. The REAL UNDER-employment rate is well over 20%. Here’s why. Dakota produces talented people. Those talented people want to work. Many want to also stay in the state. They have friends and family life in Dakota. They will take a job for a while, but what they really are looking for is opportunity. Before long the best, brightest and most talented see Dakota in a rear view mirror with a tear in their eye, Mom and Dad waving goodbye. Right now most of the jobs offered in the state are well below the amount a family of 4 could live on even if both parents work. Do the math. 2000 hours per year to be sold. Eight dollars per hour is $16,000. If both work it’s $32,000. The amount a family of 4 needs to be OK is well above that. I propose it is more likely twice that amount.
The conundrum is those left behind lacking a motivating initiative to get out of Dakota find themselves picking over the bones of low wage jobs. The poor Wal-Mart employee working for peanuts who tries hard to make a life finds only hopelessness and despair. Look at the list of bankruptcies every month in the Fargo Forum. It’s very sad.
The insidious lie is that people can “make it”. The problem is the real cost of living causes those people to depend on help from others, help from their parents, the government (food stamps etc), and sometimes just plain slippery economics to survive. If Maslow teaches us anything, it’s this; the most basic need is to survive. Once that need is provided for all others can follow. The real cost of low wage jobs is how it stifles a person having a dream for something better. It causes the wage earner to feel trapped and frustrated trying to beg friends, neighbors, creditors and the state for enough to just make it this month. When it takes a certain amount each month to “make it” that means that money is in fact going to come from somewhere. To deny this fact means we don’t understand economics or humanity. This is a zero sum game. Someone is going to pay for those people to live. Directly or indirectly someone pays the bill.
Lie: Cost of living is less in Dakota
The facts are that you can live most anywhere (other than the center of large cities) for equal or less money than you can in cities and towns of Dakota. And if you compare rural costs, town size for town size you can buy a house, rent an apartment, buy goods and services in most of the rest of the country for about what it costs to do so in Dakota. In fact in several categories it costs more to live in Dakota than it does in equivalent population centers in the rest of America. Anyone who tells you otherwise has a reason (Political) to try to convince you.
Lie: It’s safer in Dakota
CRIME? I lived for the first 40 years of my life in Dakota. I was robbed twice. I have lived in the Chicago area and in Germany for nearly 20 years and have never been robbed. I have worked in Brazil, Japan, Taiwan Great Britan and other major cities worldwide. Never mugged, not beat up, not murdered, not burglarized. OK, let’s not be anecdotal. If you take suburban crime statistics population for population it’s safer in lots of places in the USA than it is in Dakota. In fact studies show that with depopulation crime gets worse. I have only one word. METH!
There ARE Assets
Dakota does possess and should capitalize on is it’s purity of air and water. Many agricultural and industrial states have lost this edge to the god of progress. Don’t lose what brought Teddy Roosevelt out to the prairie in the first place. Solitude, clean, open, fresh air, open land. Dakotan’s response. High restriction on access. ??????
Lie: The Key to Growth and Prosperity in Dakota is Jobs
It’s not, it’s opportunity! Opportunity that brings people not to work but to carve out a niche.
So, what do we do about this? Recognize one truth. Just JOBS do not help. What one needs are opportunity jobs. Anyone will take any unreasonable job if they believe it might lead to some greater opportunity. But when the opportunity is lost, when it in fact is dead end, that’s when hopelessness sets in. That opportunity must carry with it the belief that someday we will have more than enough, I can start a successful business, I can advance in responsibility and income, I can contribute something, I can be part of something great. That’s what Maslow identified and that’s what people want. They don’t want just JOBS. They want HOPE.
Government and economic development executives pride themselves at bringing in companies with lots of JOBS. Unfortunately, if those jobs were analyzed by economic impact and not head count they would be meager indeed. What kind of annual income do they present, what kinds of long term prospects are there, what opportunities exist because of them, and what non income participations are there (benefits)? I propose that in fact a formula that itemized those JOBS brought in by most development agencies are not good quality jobs. 100 jobs which pay $50,000 each with advancement potential and a reasonable set of benefits is far from equivalent to 100 $8 per hour jobs, part time no benefits no future. But, publicity evaluations of any effort and Job head count is all that matters. Wrong!
The economic impact differential is tremendous. In the first case the economic impact of those jobs will be 6 Million dollars per year or more and in the second case the part time low pay jobs, same head count, might be a maximum of 1.6 million. What impact on the economy of a state like Dakota is an additional 4 million dollars per year circulating thru the economy? That’s real economic development.
Low income people don’t pay taxes.
Stop Wasting Money on Dogs that Don’t Hunt
People aren’t coming (or staying) because of legislative incentive. Money spent to keep the discouraged in the state is wasted. Money spent to attract the job providers is industrial prostitution. Their (the job providers bought and paid for) attitude is, “pay me enough to come, but as soon as I’m done renting you, as soon as you try to get me to become a tax paying member of society I’m out of here”. The economic development efforts by government show almost NO long-term positive outcomes to date by trying to IMPORT jobs. The major industrial commercial employers in the state today were founded by people from here who wanted to take advantage of opportunities here and to become a contribution to society (and their pocketbook). Show me ONE, which was brought here from elsewhere and remains as other than a paltry pay payroll pimp; JUST ONE! Since that is the case, why spend time and money chasing an economic development dog that just won’t hunt? Of course money spent in government pays salaries and that isn’t bad. Government appointees need to eat too. It just isn’t productive.
Lets try to get government agencies to stop chasing outside firms who aren’t coming for the economic good of the state anyhow. They are coming to pick pockets of cheap labor. When they have picked until everyone has starved sufficiently they will bail out for India and leave Dakota high and dry. Start looking for ways for Dakota to be owned by people who actually live here. That means industry that doesn’t look just for ways to just feed and clothe the world, but to do 10,000 other things unrelated to agriculture. Agriculture will always be with you. Let it become what it should have become years ago, another good industry; not the only one.
The real future is companies owned by, operated by, populated by North Dakotans selling the rest of the world. Economic development is NOT taking in each other’s laundry in Laundromats owned by someone from Texas.
