North Dakota

North Dakota nice on display during storm

This is Up and Down, where we briefly give a thumbs up or thumbs down on last week’s topics.

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Comedian Bert Kreischer and his social media followers got a glimpse of North Dakotans helping each other during a snowstorm last week. Kreischer’s tour bus got stuck in Bismarck and he took to social media to ask for help. He later posted his appreciation after a front loader towed the bus and at least a dozen other volunteers showed up to help. The example was just one of many kindnesses that occur during a snow storm in North Dakota. Kreischer also posted a view from his Bismarck hotel room as people came to each other’s aid in the parking lot. “When you live in a place where Mother Nature is in control, people are nicer. Look at her. They help each other,” he said.

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More than half of North Dakota’s eligible voters have chosen not to vote in the midterm elections. Turnout last Tuesday was just under 43%, meaning a whopping 57% of those who were able to vote did not vote. This is confusing considering how easy it is to vote in North Dakota. There is no voter registration. And if you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day, you can get a mail-in ballot or go to an early voting website. There were certainly intriguing points on the ballot — measures aimed at imposing term limits on lawmakers and legalizing recreational marijuana, and a US home race featuring a former Miss America trying to unseat an incumbent Republican. Apparently that wasn’t enough for some.

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The University of Mary has big plans for sports facilities. The Bismarck School has released architectural renderings of a new athletic complex that would cost $90 million to build and would bring outdoor football, baseball, soccer and track competitions back to campus. It would involve a complete remodeling of the east side of the campus. The project seems worthy — keeping up with other schools is key to staying competitive in the NCAA Division II. Significant fundraising remains. Let’s hope the university’s campaign is successful.

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The unfunded liability for the North Dakota State Employee Retirement Plan has reached $1.7 billion. Republican Rep. Austen Schauer of West Fargo calls it a failure. And he says, “We have to find out.” An interim Legislative Committee recently voted to send two bills to the Legislative Management Committee that would change the retirement plan if approved during the 2023 session. The move would essentially be from a traditional pension plan to a 401(k)-type plan. A change would not affect employees already in the plan – it would start with new government employees. Schauer says the retirement plan has worked well for employees who benefited from it. And others say it’s a good recruiting tool. But as Schauer puts it, “We have a big problem.”

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