Inexorable Change Number Two GLOBALIZATION
Commodity Agriculture will become Terminal in Dakota.
Remember textiles? Cloth and clothing used to be made in the good old USA many years ago. Not now. China, Guatemala, Brazil, Vietnam. 50 cent an hour wages. Those jobs aren’t coming back. Remember steel. US Steel? Gone! Not coming back. Remember Bicycles? Nope. In fact little is made or produced in our country. Where was the government when all this was going on? Eliminating tariffs, signing Nafta, Cafta, and all kinds of other trade treaties.
Consumers (Voters) want cheap prices at Wal-Mart and Target. Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer Jobs to support shopping there. Globalization. The powers that lead our country believe it’s good. It is good for those who now have jobs in other countries. Of course those jobs are now paying 1/10th of what they paid in America.
Agriculture is going thru the same thing. Full-blown globalization. The WTO and its ilk will see to that. Here’s the really bad news. There is absolutely no political will anywhere to stop it. NONE. If a commodity is traded on any exchange (look in the Wall Street Journal) we will no longer be able to compete unless we agree to a significant reduction in our standard of living.
Every Commodity will be Produced Elsewhere as well
and Cheaper than Dakota can.
Forget the balderdash about how we are the most efficient farmers in the world. That perceived advantage is fleeting. Are we going to keep farming methods state secrets? We have brief times when we do well. Corn this year, Cattle next. Soybeans are produced south of the equator. We are done in those markets.
What this means to Dakota is most of the crops produced in the state are now obsolete. Big crops and good prices once in a while take the sting out of it but in the end the other guys (read that cheap) win. The worst thing for rethinking this area is a good crop or high price event. It only puts off the inevitable.
If you can re-imagine DAKOTA without commodity agriculture and start fresh you have a chance of making it. That world is coming. The bad news is there is zero political will in America to stop it.
Forget about any government being in Power, democrat or republican, protecting you and yours. The globalization genie is out of the bottle and will never be put back in again. It started when Columbus discovered America. The trend has been around a long time. Now it’s accelerating. Our national policy is to have cheap prices on everything no matter who it hurts. Low prices at Wal-Mart means low wage earners will vote for incumbents. The truth hurts.
There is one more driving force in Globalization that you must understand. It’s a national defense issue in the minds of our national leaders. People who have something to lose tend not to attack world trade centers. People whose standard of living goes up are more peaceable. So if we sacrifice the living standards of Americans 30% by creating a Wal-Mart economy in order to increase opportunity for the Chinese, maybe they won’t nuke us if we let them earn a little more. If we could just get the terrorists to learn to grow wheat all our problems would be solved.
If we let Mexico produce goods cheaper and sell them here maybe they won’t come across the border and invade us. If we let India become our low cost producer of white color jobs maybe they’ll become just like us and we can open a Wal-Mart there. The secret plan is to make the poor of the world richer at our expense and then sell to them. That’s the plan. The net result is a decrease in the standard of living for the USA. Ask policy makers and they will point to Germany and Japan as positive role models that we can follow in helping these low wage countries become just like us. They are no longer a military threat to the good old USA. Multiply that times lots of countries and we are there. Follow the Money!
The Wal-Mart economy is here, we don’t have to participate but we have to live in it. The pressure for low wages, low prices and production at the lowest costs no matter whose job it destroys is now global policy. Agriculture is part of that. We no longer will be the producer of choice for the world. The breadbasket of the world has left the building.
The worst thing that can happen is high prices and good crops, it just puts off the eventual pain we will all feel.
INEXORABLE CHANGE THREE:
THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING
This isn’t about global warming. There is a change going on in the climate that is going to have an impact on Dakota for thousands of years. There is nothing man can do about this. It’s about cycles, population, CO2, ocean currents, and time. This climate change has been predicted for a long time. Now it’s here. Here are the simple facts regarding the effect on Dakota’s climate from this cycle of climate change (which some have predicted will last 400 years).
1. Warmer. Dakota’s average temperature will rise, several degrees. Average! That doesn’t mean any more below zero or that its time to learn to grow banana trees. This is an intemperate warming that will mean extremes in everything. Dakota doesn’t have the tempering benefit of geographic features to even out these climate changes: Geographies which modify climate such as open water (lots of open water), wind breaking structures, moisture adding vegetation (trees), and geographic elevations that stop the wind (mountains).
2. Extremes. Dakota will experience at the same time longer cool (wet) periods in spring and fall followed by very hot dry late summers and early fall. Long cool springs, long cool autumns, hot and dry summers, shorter cold snowy winters. The average will be warmer but the extremes will be more extreme.
3. Dramatic Weather Events. When it rains it will pour, not a nice soaking rain, a rain event. When it snows it will blizzard, not a nice flaky snow, when it’s cold it’ll be really cold. When it dries out it will become a drought. 100 year floods, 100-year droughts, 100 year blizzards every third year. Everything to excess, nothing in moderation.
On aggregate the weather will have changed, warmer on average and a little wetter. Of course this warm weather and wet periods will come when you least need or expect it. These changes will demand that Dakota adapt to these new realities. Learn to store water, don’t let it run off. Use impoundments no matter how small to recharge the shrinking aquifer. Most of what we have done by draining, trenching, ditching and other ways to get land ready to cultivate will work in exactly the wrong direction to what has to be done. Look at the Garrison reservoir. It’s not coming back for a long time.
Some crops that have been raised successfully in Dakota won’t be any more. Some new ones will find a home here. The July and August hot dry periods will mean crops which are “made” before then are OK. Crops that need a different weather pattern are not going to fit any more.
Subsoil moisture will become an issue. Keeping the water on the land to recharge for the dry periods will be more needed. Water is going to become like OIL is today. Precious in season. Holding and using it well will become critical.
Creating man made impoundments, tree claims, and other environment tempering characteristics in the landscape will be needed to help ameliorate these new weather patterns to a more tolerable level.
This is a change you can’t do much about but one to you can adapt. It’s on balance neither good nor bad. It just is what it is. Enjoy the ride, you are already seated on this horse, you can’t get off so you might as well finish the race.
INEXORABLE CHANGE FOUR
THE COMING MELTDOWN IN HEALTH CARE
With an aging population and healthcare on the brink (particularly in rural areas), the collapse of the current healthcare system (both in Dakota and in the USA) is ominous to the unprepared. Our 100% first dollar "insurance" driven health care program we all became used to is unsupportable. Only two outcomes are possible. Either a government health care plan that will ration out basic care or a return to an open market program leaving healthcare for the rich alone.
The government can’t solve this. With the new costs of defense and an economy which needs to get much better to solve this, the political will to tackle this is not in hand. The band-aid of trying to “fix” Medicare or incentive insurance companies to be more helpful is a lost cause.
Any working solution will eliminate full coverage private insurance. Blue Cross, as we know it now will not survive this. Neither will Medicare. Already most physicians in America are examining their wiliness to take
one more Medicare patient. Those that do are questionable in their judgment. This is becoming a crisis. In older populations it’s disastrous. In rural America its become the norm not to have local health care. Driving 60 miles to the Doctor is now common.
Doctors are leaving practices. Or they are coming up with clever new ways to become sustainable. Boutique medicine. Charging a person to keep them well.
If you have a physician friend, ask him why he doesn't drive as nice a car as he used to. Family practice is in a perfect storm of meltdown right now.
Here’s the sad case. This is a war with real casualties. People will have to die because no physician will treat them. Lots of people. People will have to die because no insurance money was available to treat them. People will have to die because no one would take their Medicare. This will rumble under the surface for while then it will emerge when the pressure is great enough to allow for a real fix.
Here’s the dirty little secret about this impending disaster. Our elected representatives want this to self-destruct. They do not have the guts to tackle it UNTIL it becomes a first magnitude crisis with significant casualties. It’s a third rail. Their political careers are too valuable to step up and make real changes.
The cure for this is radical and unpopular. First, people need to become responsible for their own primary health care. Second, Doctors need free education in exchange for servicing Dakota and places like Dakota or the inner city. Third Doctors need legal malpractice indemnification at a high level. No more Doctor Lottery. “Sue a Doc and win a pot” must be taken off the roulette wheel of life. There are other ways to deal with bad doctors. Medical court with true peers (that means DOCTORS) sitting in judgment of bad docs and with caps on the amounts to be awarded will solve this.
Look at West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Doctors on strike (or nearly). And in Illinois the largest hospital group STOPPED accepting Blue Cross for a while. They have since stopped accepting Health First (Bill Frist). Managed health care which has aggravated the crisis you see is about to crush much of the enterprise of health services without intervention.
There will be a restructuring more radical than anyone believes. If health care reform goes thru the changes needed there will be beneficial outcomes in rural Dakota.
Removing the gatekeepers will help save medicine and people will buy their health care on the open market. Catastrophic will be the only real insurance coverage available. We’re nearly there now. It’s coming to the whole country. Big insurance is going to change radically. The whole concept of first dollar health care will disappear. It doesn’t work. It really never did.
There are only two long term possible outcomes and both mean big insurance and managements programs (remember HMO’s?) are about to collapse. Either we will enter the age of government health insurance (If you love Medicare you’ll love this) or the more likely form of MSA’s, free market primary medicine and true catastrophic insurance. If you have an MSA you become better at self-doctoring. WEBMD.com will become a norm. There will become a new layer of providers with educations as Physician’s assistants or Pharmacist/experts. They will do what doctors do now on first visits.
Doctors of 50 years ago were less capable in primary care than the PA or RN of today. Information and technical advances have created a new and better level of first visit protocol.
This has to happen; the whole system is broke beyond tinkering. Right now if our car insurance was like most peoples health insurance we would have to call someone to ask where and how much they would pay to let us buy gas or have our oil changed. Instead we carry car insurance for catastrophes. If the transmission goes out, we get it fixed. If our tires wear out we don’t whine because our car insurance doesn’t cover it. We know that normal maintenance requires us to take care of the “little things”.
The erroneous idea that our health insurance has to come from our employer must be dealt with. Why not grocery insurance? Let your employer take a few hundred dollars a month out of your check and then have the Blue Cross representative tell you where to buy groceries and how much you can spend for bread. This is a free country. Use insurance as insurance. It’s coming. Let’s not let the government rule us.
In any case the largest employers (healthcare) in Fargo and Sioux Falls are (as Adam said to Eve as they were leaving the garden) about to experience a transition.
The real price of an office visit to a doctor is about $50. When you visit and use your insurance your doctor bills $80, Blue Cross reimburses $45 and it costs $20 to administer the claim. So your Doctor really gets $35. Try offering him $55, he makes more and you are paying a true market price without all the cost of bureaucracy. That’s what’s about to happen. I already do this with my Doctor.
Free market medicine. It’s coming. Prescription Drugs? That’s about to be solved. When that happens the small town clinic may well become viable once again. Even some small town hospitals will return. Life is about to change. Endorse it. Get on board. Be a leader. Show the way. One size doesn’t fit all. You are different. You will have to learn to ignore the politicians. They’re wrong and hate innovation. If you listen to what they say you will never act. So when the hue and cry start, stay steady. This is going to tough on those who hate change, IT will be good for those who are ready to tackle the new realities.
INEXORABLE CHANGE FIVE
Big schools, particularly in k-8 are being decentralized at breakneck speed. Hauling 7-year-old little girls an hour each way to school isn't going to happen much longer. Parents are opting out of the craziness for their children's benefit. The trend is going on all across America. The options are proliferating. Home School, Cottage Schools, Cyber Schools, church and private schools are leading the way. Some states are beginning to see this for what it really is, a way to alleviate overwhelmed education budgets and are getting on board. They are providing funds to the student, the way it used to be 25 years ago in most states (including North Dakota) when the money followed the student’s choice of education. These institutions worked from that as a base. You can't legislate fast enough to stop this. Other states have tried and failed. It's coming. That's what vouchers are all about. Once vouchers are in place the next step in education sanity will evolve.
Say goodbye to the educational monuments built to the gods of school district centralization. You will wish you had all that money back when those big school buildings are empty. The whole consolidation concept will be looked at thru the rear view mirror as one of the all time radically misdirected efforts that was driven by a massive Land Grab by administrators to increase their salaries. What a crime.
Place the whole state into ONE school district.
Then put in neighborhood schools as needed. That’s the essence of what will happen in the end anyhow. Not one room schoolhouses per se, but simple, non-territorial, solutions. Why not implement an intelligent voucher system like existed 25 years ago in ND when money followed the student. Small schools prospered under that program. They will again.
Vouchers will mean more options. Small villages will have schools again. They will teach k-8 on a local level. There will be High Schools. They will be more like Pre College or Pre Business or Pre Trade Schools. Not everyone will go to college. With the extra room those big consolidated schools have educators will be able to offer tremendous opportunities. No one is going to have a problem bussing Freshmen-Seniors to school for an hour each way. Call it an educational commute.
This one is easy. This one can be solved by some legislative help. Since it's going to happen anyway, make K-8 funded by the state thru equalization with grants to ANY educating enterprise on a student enrolled basis (money follows the student) replacing the public schools.
If you really wanted to get on board you could subsidize home schoolers. We need to embrace all alternatives.
Education choice is here, embrace it now, stop wasting money trying to do it with public institutions. 50 years ago a person could teach in public schools K-5 with a desire and a high school education. Much of the teacher education and certification exists for the same reasons we license barbers. Job security. Of course when the federal government gets involved with its “one size fit’s all” approach we end up with remote control decision making chasing elusive federal matching funds. Wouldn’t it be better to tell the feds to butt out?
With choice there will arise quasi-public institutions to replace those behemoths that exist now. They'll just be better, and will pay their teachers better than the public schools do now in ND. As for High Schools, eliminate all local school districts. Create one statewide school district, accountable to one administration, with essentially education VP's in every school. The high schools will operate, as they always should have. It will just avoid the land grab kingdom building that passes for centralization now. Walgreen’s drug stores do this all over America. If there's a need, they build and staff one. Set them free and educators will do the same.
Of course I know that Dakota students are the smartest in the nation for the least amount of money. It doesn’t matter. They still will, teachers will just be paid better and there will be more opportunities. Administration will cost less. Outcomes will be as good and MAYBE better. Can you say Music Programs again?
Everything that needs to be done to solve these problems are politically incorrect and have no hope of implementation except by very brave people or a crisis
Divide up Dakota on a policy level. The Great Plains regions are diverse areas when it comes to economic development. Economic development efforts in Las Vegas are very much different than a small town like Pahrump Nevada. If you want Bowman ND to grow and prosper it must be treated differently than Fargo. Even Carson City Nevada lives under different rules than Vegas. Carve it up. Rifle shot. No one size fits all.
Fargo is a state unto itself. Bowman’s problems and opportunities are very different from Fargo’s. To apply the same economic development rules and efforts to Bowman as to Fargo and vice versa is poor strategy.
All communities are not the same. Some are migrating downward. Lets examine the landscape of economic communities:
A city is defined as a population area that within 15 minutes drive time has full blown health care both emergency and primary care. It is a domicile for businesses that employ at least 75% of the local residents. It has primary shopping. That means all the needs and desires for any resident can be serviced from local merchants at a 90% supply rate with at least one viable competitor. There is full educational opportunities from K-12 and most likely some post high school educational opportunities locally.
There are entertainment opportunities available. There are several healthy churches that do a good job of serving the community. The essence of a city is in fact without any effort a person could be born, grow up, be educated, clothed, fed, marry, work, raise a family, grow old, get health care, die and be buried and never ever have a need to leave the 15 minute circle they lived in. That’s a city.
I don’t recommend that kind of narrow life but it helps identify a city. North Dakota has very few actual cities of this definition. It used to have many more. Today I count a couple dozen at best. They have the ability to attract industry simply because they are qualified by virtue of their size and infrastructure to do so. This level of economic and social unit has the highest appeal to entrepreneurs and companies. The problem with concentration on just these islands of prosperity in a dirt desert means you will only eventually have these few islands of prosperity and nothing else but ghost towns.
A town is defined as a 15-minute drive area that has many of the things a city has but has lost key elements. One may be primary shopping opportunities, probably lost it’s high school, has no health care to speak of. Perhaps a clinic but little else. If there is a grocery store it is without a competitor. If there is a clothing or hardware store there is only one and selection is small. The churches are OK but not growing. You could not (other than by catalog shopping) be born, live work and die without leaving town. The bitter truth is substantially if even one of the elements mentioned in the city description is lost the nature of the city is gone and it becomes a town.
That doesn’t make it a bad place to live, it does make it less of a self-sustaining entity and people are forced to go out of town for services that should have or could have been provided there. This happens many times when a small town is too close to a larger city. My hometown of Ellendale used to be a city in every expression. Losing it’s hospital, shopping (to Aberdeen) and one of it’s grocery stores closed it declined to a town. Many people in these towns now work in other towns or even cities. It’s not a matter of size; it’s a matter of function. Some bedroom communities can have tremendous populations but because of proximity to cities still remain a town or even a village.
A village is sometimes a town that has declined. In a few cases it is a settlement or a previously dying town that has emerged usually because of its proximity to a larger area. Look around Fargo or Bismarck and you can see these villages. A village usually has no primary shopping at all. Perhaps there’s a convenience store, which tries to carry a range of popular products, but there is no primary grocer, very little health care, probably no pharmacy.
Usually a village will boast no high school, no grade school in most cases (their school was consolidated into a nearby town). There is a bar or two, perhaps a grain elevator, a church or two and maybe a few other enterprises. There might be a repair shop. There might be a few truckers. Most people drive to jobs not in the area, are retired or unemployed by choice. Living in this village is choice or habit. A village has a zip code and a post office. It has an identity. It may have a rudimentary form of government. Many villages don’t have centralized water and sewer as a Town or City does. Shopping, health care, and most other services are accessed by a drive of 25 minutes or more. Sadly, in Dakota, many villages names once had a proud heritage now gone. They have hope.
THE BEDROOM COMMUNITY
A bedroom community is a group of homes separate from any other town or village but close to a city or town for its services. There is usually no viable business there. There may have been at one time if it was a formally was a village. There isn’t anymore. There could be a gas station; but only as convenience to commuters. Nearly everyone makes his or her living by working in the city or town. There are no government or services. These bedroom communities are often people living together by choice and without expecting much. They are extensions of the cities and towns they live near. But, they compete for attention with the bedroom community next door. Sometimes as time goes on a bedroom community can become a town with infrastructure and identity. That is slow and not normally how it happens. In the Chicagoland region that is about 50 miles wide and 80 miles long there are about 240 separate suburbs with a total of about 11 million people. But if you ask anyone who lives here where they are from, they will say Chicago. I live 40 miles west of Chicago nearly in the country and still say Chicago if someone asks. That’s what bedroom communities do. Bismarck, Fargo, Sioux Falls all have bedroom communities. The way to know, ask people where they are from and they will say “Fargo” etc.
A settlement is a group of homes built together by an act of either decline or decision. This is too far away from any population center to be considered bedroom community. People that live in these remote areas many times have to travel an hour or more for the most basic services. They do not have a formal government. Many times these are towns or villages that decommissioned. It is just a gathering of people. Sometimes there might be a church. Or a bar.
But for the most part, a settlement is just the residual of the people who used to live there. Either this becomes a viable entity or a ghost town. Many settlements used to be villages or have declined from town and in a few cases I could cite, declined from City 50 years ago to Town to Village and then to settlement on the way to ghost town.
HERE’S THE TRUTH
It doesn’t always have to be this way. A city doesn’t have to decline into a town, village, settlement and then obscurity. But the approach needed for renewal for any of these entities must be designed and implemented with a focus on the best possible approach and not a one size fits all approach.
The reason we are losing so many small towns and villages is because we continue to focus all our attentions on the cities. Certainly the 20 or so actual cities in Dakota merit attention, but not at the expense of the small towns and villages that occupy most of the real estate in the state. In the metaphor for the destruction of Dakotas the passing of Nibaru wiped them all out. Without change it will happen.
HOW TO IDENTIFY A CITY, TOWN, VILLAGE ETC
Medical, School, Commerce, Religioius, Jobs, Post secondary
hospital k-12 shopping churchalive 75% work there university level offerings
clinic k-8 little competition static church lives 40% work there perhaps some
no medical 0 c -store and bar one church or maybe two 20% 0
The Bedroom Community
none 0 Gas? 0 0 0
none 0 Bar? maybe 1 5% 0
POLITICALLY INCORRECT SOLUTIONS
First, treat our Cities as a separate entity. They live as parasites on the vitality of towns, villages, bedrooms, and settlements in their circle. If Fargo gets a new manufacturing or research facility, where are those first 300 people going to come from? Small towns and villages in Dakota. In fact economic development efforts in major cities is inversely productive to towns of 2000 or less. If the towns, villages, and settlements die the cities won’t be far behind.
My focus is to help discover the secrets to making the Towns, villages and settlements alive. For the purposes of this document I ignore the bedroom communities since they have a different functional purpose and in fact live as a component of the cities they surround.
In view of all this, let me first address these areas from the bottom up. The settlement issue: these are former small towns, villages who have drifted to the edge of obscurity as just a collection of houses. There are remnants of business that may have been there at one time, but are now gone. Visiting one of these places can be discouraging unless you look with the lens of HOPE.
There are people in America and throughout the world that would see on our small settlements and villages as great improvements to their current living standards. I’m not talking about immigrants as such. I am talking about people who are looking to live different. A hope, a chance, an escape.
To the outside observer they look desolate. Razed, open, unprotected, dry, windswept, abandoned and without hope. So the first impression needs to be changed with an eye towards the visitor who might think this is for them. It needs to be inviting, warm, protected, green, promising, and hopeful. If we were trying to sell our rundown home to someone we know what we would do.
Let’s do the same. This isn’t about nice signs. Signs have a place, but claiming you’re a rose when you look like a thistle doesn’t have much place. It takes a total look.
Here are desirable attributes
Protection gives the feeling of belonging (that means Trees)
Water Holding areas give the impression of life
Clean up, (not demolition) gives the feeling of hope
What needs to happen in any settlement and many villages is to create a singular identity environment that has as a feel that says, “I could belong here”. It offers a chance to “buy in”. It’s inviting. “I feel warm when I go there”. We must offer positive experiences which results in keeping young people and attracting others. This is the discussion we must have now before it’s too late. Fill up these villages and settlements with the tired the poor the huddling masses yearning to breath free. Remember, the basic economic unit of development is people. If you invite them and make it inviting they will come. This is easier than it looks. When you have nothing any improvement is monumental.
Many of these villages are Towns that drifted off into relative obscurity. They used to have restaurants, a school, general store, small businesses, and were nice little places to live. They had populations in the few hundreds and were inviting. Now they look in decline. They are. Everything said about the settlements is true. They need a face lift. They need to advertise their properties that are now abandoned.
THEY NEED MORE PEOPLE. In the village and settlement category a good solid marketing program and some improvements would go a long way. What if national efforts were made to GIVE AWAY empty lots to anyone who would build there. Or, if there were empty homes in need of repair, offer them free if a family (with kids) would move there. They would have to recuse themselves from ever taking any government help. We don’t need to import other states problems (welfare). The person moving in would have to have a source of income.
Water interests, wind protection, lights, more people. These little villages have potential. You can’t develop without people to develop from.
Our small towns have the biggest hurdles and the bigger potentials. First, trying to become what they used to be is going to be hard to accomplish. Not impossible. Town leaders try cosmetic actions to try to make a difference. They get all wrapped up by Washington mandates to try to avoid missing the gravy train. The strings attached to these handouts are strangling our small towns. The first effort will be to educate the people in the towns about the small towns fate if we keep sliding down this slippery slope.
The small town must struggle to keep it’s basic institutions. Every one (School, hospital, church, shopping area, higher education etc) that is lost rips the soul out of the town. If these towns are lost the dirt desert effect with occasional oases is intensified. People can and will come. Then Jobs can and will come. Not the other way around.
The governmental oversight (mayor and council) have a solemn responsibility. The decision to keep or shut down basic services is pivotal. If enough is shut down the net result is the town falls off the edge.
This recovery effort requires dedication to the look and feel of the town. The city spirit. Leaders must be formed and put in place.
The only thing that keeps most small towns down today is small town thinking. It’s hard to rise above and have vision when you find yourself pressed from all sides.
Art, festivals, music, landscape, flowers, trees, fountains, sculpture, signage, clean up, fix up. Find someone with a video camera who is mean spirited to travel around the town and make a documentary called, “Things that look really tacky in this town”. It would be best if this person had never been to this town before. It would be better if they were from out of state. The issues they document will become a to do list.
It will hurt, but it will help.
I won’t dedicate much space to improvement of these since they will always be an appendage to the city they are near. Many of the same things as noted above are appropriate to the bedroom community.
I have nothing against cities, even the dozen viable ones in North Dakota. They benefit at the expense of the Dying villages, settlements and towns in North Dakota. Most of them are at or near critical mass. They don’t need my help in developing strategies for growth or even survival. They would benefit from exploring the livability index in their environs.
There are many working strategies to solve the problems and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the changes coming to North Dakota. I will do my best to offer and promote them as I can. Join me.
(BOLD) 14 COUNTIES WITH MAJOR TOWNS OR CITIES GROWING OR PROSPERING BY HOLDING STATISTICALLY STEADY (+/- 10%)
*10 COUNTIES FORECAST TO DROP BY 24% OR MORE
40 COUNTIES IN DECLINE AT AVERAGE RATE OF 20% DROP
16 COUNTIES WITH POPULATIONS UNDER 2500 WILL BECOME UNABLE TO PROVIDE COUNTY SERVICES AND WILL HAVE TO MERGE WITH NEIGHBORING COUNTIES TO CONTINUE TO PROVIDE MOST BASIC SERVICES TO THEIR SHRINKING POPULATIONS
Summary, the population will increase in the state. There will be congratulations all around. The Forum will pring a nice article about the states “Growth”. But meanwhile 75% of the states counties will hemorrhage people into oblivion. I submit that’s not OK. It can still be fixed!
This information came from the introduction section of the study listed below.
Below are the first of 50 proposed initiatives which have been presented to people of influence and legislators in the state. Many are controversial, many are hard to swallow. But the fact is, unless the state begins to make some hard decisions North Dakota life is about to get much harder.
Outdoors’ Enhancement Initiative
The number one reason people travel or play in North Dakota is our great and wide Outdoors. Let’s make it better. The number one reason young people will stay is because of the Outdoors. Hard to leave Dakota when there’s such great memories of the old fishing hole, the old camping grounds, or the hunting spot. Let’s make that better too. Three related ideas to the above theme:
GIVE TOURISTS A PLACE TO VISIT
Initiate 3 new county parks in every county in North Dakota (That would equal 162). Best if they were located on a waterway or a water interest manmade or otherwise. Best if they were treed already (an old tree claim for example would be great) avoiding the open prairie park look so many areas have. Best if there were fishing, boating, overnight campgrounds, toilet, running water, and a placard of interest about the area. Each park would have a theme designed by a person with creative ability. Make it an amateur contest open to North Dakotans only. North Dakota has many qualified artists whose ability could be well translated to make these new parks interesting and inviting. Sort of along the theme of trading places, make the budget fixed over and above the cost of the land. Example $50,000 total per park. Maintain it by volunteer groups, as do highway cleanup groups. Boy Scouts could have a part of this project. If the Boy Scout or other outdoor oriented group wanted to and if this park was adjacent to a larger tree claim or “wild” area they could use it for overnight campouts.
Finance it thru long-term bonds paid for by user fees and increased income from visitors. Along that line read on.
MAKE IT EASY FOR THE RECREATIONAL VEHICLE
Create Access and Maps to all the new (and existing) campgrounds and parks like above in and outside of villages and towns. Sell a 48 hour vehicle camping pass to be put in the camper’s window for $12 at every C store (like they do phone cards). A violation (camping without the pass) is a hundred dollar ticket. That’s posted at the campground. There is also a drop box for which a sheriff’s officer has a key. The Rver can pay there.
The C-store keeps 25% of the revenues. They receive a packet of passes. When the clerk sells it he circles a month and day. The pass starts at sundown that day and continues until sundown 48 hours later. At $8 per sale, with 50000 Rv’s per year traveling the state and staying at the public campgrounds these bonds are retired in 20 years. The interest and operating expense for this comes from the fines levied.
PRIMATIVE ACCESS KEEPS PEOPLE COMING BACK
As an added incentive for eco-tourists, hunters, fishermen, bird watchers, tourists, hikers, people that love nature and as another reason for young people to stay in the state, develop a tax abatement and annual payment program for any waterways or bodies of water that crosses any well maintained roadway. The key is it must join the road.
Landowners who want to participate make Application to Fish and Game dept and they make the decision. The agreement is to give full access to an area a minimum of 100 yards wide and 300 yards deep (about 6 acres) to be divided along or either side of the water, or on both sides of the river. Standing water is critical. This is also a waterfowl habitat issue.
There must be a primitive parking area. This land many times is wasted un-tillable land. The landowner gets tax abatement, liability indemnification, and a payment. This is CRP for non-tillable land. Kind of a mini “PLOTS” program for opportunistic locations that have appeal.
Each county, particularly more “urban” is emphasized. Try not to haul coal to Newcaatle.
EDUCATION - Solving the Problem
Education is broken - badly. Money, Effectiveness, Consolidations.
Deconsolidate the elementary school system, particularly in very rural areas:
Stop hauling 7 year old little girls an hour each way to school in a bus.
There is no reason to do so. Education of elementary school children is best done in the fashion of those who are home schooled. They do better, they get personal attention, they can learn essential knowledge and skills, they do it in a safe environment, they will be able to enter High School prepared and balanced. There really is little infrastructure needed for elementary education. It doesn't cost much to do it right.
Make K-6 schools local. This means small form elementary education in towns that may have lost their schools years ago. Even a little town of 100 people might have a school with 15 children and 2 teachers costing less than the institutional system that exists now. Those teachers and people from the community can teach arts, music, real field trips (to fields). Preparing them for High School.
Change the funding strategy back to what it was in North Dakota before the mid 1970's. The money followed the students. This is what vouchers are all about that work so well in other states.
North Dakota used to functionally have a voucher system and it worked well. If schools didn't work well people voted with their feet, took their children and the funding that followed them and moved to a school they would rather patronize. It sometimes was a public school, sometimes a parochial school, sometimes a private school. It can be again. These new form schools may be charter, cottage schools or even just an association of quasi home schoolers. There are plenty of empty buildings to use for this purpose. Some even used to be schools at one time.
Teachers who now teach elementary in public schools would be accountable to the parents of these schools directly. Certification requirements would be modified to meet these goals.
The cost to the state and the school districts would be half of what is spent per student to accomplish the same goals that are being achieved now. Administrative functions would be centralized and much more hands off than they are now. Much of the savings would be facilities and much less of an administrative financial burden.
The courage to do this will mean the ability to rise above the pressures from teachers unions who fear accountability for their poorer teachers, administrators who have engaged in a land grab of consolidation to build their financially rewarding kingdom, school boards who could lose power and other vested interests. If you are wondering why you are getting pressure just follow the money. Educational lobby pressure isn't about the kids, it's about the money. Check it out, be dubious.
The empty buildings you will hear about this as you decentralize elementary schools should be rededicated, refurbished to provide a first class High School system which produces college ready students or well trained 18 year old people ready to take a quality trades job or people ready to go on to advanced training (technical) in the future. Recreate high schools with broad spectrums of opportunity and development that they can contain. Some of those empty buildings might end up as dorms. Distance is always the problem in a depopulating area.
AND, It's ok to bus 13 year old kids. Training for commuting later in life. That's what old buses are for.
In larger towns and cities if they want to keep their central elementary schools as they are, fine. This isn't about them. This is about offering quality elementary education in a safe local environment.
STOP THE INSANITY:STOP BUSING LITTLE BOYS AND GIRLS 60 MILES EACH WAY TO SCHOOL EVERY DAY
REST AREA ENTERPRISE ZONES
Privatize the closed rest areas in the state. Maybe all of them. Allow private enterprising entrepreneurs to run them. Throw out the vending. A Mini C Store. Offer the “Franchise" to anyone who has a similar business (like another C Store) within 10 miles first, or a lottery if there is more than one, they get free rent and indemnification from liability, heat, upkeep, they fund the rest (people) themselves. In exchange they keep the bathrooms clean, water running, maps stocked, sell space in an advertising kiosk for local sites and attractions. Mapquest portal. They sell coffee, coco, candy, fruit, sandwiches (pre-packaged), soda and there are two people on site at all times. 24-7-365. They also sell souvenirs, local ND products, Art, Books. A real ND sellathon. Phones and phone cards. Wireless internet access. Think of the people who race across ND on I-94 or up I-29 and never pull off but to get gasoline. Let’s put out the welcome mat. The closed Rest Areas are really tacky.
RAFFEL OFF NORTH DAKOTA OPPROTUNITIES TO VISIT
THE Number ONE reason people visit ND from other states is to enjoy our number ONE asset. OUT OF DOORS.
If a person comes to ND and enjoys themselves you might expect that some might fall in love and stay. In that regard, Getting out of doors visitors to come is an economic development effort.
Provide Legislative incentive to do the following:
At 20 of the major sports shows nationwide (the largest is in Harrisburg PA in Feb) raffle off 2000 each of pheasant and deer licenses (free) to develop a mailing list (and email list). Give away 100 at each show. Of course no one hunts alone. So, if they come, they will bring someone and they will spend money. If 2000 hunters came with just one person for 3 days and spent $500 while in state that's a million dollars. That will more than pay for the cost of going to the shows. To spice it up Dakota could give away 3000 free fishing licenses and 3000 golf passes for any public course to be played only once on the pass. These assets are underused now anyway.
Go to good shows, put up a nice booth, give away maps of all the public access hunting lands in the state, give directories of motels, hotels. Offer a subscription to ND outdoors on line. INVITE THEM TO COME.
Do all the things that will bring in people from all over the USA to enjoy our number one asset. If we did that for just 3 years the result would be several people moving to the state once they've visited, some would start businesses, some might retire, some might even find new opportunities.
North Dakota is one of the best kept secrets in the country, it's time we let people find out what it's all about.
A STEP IN SOLVING THE RURAL DOCTOR SHORTAGE
The reason a Doctor comes is for opportunity. IF ND offers that opportunity and some will come and some will stay.
They contract to receive a free medical education in exchange for 7 years service, They contract to work in the community at a wage of $60,000 the first year and $10,000 increase for every year they work until the last year when they are earning $120,000. This is commensurate with what they would be earning in metro clinics after 7 years if you factor in the following:
They get malpractice insurance paid for by patrons in the local tax base. (they pay anyway)
In case of any litigation ND law mandates a jury of their peers only . That means that Docs judge Docs only. Takes all sensation out of it all. This single action will attract doctors to North Dakota even if nothing else was done.
For small town clinics the first line of defense is not a Doctor but a Physician's Assistant. Most PA's are better trained than doctors of 75 years ago. Set up a program to attract and keep a PA in small towns. They should be the first line of defense in any case.
The administration, billing and equipment required are managed by a community based organization. It operates as a non profit. The people that work there are paid by the local clinic. The Doctor is an employee of the clinic organization. After 10 years he has the option of buying part or all of the operation.
The answer to depopulation is more people!
THE PROBLEM IS TOO MANY YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVING THE STATE,
REVERSE THE TREND.
200,000 children in America are in foster homes and considered un-adoptable, mostly because they aren’t babies any more (average age 9). Create and fund and adoption initiative for population balancing to offset those who are leaving. Use state tax incentives to help people decide to take the step. Make it public. Have a campaign. Since so many young people are leaving ND create a goal of 100,000 of these adoptions. Some of them would stay if they grew up here. It’s a safe option and it costs nothing. It could put our state over 700,000 people in a year. Make the incentive for the underpopulated and declining population counties intense. There may be a few orphans available from the Tsunami catastrophe who might find ND a fine place to live far from the ocean wave.
BASELINE SERVICES FOR CONSOLIDATING COUNTIES
Right now there is a level of fire, administrative, sheriff, and other county services which is in ALL ND counties. As the levels of populations decline (without other reasons why not) in over half the counties in North Dakota, those counties with populations of 3000 or less (right now about 20 of 57 counties) will not be able to support basic services on their tax base. In most cases these counties will be consolidated into other counties. This proposal is to baseline the level of services for response times in Fire and Law enforcement. The Meth Lab problem will accelerate in these counties that become less and less enforced. Random arson on grasslands and vacant buildings will become a greater problem. Unless there is a legislative funded mandate to maintain appropriate levels of first responders these empty counties will become places less and less likely to be inhabited. The purpose is to continue to make North Dakota a place to live.
SALES TAX ABATEMENT AS ECONOMIC INCENTIVE FOR RURAL COUNTIES
THE NET SALES TAX COLLECTIONS FROM RETAIL ESTABLISHMENTS IN COUNTIES WITH POPULATIONS OF 6000 PEOPLE OR FEWER (33 of 53 counties) are under 6000 with an average population loss of 15% in the last 10 years) IS MINISCULE IN COMPARISON TO METRO AREA SHOPPING CENTERS. The total population of all of these counties combined is fewer than Cass County. Since they are very small towns or villages without any core shopping to speak of the total sales tax collection is only 15% of Cass county's.
THE PREMISE: Equalization of the advantage metro shopping has in attracting customers can have the net effect of helping retail and other business to compete and as an incentive to locate businesses in those low population counties.
Proposed: Eliminate sales tax collections for 10 years in all counties with 6000 or fewer people. In order to make certain no abuse of this takes place, this is applicable only to companies which sell and deliver directly to customers on site in the counties. The domicile of these operations must be in these counties. Mail order doesn't qualify.
This should have the effect of attracting business, reducing paperwork for small businesses, without a great deal of effect on the sales tax revenues.
A CARROT FOR GETTING PEOPLE TO MOVE TO ND
-- ONE ADDITIONAL PERSON MOVING TO ND IS THE BASIC UNIT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. LET GET PEOPLE HERE NOW.
1. Every town, village and settlement gets a web page and it is kept up. Properties for sale, businesses for sale, employment, rentals, opportunities are listed free. An every business directory is created. Local links (county newspapers). This is a jobs initiative. The people to do this will need to be trained and then later paid for maintaining this presence. They can and should be local residents.
2. Twice per year an internet auction (it could even be ebay) of all abandoned, tax returned, vacant, empty, needing a loving owner property in every small town in ND. Owners upkeep, owners pay taxes.
3. Rural Town improvement initiative. Includes the preparing to sell the town for potential residents. Like preparing your home for sale. All eyesores are identified. Notice is given by the law for remediation. If none is made it is done and a lien on the property is placed for the remediation cost. A mean-spirited college kid with a video camera who has never been to the small town comes and makes a documentary called “Things that look really bad in this small town”. That becomes the objective source document for things to make better. Do this annually.
4. New Signs for a new time. Most small towns don’t do signs very well. If you want to find a church or a park it can be tricky. Get a universal set of signs (Europe does this well) and let villages order them for installation
RESIDENCE FOR JOBS
Every North Dakotan believes that more jobs are the key to ND prosperity. OK, do you believe enough to put your parochial interests on the line?
Every stockholder of a business who has ownership of more than 1/3rd of any business which has a location in North Dakota with an instate payroll of $250,000 per year or more is awarded an honorary residence status. This means they can fish, hunt, golf etc as if they lived here. Who knows some might come, fall in love and stay. Let’s create incentive for people to create jobs, and gain a reward of one of the things that's best about the state. This costs nothing and will cause buzz in the USA. This could be targeted to companies located with payrolls in the 50% of the endangered counties in the state.
Proposed: ULTIMATE HOME RULE Any shrinking population county (for example 3000 or less) take a look at http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/sdc/data/projections.htm (CLICK ON ITRODUCTION) can challenge and hold any North Dakota Law as of no effect in their county with a vote of 2/3rds of the eligible voters. This protects these weaker counties from some of the one size fits all laws which come out of metro areas imposing unworkable rules on small towns which they can’t or don’t want to live by. This might include sales tax reductions in low pop areas, or state licensing (hair cutting and other job security type permits) which would be subject to exemption to attract these trades and services to those areas. It would have the net effect of creating defacto enterprise zones in these areas.
Put a stop to the wanton teardown of preservational buildings
TOO MANY ATTRACTIVE BUILDINGS ON THE MAIN STREETS OF SMALL TOWN NORTH DAKOTA ARE BEING TORN DOWN WITHOUT CONSIDERATION FOR THE FUTURE.
I am suggesting a new law regarding the teardown of public and commercial older buildings (75 years or older). More than just public hearings. Distinct strong prohibitions in law. Requiring an overwhelming reasons before any destruction or modification. Find better uses while keeping the nature of the look of the building. Urban renewal type action nearly always fails. It robs the town of it’s soul. Look at Moorhead MN.
Too many buildings are being destroyed for no good reason in small towns in ND. Germany is very good at preserving or restoring these jewels. That’s part of the reason people go there.
Enlightened societies build inspiring buildings and then preserve them for the benefit of future generations.
Unenlightened societies live only for today and destroy that which no longer seems to have any immediate purpose.
It’s easier to tear down than build up and you can never build back as good as you tore down. Look at some of the eyesores which fill the main streets of some of our small towns.
Every small town main street can intentionally be enhanced by design capable people to make these front rooms more attractive. Helping people become attached to their upbringing and maybe keeping some can be the result. Initiate community involvement, perhaps with a competition to improve design.